Using social media to develop an online presence and personal brand for your business, although it pays big dividends, can be a time-consuming process. But with the right tools, the job can be easy and even fun. There are a lot of social media management tools out there to help you organize and maintain your social media sites, such as Buffer, Hootsuite, eClincher and Sprout Social. Each has their own list of pros and cons. The question is, which one is the best? Let’s take a look at what goes into making a truly great social media management tool, and see how each of these tools measures up.
The whole point of a social media management tool is to make managing your social media sites easier and more convenient. The more a tool streamlines this process, the better it is. The best social media management tool will bring together information from many different social networks, so that the user can easily view and interact with all of them without having to switch sites.
Sprout Social doesn’t do a great job of concentrating news feeds in the same place. Instead, you have to jump between different social media accounts, because it only displays one feed per page. While this may look more streamlined, it requires extra work to make sure you’re checking all your feeds.
Hootsuite while manageable, goes a little too far in the opposite direction. Everything can be accessed from the same page, but the plethora of feeds and notifications on a single page can be overwhelming. However, you can limit the amount of feeds you want to see.
eClincher provides a convenient “unified inbox,” where you can see notifications, read and reply to messages, and keep a general eye on things, across a variety of social media sites, all in one easy process.
Buffer is more focused on scheduling posts for various social media, but it does have a unified feed from which you can add posts from your social media accounts directly into your queue. This is not available in the free version, however.
2. Easy to Use
A social media management tool should be complex enough to meet all your social media needs, but also simple and easy to use. Time you have to spend learning how to use a tool is time taken away from actually working with your social media pages. There’s a balance to be struck!
Sprout Social is very sleekly laid out, with just one column of information per page. But this comes at the cost of some convenience, as the user has to toggle between pages to make sure they’re viewing all the information from their social media sites.
While Hootsuite is the most well known social media management tool, there is definitely a bit of learning curve to understanding the ins and outs of the platform. We recommend it for more advance users.
Many reviewers praise eClincher’s organization and layout, which combines feeds from several social media accounts into one page for ease and convenience. eClincher is obviously designed with the user in mind. It’s super simple even for the beginner.
Although not providing as many options as the other three tools, Buffer is straightforward and intuitive to use.
Price is obviously a big consideration in finding the perfect social media manager tool. The more a tool costs, the bigger return you’ll have to get in terms of post engagement and reach to make it worth it.
Prices start at $ 59/user/month. No free plan, although there is a 30 day free trial for all of its plans.
Hootsuite’s paid plans start at $ 15/month, but you have to pay more to get various services such as analytics reports, which quickly adds up to a lot of money. If you’re managing multiple brands, it’s worth it to check out their agency feature for $ 200 a month that allows you to manage up to 10 brands.
Free 14-day trial and then the cheapest “Individual” plan starts at $ 15/month.
Buffer has a free version, which allows you to schedule ten posts per month for each profile to five different social networks. The paid or “Awesome” version is $ 10/month and allows a hundred posts per month to be scheduled to six different social networks.
4. Social Media Profiles / Auto Posting
What’s the point of having a social media manager tool if it can’t handle all the social media profiles you use? Furthermore, a good tool should allow you to schedule posts ahead of time, so that you don’t have to spend time every day figuring out what to post.
Sprout Social supports Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Instagram, and allows the user to schedule posts for any of these sites. However, you can only set two different schedules–one for weekdays and one for weekends.
Hootsuite supports a large number of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram. You can schedule posts for any of these networks.
eClincher can connect with a variety of different sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Analytics, Instagram, Youtube, Blogger, and Feedly. You can schedule posts ahead of time, and even have eClincher repeat the posts with their autopost feature, one of the biggest time savers. Autopost allows you recycle your content without having to manually schedule it. And the best part? You don’t have to set an end date. You can also set up multiple queues and use the bulk upload feature to quickly upload all your posts.
Buffer supports Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. The whole point of Buffer is to be able to schedule posts ahead of time and it does that, but doesn’t offer a ton of other benefits.
5. Mobile App
A social media management tool with a mobile app is essential for any on-the-go task!
Sprout Social has a mobile app, but some reviewers have complained about it being clunky or difficult to use.
Hootsuite’s mobile app only supports posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare. You can monitor your feeds and messages for those four networks as well, but it is still a large reduction from Hootsuite’s otherwise substantial amount of supported networks.
eClincher’s mobile app lets you schedule your posts and check your messages from anywhere. It’s included in all of eClincher’s plans.
Buffer has a mobile app, but it is very limited in terms of what it allows you to do–while you can review your scheduled posts, trying to modify your schedule will take you to the Buffer website, which is not set up for mobile use.
While Hootsuite is one of the more powerful social media management tools out there, its prices and complexity make it most suited to experienced users and larger companies. Sprout Social is also a versatile tool, but with no free version and an expensive paid plan, it’s probably not the best option for small business owners. Buffer is easy to use and inexpensive, but it has a very limited scope and functionality, since it was designed solely for the task of scheduling posts and using one queue. eClincher has a mobile app, allows the user to perform a variety of tasks, is fun and easy to use, and is inexpensive on top of all that. Not to mention it’s strong analytics, expansive functionality and ease of use make it a powerful social media tool. So, it really comes down to what you are looking for in a social media management tool and what’s most important that the tool has for your business or for your clients.Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community