It’s an inevitable part of operating a business: eventually, you’ll have to start posting on social media. Maintaining a social media presence is more than a simple checkbox step in establishing your business’s credibility. 54% of social media browsers use social media to research products.
Your small business needs to draw these browsers in with engaging posts and quick replies to turn them into buyers. A good social media marketing tool can help you quickly make strong social media content.
Your Small Business’s Social Media Marketing Strategy
Small businesses have a great advantage in the social media landscape. It’s easier to show your brand’s personality and make genuine connections when your company has yet to reach Buy-n-Large proportions. Marketing professionals at small businesses wear many hats and are often unable to give all their attention to social media. Enter, social media marketing software.
A social media marketing tool will allow you to access all your social media accounts in one place. You can schedule posts ahead of time and send them throughout the month. This is extra important when you can only carve out a chunk of time for social media work once every couple of weeks.
You can also respond to all of your messages and comments on all your social media sites in one place. Responding to messages is key for building those personal relationships your customers want. 79% of social media consumers expect businesses to respond to their questions in 24 hours.
When choosing the best social media management platform for your small business, you want to make sure it has all the functionality you need. This includes avoiding unnecessary complications. Below is a quick overview of the 6 tools we have chosen, before an in-depth exploration.
|Social Media Platforms Supported
|Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube
|$49/month – 1 user, 10 social profiles
|Ease of use for scheduling and inbox monitoring
|Higher price for advanced features and additional users
|Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest
|Free plan – 1 user, 3 profiles, next tier is $5/profile/month
|Free plan and scalable pricing
|Users report posting errors and limitations on photo and video uploads
|Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tiktok
|Free plan – 1 user, 6 profiles, next tier is $12.50/month
|Built for Instagram and other visual content
|Features are less developed for social networks other than Instagram
|Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google My Business
|$79/month – 2 users, 10 profiles
|Social listening and more advanced reporting included with lowest tier
|No draft feature and generally less user-friendly post scheduling process
|Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google My Business
|$10/month – 1 user, 7 profiles
|Affordable pricing at all tiers and integration with Zoho’s other products
|Limited number of users, some report less functionality with Instagram posting
|Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Google My Business, WhatsApp
|$89/month – 1 user, 5 social profiles
|Provides advanced features for growing your social media presence
|Priciest option on this list, best for growing businesses with larger social media followings
Hootsuite is typically one of the first names to come up in any conversation about social media marketing, and for good reason. It provides all the essential features that businesses need to manage their social media. Even better, it makes those features simple to use.
The $49/month tier allows one user to schedule posts and respond to messages across up to ten different social profiles. There’s a standard calendar view for social media scheduling across networks. You’ll also have a desktop view where you can quickly see how your profile looks on each social media network.
Instagram is notoriously restrictive about third-party integrations, but Hootsuite provides a clever workaround. For multi-photo posts, the tool will send your phone a push notification with all the information included. This allows you to make the post almost as quickly and conveniently as if it had been fully automated.
Hootsuite does make users pay well for its user-friendly interface though. Adding more than one user bumps the price to $129/month, and helpful features like social listening are additional add-ons.
If your small business wants to have one person schedule posts and check inboxes, Hootsuite is an excellent choice. If you’d like to add more users or more advanced features, or you’d rather start at a lower price tag, give one of these other tools a try.
Buffer is a great choice if you want a whole lot of machine-learning-powered reporting without spending too much each month. Buffer’s lowest-tier paid plan is $5/profile/month, allowing you to scale up or down based on the number of social media profiles your business has. Don’t need a business Pinterest account? Save $60 a year.
Buffer’s pricing quickly scales up to match or exceed its competitors when you add more than a few accounts or choose a higher tier. It will grow with your business in every sense.
When scheduling posts, you can tailor one post to each different platform. From the same base post, you can write a shorter caption for the Twitter post or remove Instagram hashtags from the Facebook version.
Buffer offers many reporting and analytics features. You’ll get overall performance metrics, audience demographics, and insights about when and how often to post. They’ll also apply AI analysis to your incoming messages, sorting them based on sentiment.
These tools are ideal for those looking to dig deep and analyze exactly how to make your social media posts the best they can be. For businesses just getting started with social media, this amount of data might be unnecessary, or even overwhelming.
Later was originally designed for Instagram planning, and it is a beautiful tool for use in conjunction with Instagram. The aesthetic potential of Later is top-notch. The tradeoff for the platform’s Instagram expertise is that it lags behind in terms of features for other platforms.
Later allows you to preview posts in your existing Instagram grid. You can move them around to make sure your scheduled posts will look good with all the posts around them. You can schedule multi-photo posts using the same push notification method as Hootsuite. Later extends this functionality to allow you to schedule stories and reels as well.
You can edit your photos in-app, search for user-generated content to share, or even use photos from Unsplash’s stock photo library within the app. All of this focus on visual content creation makes Later great for posting on Pinterest as well.
Later is also one of the more affordable networks on this list. The platform offers a usable free plan covering six different social channels and a more fully-featured paid tier at $12.50/month.
Later will impress you less with other social networks. You’ll find analytics for Twitter and Pinterest, but you won’t be able to monitor your inboxes across platforms. There are also no analytics for Facebook, LinkedIn, or TikTok.
If you’re running a photography studio, a clothing brand, or anything else where curated visual content is key, Later may be the ideal tool for you. If your posts are more text-based or Instagram is not your business’s most important platform, you’ll likely want to try something else.
Agorapulse has one of the more expensive starting tiers on this list at $79/month, and it comes with the features to justify the price. First of all, it allows more than one user. The cap is still two at the lowest tier, but it’s an improvement.
More importantly, as many of the other options will allow you to pay to add additional users, Agorapulse offers some unique features at this tier. You can track and respond to your Google My Business reviews or monitor comments and ROI on any paid ads you put out on social platforms. Agorapulse will even compare your social media performance to one competitor.
Agorapulse is also the first on this list to offer both a social CRM and social listening at a reasonable price point. A social CRM is an enhanced version of your combined social media inbox. You can view each customer’s social media profile and history of interactions with your business. Social CRMs support your small business’s social media strategy: personalized communication.
Social listening allows you to monitor when people on social media platforms mention your business even if they don’t tag you. You can also keep an eye on related words and hashtags (like tracking people talking about “cookies” within thirty miles if you’re a bakery). You can even keep an eye on what people are saying about your competitors in real-time.
Dropping in to like or comment on users’ posts about you (or ask if they want to get cookies at your bakery next time) is a great way to keep them interested.
Agorapulse is a great choice for small businesses that want to get to know and engage with their audiences better. It’s an especially good choice for those already running or planning to start running paid ads on social media. Other tools offer more user-friendly interfaces for those who simply want to post and monitor inboxes.
Zoho Social offers all the standard scheduling features at its lowest tier of $10/month. The second, $30/month, tier includes inbox monitoring, social listening, and basic analytics.
Zoho Social also offers a browser extension, zShare, which allows you to easily share content you find online. You can similarly curate and share content from RSS feeds, which you can add to and monitor from the platform. This is particularly helpful when you simply don’t have enough time to write thirty original posts each month.
Aside from affordability at all tiers, Zoho Social shines in its integration capabilities. It is designed to integrate with other Zoho software, of course, including the ever-popular Zoho CRM. Zoho CRM offers a fairly robust free tier for small businesses. If you’ve been considering customer relationship management software, getting started on these two might be a good choice.
Zoho’s software products don’t stop at Social and CRM. You can run your entire business on Zoho software alone if you’d like. Using Zoho Social means easy integration with almost any type of software you can imagine.
Zoho Social also integrates with Canva, a simple tool for making social media graphics and other online designs. Being able to design your graphics as you schedule your posts is a nice bonus and helps save some time.
Sprout Social is another name that will invariably come up in any conversation about social media marketing, for good reason. Sprout Social’s entry-level plan, with its $89/month price tag, comes with a full set of features to back it up. You’ll get scheduling, inbox monitoring, a social CRM, simple reporting, and basic social listening.
When you upgrade to the higher (and pricier) tiers, you get some nice automation features. You can also pay extra for add-ons that offer unique audience insights and ROI analysis.
Sprout Social also puts out a lot of research about social media marketing and consumer activity. This research might be worth looking at when planning your social media strategy even if you go with a different tool.
Sprout Social is a great choice if you know social media will be a driver of growth for your business. Otherwise, some of the other tools offer similar feature sets to Sprout Social’s entry-level tier at a more affordable rate.
The Best Social Media Management Tool for You
You’ll see that many of these tools offer very similar features. It may be difficult to decide what functionality your business can do without and what is an absolute must-have.
First-hand experience is the best way to know for sure, and, thankfully, all of these products offer free trials. Before starting a free trial, you might want to learn more about other small business users’ experiences with these tools. You can filter user reviews by business size on each product’s page on TrustRadius.
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