I tried the paid versions of the top 4 social media scheduling tools so you don’t have to!

Author: Olivia Murphy - Marketing Executive

Do you love social media management, but hate faffing and wasting time? You may have heard of these wonderful tools that help you combat the stress of social and really get your sh*t together. To manage your social media (somewhat) successfully, you’ll probably need a scheduling tool, and we’re lucky to be spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting the right one. Most tools offer basic, free plans, which is great if you’re just starting out, but sometimes you want to know if it’s worth upgrading, and if so… which one???

I’ll be ranking each tool (out of 5) on 3 key factors: value for money, ease of UI and features.

Sprout Social

  • Value For Money:
  • User Interface:
  • Features:

The absolute powerhouse of social media management tools, Sprout gives you everything you need (and more!) all in one place. Special shout out to the smart inbox, which collects all of your messages, comments and tags from all your connected socials and displays them in one super handy chronological timeline, which you can respond to without leaving the site.

Sorry bestie, but I’m about to tell you something you might not like.

This sh*t is EXPENSIVE. Yes it’s jam packed with all of these amazing features, but are they all really necessary for smaller businesses and agencies? We’re told as marketers to not expand to new, fancy socials if we haven’t nailed the essentials, and I think the same needs to be said for Sprout.

One thing that bugged me, and maybe it was just me, but I never figured out how to schedule stories. Apparently it’s there! But after hours of searching and YouTube tutorials, I eventually admitted defeat. I understand that sometimes new platforms are tricky for the older generation to navigate, but when a Gen Z marketer starts to struggle, you know something’s not right!

The rest of the interface is easy to navigate once you’ve had a play around with it, and the app is fantastic. Unfortunately I have to deduct 1 point as I’m still bitter about stories… 👀

A brilliant tool for big businesses who need all the project management bells and whistles, but for everyone else, it really depends on if you need those extra features, or if they’re just going to sit there clogging up your screen.

Later

  • Value For Money:
  • User Interface:
  • Features:

For smaller businesses, Later has everything you need to maintain and grow your socials. From stories scheduling to hashtag analytics, the team at Later have well and truly treated us with this gem, and finally gave in to our demands and gave us Linkedin scheduling - and even TikTok! Shout out to the share calendar feature, which allows you to send a link of your scheduled Instagram posts to your clients for approval, without the need for account logins or extra members added to your plan.

Starting from $12.50 per month, with small cost differences between plans, this tool is perfect for those on a budget, and if you want to upgrade further, it won’t break the bank. Although I must mention the only way you can add more accounts is by purchasing an entire social set. So, if you’re managing 5 instagram accounts and nothing else, this isn’t the tool for you.

If you like a fresh, clean interface, this should be at the top of your list. You didn’t think aesthetic design paired with super easy navigation was possible? Think again! Unfortunately, Later is so dedicated to visuals, it only allows you to publish posts with images. If you’ve got something to say but nothing to show, jog on. Come back when you’re ready to take visuals seriously, sir!

The app has very limited features. You can create a new post to schedule, edit upcoming Instagram posts… and that’s it. No analytics, no editing your upcoming content for your other accounts, not even a calendar preview. We all know Instagram is the cream of the crop, but come on, give the other guys a chance! So, as much as I adore the desktop interface, it’s only fair I deduct a point for the app.

Buffer

  • Value For Money:
  • User Interface:
  • Features:

Buffer is just lovely, isn’t it? Visually clean interface and super easy to navigate - what more could you want from a scheduling tool?!

Special mention to the campaigns feature, allowing you to group together specific content for analytic reporting, giving you a more accurate idea of the performance of your social media campaigns.

Unfortunately, analytics are very basic - this is because they actually have a separate platform they want you to sign up (and pay) for - Buffer Analyze. But, you can connect your account to Google Analytics for super handy social media campaign tracking!

Pricewise, Buffer is one of the more affordable tools, however, I’m not a fan of the very obvious ‘decoy’ pricing strategy. The jump from cheapest to the middle plan is quite extortionate, but the jump to the highest plan from the middle is not too bad. Bearing in mind the cheaper plan is quite limited in its features, meaning users must upgrade if they want to schedule stories, save draft posts or utilise the hashtags manager.

With that in mind, once you do upgrade, I think Buffer really proves why it’s one of the best on the market for small to medium sized businesses. Simple yet effective - just how we’d all like our social strategy to be!

Hootsuite

  • Value For Money:
  • User Interface:
  • Features:

If I were to compare Hootsuite to other tools (which, let’s face it, I am) I’d describe it as Sprout’s less interesting sibling. Another fairly expensive tool with the cheapest plan starting at £39 per month (with very limited features), Hootsuite is definitely more suited to bigger businesses with their fingers in all the pies, who need a hefty social media management tool.

Being able to add all of your socials plus YouTube, Google+ and even WordPress all in one place is a bragging right in itself, so it’s easy to see why Hootsuite is a well loved platform for bigger brands. However, with tons of features centred around project management and collaboration, a smaller business might feel lost amongst the noise.

Social listening is something Hootsuite does very well. I particularly like the customisable Trello-esque newsfeed, where you can create your own categorised tabs and drag and drop your chosen accounts (aka streams) alongside each other.

The interface, as dated as it looks, is pretty easy to get to grips with once you’ve had a play around. But, similar to Sprout, sometimes the masses of extra features get in the way of simply just wanting to schedule your content.

Final thoughts: Bigger doesn’t always mean better! What really matters is finding the tool that’s right for you and your business needs.

If you’re looking to kick-off a digital project then get in touch with Steve and Amy at hello@wonderagency.co.uk

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