If you’re one of the 73% of small businesses investing in social media marketing, you’re probably all too familiar with how time-consuming it can be.
Having a social media presence is very important for SMEs but it is an ongoing commitment. The good news is that there are many tools which can help to make life a little easier.
Below I explain more about these platforms and share some of the best social media management tools available.
What is a social media management tool?
Social media management tools allow you to manage all your social media activities from one easy-to-use interface. From scheduling posts and managing engagement to keeping tabs on competitors and generating reports, these tools can save you a lot of time and help you get smarter with your social content.
For many SMEs, the biggest benefit is the ability to schedule posts. Rather than manually posting your content, you can schedule it in at the beginning of each week or month. Other benefits include:
- Your updates are consistent and on-brand across all your channels
- Many tools are free. You can also pay to upgrade if you want to access more features
- You can build up an understanding of the content and campaigns that work best through reports
- It’s a big time-saver. As well as scheduling posts, rather than posting to each individual platform, you can simply upload to your management tool and it will distribute content across all your social media pages
- Some platforms analyse patterns of engagement to tell you the best time to post
- Some platforms offer a social inbox where all your messages go into one place which makes it easier to keep an eye on queries
What are the best free social media management tools?
Below is a round-up of some of the best free social media management tools for 2020. I’ve included key features, pricing options, what’s included in the free plans and the pros and cons of each.
Buffer is one of the better-known and more popular platforms. You can mix and match the tools available and build a plan that fits the needs of your business.
- Schedule posts
- Set reminders to send out Instagram stories
- Create drafts, get feedback and refine content as a team
- Review posts before publishing them (handy if someone else creates your posts for you and you need to approve them)
- Custom tailor posts for each social network
- Calendar allows you to see all the content you’ve lined up
- Measure performance, create reports and get insights
- In-depth analytics
- Audience demographics
Free: With the free plan, you can link three of your social media accounts. There is only one user allowed per account and you can only schedule in 10 posts at a time.
Pro – $15 per month: One user can link eight social media accounts and you can schedule in 100 posts at a time.
Premium – $65 per month: Two users can link eight social media accounts and you can schedule in 2,000 posts at a time.
Business – $99 per month: Up to six users can link 25 social media accounts and schedule in 2,000 posts at a time.
For a full list of all the features with each account, head to buffer.com.
- One dashboard for all your social media analytics and reporting, making it easier to see and manage your performance
- Data will tell you the best times to post, your most popular types of posts and what the best posting frequency is
- The website has a comprehensive resources section with plenty of helpful tips and advice
- Choose from free or paid plans. You get a free trial of the paid plans so you don’t have to commit before testing it out
- Supports all the popular sites including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Pro users can schedule Pinterest updates too
- You can pay monthly or annually if opting for one of the paid plans
- You have to sign up to a free trial of one of the paid plans when you register. At the end of the trial, you can downgrade to the free basic plan. If you forget to do this, you will be charged
- The premium and business plans are quite expensive
One of the most popular free social media management tools available is Hootsuite. Just like with Buffer, you can choose to have a basic account or pay to upgrade to a more comprehensive plan.
- Schedule posts
- View and manage all your content in a single collaborative calendar
- One inbox for all the messages you receive across your social media platforms
- Streams enable you to see all your social media activity from one place
- Insights enable you to spot, track and analyse trends in real-time
- Manage, optimise and report on your search and social ad campaigns
- You can monitor what’s being said about your brand and your competitors
- The app enables you to manage Hootsuite from your mobile device
Free: With the free plan, one user can link three social media profiles and schedule up to 30 posts.
Professional – $25 per month: You can connect up to 10 social media accounts, schedule in unlimited posts and have one user.
Team – $99 per month: Three users can connect up to 20 social media accounts, with unlimited posts.
Business – $520 per month: Up to 10 users can connect 35 social media accounts with unlimited posts. You can also add-on up to 15 additional users.
To compare all plans and features, head to Hootsuite. You can also contact Hootsuite about pricing options if you would like to customise your plan.
- The Hootsuite Academy enables you to stay ahead with industry-leading training and certification
- Its open platform integrates with other tools including Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce and Adobe
- You can stream social data into your analytics and CRM systems to gain cross-channel insights
- You can request a free demo to see if it’s the right platform for your business
- The free plan is very basic. Most businesses would probably need to pay to upgrade to access more features. With unlimited posts, the cheapest package (professional) is likely to be enough for most SMEs however
- The team and business plans are quite expensive
Later allows you to plan, schedule and analyse all your social media content in one place. The free account doesn’t require you to sign up to any trials or submit any credit card details.
- Easy to use visual content calendar
- You can schedule posts quickly and easily
- You can see what your Instagram feed will look like before you post. The drag and drop feature allows you to create a beautiful aesthetic so you know exactly what your grid will look like
- You can find and repost user-generated content
- Analytics enables you to find out what’s working and what isn’t so you can grow your accounts faster
- Collaboration with team members
- Later will tell you the best times to post based on previous post performance
Free: With the free profile, one user can upload 30 posts per social media profile at a time.
Starter – from $7.50 per month: 1+ user can upload 60 posts per social media profile.
Growth – from $12.50 per month: 3+ users can upload 150 posts per social media profile.
Advanced – from $25 per month: 6+ users can send out unlimited posts.
For a full breakdown of all the plans and features, please head to the Later website.
- There are a lot of features dedicated to Instagram which is great if this is one of your preferred platforms
- Later is an Instagram Partner and uses the Instagram Graph API so you can be assured that your account is always safe
- There are plenty of guides and workshops on the website to get you started
- You can bulk upload, saving time in the long run
- Media library allows you to keep all your photos, videos and user-generated content in one accessible place
- You can save 17% with yearly billing if you upgrade to a paid account
- The plans are much cheaper than Hootsuite and Buffer
- There’s a big focus on Instagram. If your business isn’t on Instagram, this might not be the right platform for you
- You need to upgrade your account to unlock some of the more advanced features such as Instagram analytics, story scheduling and best time to post
- No access to email support with the free account. You can however use the help centre
4. Zoho Social
Zoho Social may not be as well-known as some of the previous platforms I’ve mentioned but it has plenty to offer, including a free plan.
- Schedule posts at times your audience is most active
- You can choose from Zoho’s best-time predictions or create your own publishing schedule
- Intuitive publishing calendar lets you organise posts the way you want
- Listening columns allow you to stay tuned into everything that’s relevant to your business
- Ability to respond in real-time and engage with your audience as often as you like
- Access to analytics which includes pre-built or custom-made reports
- Team collaboration options
Free: With the free plan, one team member can post to all the available platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google My Business and Instagram). You also get access to other features including the URL shortener, lists detailing your most engaged followers and published post stats.
Standard – £8 per month if billed annually, £12 per month if billed monthly: Two team members can post to all the available social media platforms. You get access to all the free features plus more including repeat posts, SmartQ, summary reports, monitoring tools and more.
Professional – £20 per month if billed annually, £28 per month if paying monthly: Three team members can post plus access to even more features including pausing posts, bulk scheduler, publishing calendar and custom audience targeting.
For more information about pricing and the features available, please head to Zoho Social’s website.
- Manage your content pipeline from a single screen
- SmartQ predictions tell you when to post based on when your audience is most active
- Bulk scheduling options saves time and allows you to focus on other aspects of your business
- You can create columns to track reviews, keywords and mentions so you can always stay on top of what people are saying about you
- The live stream lets you see engagements as and when they happen
- You can save money if you pay annually instead of monthly
- You can’t post to Pinterest from Zoho Social
- As with all the other free social media management tools, you need to pay to upgrade to access the features that are really going to help you grow your brand on social media
5. Social Oomph
Social Oomph has plenty of options for individuals and teams. With the ability to connect to a long list of platforms, it’s a popular choice for small businesses.
- You can connect your account to Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, StockTwit, Twitter, Shopify, Tumblr, Mastodon and WordPress
- Schedule posts to go out at your chosen date and time
- Create social and blog posts from RSS feed entries
- Bulk uploading
- You can tag posts so that you and your team can easily find and group them
Free: You can create one social profile with access to basic posting features. You can create an unlimited amount of scheduled posts in total but are limited to a maximum of three posts per hour. You also have access to free support.
Advanced Suite – $15 per month or $162 a year: Access to personal and team areas, one social profile, one RSS feed, one blog and all posting features. You can send up to sixty posts per hour per social profile or blog.
Professional Suite – $25 per month or $270 a year: Access to personal and team areas, ten social profiles, five RSS feeds, five blogs and all posting features. You can send up to sixty posts per hour per social profile or blog.
Business Suite – $55 per month or $594 a year: Access to personal and team areas, twenty social profiles, ten RSS feeds, ten blogs and all posting features. You can send up to sixty posts per hour per social profile or blog.
For full pricing and package information, please head to Social Oomph.
- You can set posts up to self-destruct after a period of time. This is particularly helpful for time-sensitive posts such as promotions and competitions
- Automated publishing limits prevent you from accidentally posting too frequently
- Different payment plans, including a free option is available to suit your needs. You can have a free 30-day trial with the paid plans
- You can cancel your account at any time with no long-term contracts
- If you’re looking for nothing more than a platform to schedule posts from, even the free account is enough because you can still send out up to three posts an hour
- You cannot post to Instagram from Social Oomph
- If you want to manage more than one social media account, you will need to pay to upgrade
Now you know all the best social media management tools, you need some great content to fill your calendar with. Below are some great blogs which will help you to create content that will engage your audience and drive those all-important conversions.
After completing her degree in Journalism, Monique began her career at a digital marketing agency. It was here she discovered a passion for online marketing with a particular focus on content creation for the web. Six years ago Monique set up her own copywriting business, Copyworks Group, which specialises in creating content for websites, blogs, newsletters and social media pages.Read full profile