Both tools allow you to schedule social media posts on a variety of channels and they allow you to do things in advance. For example, if you want to make sure you have a Facebook post go up at 7 a.m. the morning you have a big sale, you can use one of these tools to line it up well before that morning.
They're both also free for the base tool. They have some slight differences, though.
Buffer was developed in 2010 in the UK by one man who wanted to schedule posts. About 80 people work across 6 continents and in over 50 cities to keep Buffer running. It integrates with:
Buffer has a great free plan that allows up to 3 social profiles, 1 user and 10 posts per social account a month:
Hootsuite was developed in 2008 in Canada, also by one man who wanted to schedule posts while he was working on his own digital agency. Over 1,000 people work for Hootsuite. It integrates with just about any social media channel, the main ones being:
Hootsuite's pricing is more geared towards bigger, more complex companies that may have a marketing team or more than one person handling marketing efforts:
One thing worth noting - Hootsuite also has a "limited Free plan" that allows up to 3 social profiles, 1 user and 30 scheduled messages a month, which can be perfect for a small business just getting started with social media channel coordination.
Buffer is a very simple tool for scheduling posts across a handful of the most popular social media networks.
Hootsuite, on the other hand, is a more complex tool that allows engagement through it. Buffer is almost solely used for scheduling, whereas on Hootsuite you could actually interact with messages on the social channels.
If you're very new to social media marketing and coordination, Buffer is your best bet. It's very easy to navigate and use and you don't have to worry about figuring out what channels you need to be using.
Buffer is also the more affordable option for the lower tiers but since they both offer free plans and most small businesses don't really need a whole lot here, they're on pretty even ground pricing-wise.
But if you've been around the block a bit, consider trying out Hootsuite - especially if you're looking for a more customizable option or if you have another person who's going to be helping you schedule things and manage your channels.