Q: What are the best free apps for social media management? I am a bit familiar with Hootsuite, Zoho social, Klout and Buffer but want to see what is the best and how they compare.
A: You’ve hit on a few of the top social media management tools out there, but there are a few others I’d recommend taking a look at as well, including SocialOomph, Sprout Social, TweetDeck, CrowdBooster, MeetEdgar and IFTTT/Zapier.
At Louder, we use Buffer, specifically the Buffer for Business plan, that lets us bulk upload social updates via Excel file. I can’t tell you if that’s the right option for you, since I don’t know what kind of campaigns you’re running or what your marketing objectives are.
There are a lot of questions I’d suggest you answer before investing in a tool, including the following:
What networks will I be posting to?
HootSuite is a popular, social media management tool, but it only posts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn but not Pinterest. If you need Pinterest management, you’ll need to choose a suite that includes it (like Buffer) or a standalone Pinterest tool (Tailwind).
What features are important to me?
This is where the tools I mentioned above differentiate themselves. MeetEdgar, for example, focuses specifically on recycling old content from your social channels to increase their engagement and decrease the amount of time you have to spend curating new content.
IFTTT and Zapier, on the other hand, are strictly automation tools. They’ll auto-load your new blog posts to your Facebook page, for example, but they won’t give you the analytics reporting tools of a platform like Zoho Social or Sprout Social.
Klout is best for individuals trying to build their personal brands through social content. The company’s companion Lithium supports business brands and agencies with a more fully-featured platform.
SocialOomph offers social mention monitoring tools, as well as follower suggestions for building an audience.
Get the idea? Before you choose a tool, you need to sit down and figure out what you want it to do. From there, you can narrow down your possible options based on their features and functionality.
Will I be running paid campaigns alongside my organic social updates?
You didn’t mention whether you’d be doing organic social, paid social or both, but if you will be running paid campaigns, you’re going to be looking at an entirely different set of tools (with the exception of Sprout Social, which can handle both to some degree). Trackur, Social Report and Webfluenz might be worth looking into.
Will multiple team members be using the tool?
Think about the scope of your social media campaigns. If you’re a one-person shop, pretty much any of the tools I’ve mentioned so far can be made to work for your needs.
There are, however, situations where having multiple user accounts makes sense. In a larger organization where social media is used as much for customer service as it is for marketing, it can be helpful to be able to assign required responses to a customer service rep or escalate difficult questions to a manager.
In these cases, setting up multiple users means the appropriate people receive individual notifications about the tasks they need to follow up on, rather than a free-for-all system that risks missing messages.
What can I afford?
The last question you should ask, of course, is what you can afford. The tools I’ve mentioned are all across the board in terms of price, with everything from free options to tools that cost hundreds of dollars per month.
This is a great time to cut that features list I talked about earlier from “would be nice” to “must have.” As more features generally means more money, understanding your budget will also help you choose the right tool based on the features that are truly most important for your company.