So you've got "a friend" who is a social media addict. They check in to every location, Instagram every meal, even use "hashtag" in conversation. Well, Buffer can help them keep their social media feeds flowing with content without chaining them to a phone or laptop. 

The way Buffer works is simple: Instead of posting directly to your social media service, you create a post in Buffer that's added to a queue and published according to a schedule you specify. That means you can prepare those funny cat videos all at once but post them to your profiles over time so you don't overwhelm your friends and followers with cuddly cuteness. And you can have a real life, as well.

Buffer is super easy to use, and a basic account is free, so let's get started.

Setting up Buffer

Once you sign up with Buffer, you can start adding social media accounts. If you joined by logging in with your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter credentials, that account will be automatically added. Click Accounts and the appropriate button underneath the logo of each additional service you'd like to add.

The free Buffer account allows you to add one account of each type: a Facebook group, page, or profile; a Twitter profile; a LinkedIn profile or page; a Google+ page (Profiles aren't supported due to limitations of the Google+ API.), and an App.net account.

Using the Buffer queue

To add a post, select an account in the left column and click Content. A text box will appear in the center column. Any posts already in your queue will appear in order, with the post that's scheduled to be published next at the top.

Enter the text for your new post in the text box. You can also add an image by clicking the camera icon in the lower-left corner of the box.

To add a link, paste it into the text box. By default, the link is shortened using Buffer's buff.ly service, but you can opt to use bit.ly, j.mp or no shortener at all by clicking Settings > Link Shortening.

If you want the post to be published to more than one account, click the icon corresponding to each additional account in the upper-left of the text box. 

When you're finished composing your post, click Add to Queue. Posts in your Buffer queue will be posted one at a time according to your schedule. (I'll show you how to set that further down.)

There are also a few ways to have a more time-sensitive post jump the queue. For these, click the down arrow to the right of the Add to Buffer button, and you'll get a list of three other posting options.

Clicking Share Next will place the post at the front of the Buffer queue. This is useful if you don't want to share the post immediately but want to prioritize it over your other queued posts.

Clicking Share Now does exactly what it says: It shares the post without regard to the queue. While this doesn't seem immediately useful, this option makes Buffer a convenient way to cross-post to different social media sites at once. Gone are the days of posting an update to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn separately, on different apps.

By clicking the last option, Schedule Post, you can set individual posts to publish at a specific time. Scheduled posts don't affect other posts in the queue.

Once content is added to your queue, you can re-order your posts as needed. Hover over the post icon (a picture for images or a chain for links) and it will change to a move icon. Click this and drag and drop the post where you want it. You can even copy posts to another account's queue by dragging and dropping it over the intended account in the left column.

All according to schedule

You can set different posting schedules for each account queue in Buffer. To do this, click on the account you want to edit and click Schedule.

The first thing you want to do is set the timezone for the account. Type in the name of your city (or the closest big city in your timezone), and select it from the list of suggestions that appear below the text box.

In the middle of the page, you'll see the posting schedule. Each profile gets one schedule, and if you upgrade to a paid account, you'll be able to add additional schedules for each profile. This allows you to have different schedules on weekends or other days. For example, if your Twitter account posts hourly on weekdays, you can set a separate schedule to post every four hours on Saturday and Sunday.

Posting times are editable within a minute of precision, so if you want to post at 4:37 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, no problem.

Use the Chrome and Firefox extensions to add to your queue

Buffer's Chrome and Firefox extensions really let the app shine and make Buffer indispensable for those late-night browsing sessions when you want to share everything you find. 

The Buffer extension offers several ways to post to your queue directly from websites. You can post highlighted text, images, and entire pages to an account's queue in just a couple of clicks.

Highlighted text

To use the highlighted text feature, select the text you'd like to quote in your post, right click, and select Buffer Selected Text.

A text area like the one on the Buffer website will appear in a pop-up dialog with the selected text already added to the text box in quotes. Buffer will also add the shortened URL for the web page from which you quoted.

This is really useful for quoting parts of articles in tweets, provided you watch your character count.

Adding images

The Buffer Chrome extension makes it just as easy to add images to your posts. When you mouse over an image, a blue 'Share Image' button will appear. Click on it, and a dialog box will pop up. The image will already be added to the post, along with the text from the page's title attribute and a note about where the image was found (using a shortened URL, of course).

Sharing a link

If you want to share an entire web page, click on the Buffer icon in the upper-right corner of Chrome. The dialog will pop up prefilled with the title text and a shortened URL.

The post will also have an image (if the webpage has one) and link summary attached for a Facebook link post. When you hover over the image to the left of the summary, left and right arrows will appear, letting you select the image from the page you'd like to use in the Facebook link.

Note: If you click the camera icon to add an image, the post will change into an image post, and you'll lose the link preview. If you really want to have a link post, cancel out by clicking the X in the upper-right corner of the dialog and start over again.

Posting from within social accounts

The really cool part of Buffer is that you can add posts to your queue from within Twitter or Facebook.

In Facebook, you can add a post to your queue by clicking the Buffer link right next to the Like, Comment and Share links. There's one drawback to using this feature, though: Shared posts won't show they were shared from someone else and will appear to originate from you. 

In Twitter, you can add a retweet to your queue by clicking the retweet button and clicking Buffer Retweet in the dialog that opens. Just remember these will appear as embedded tweets when they are posted to Facebook.

Time hacking with Buffer

Even if my queue is empty, I still use Buffer to share content to several social media accounts at once using the Share Now option. That alone can save me time copying, pasting, and editing text.

If you're a blogger and you publish several blogs in a short span of time, you can easily spread out your social promotion of those posts over the week. If you take a vacation, you can add old posts to you queue to keep your social media accounts active and drive traffic even while you're away.

Once you've mastered the web-based application, you can install the iOS and Android apps and post photos or links on the go.

There are plenty of other uses for Buffer, and once you get used to it, you'll probably wonder how you ever shared content any other way.