What Are the Best Social Media Management Tools? Sprout Social vs Buffer vs Hootsuite and More!

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Snapchat, Slideshare, YouTube, Google Plus, Periscope, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Vine… you name it! There are more social media channels than we know what to do with. It’s difficult to keep up with the latest tools, tricks and trends (and even more time consuming to create and post content and track the effectiveness of it all). Enter: social media monitoring tools to help you get the job done. They offer a one stop place to post, analyze and schedule all of your social media efforts, alleviating the pain of having to log in and out of dozens of accounts and websites regularly.

GlobalWebIndex did a survey of 170,000 internet users asking about their internet habits in 2014 and found that people spend on average 1.72 hours a day on social media, up from 1.66 hours in 2013. It’s not news that social media usage is growing. As a result, more brands and businesses are getting on the bandwagon to try to join the conversation, customer interaction and business building. But with so many sites to manage, how do you keep up with it all?

Whether you are a social media manager for multiple businesses or running a company, social media scheduling tools help make your job easier by killing two (or ten) birds with one stone (please pardon the pun Twitter 😉 ). We’ll help you find the best tools on the market, the benefits of each, the pros, the cons and pricing to determine which is the best solution for your business needs. But before we dive into the details, let’s do a quick overview of what social media monitoring tools are and how they can prove beneficial.

Social Media Management Tools Overview

Social media analytics tools use APIs (or Application Open Interfaces) that allow external software programs to pull in already existing data. This gives these social media monitoring tools the ability to integrate with the various third-party sites. Because Facebook and Twitter have been around awhile, they are pretty standard in most businesses marketing channels and thus they have lots of API capabilities. However, newer sites like Pinterest and Instagram are jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to providing full operational and reporting features too.

Why Use Social Media Monitoring Tools?

As business owners and marketing managers, it’s important to know the return on our investment so we can discern where our efforts are paying off and where they are not. It’s also important to know which channels are performing best, what type of content gets the most engagement and so on so you can prioritize your efforts and resources. That’s why social media monitoring tools have become so popular.

And, as the number of channels continues to grow and change, so will the number of services and types of features. Some applications are used more for monitoring and responding to comments, mentions and messages, whereas some have a full reporting social media dashboard to help you analyze trends. Many programs are a hybrid of the two, and some even include the ability to schedule posts for multiple channels at once.

With so many options on the market that incorporate many different bells and whistles, how do you know which is the right fit for you? Read on to learn more about the best social media monitoring tools you should consider.

Best Social Media Management Tools

Most services offer similar features with slightly different social media dashboards and methods of using them so for that reason it was a challenge picking a winner. Each tool seems to excel in one particular area which we’ve noted in our review below. But we feel confident that our top three all do a solid job of helping you manage your social media marketing and give you a variety of features for an affordable price. In doing research and testing out some of the newer players, we found there are a variety of tools and plans available to suit the needs businesses of all sizes. Whether you are doing social media as a hobby for your blog or have a large brand with hundreds of fans, there could be a social media tool that is better suited to your needs, budget and preferences. So read on to learn more in our full social media management software reviews.

Hootsuite Review

#1

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Hootsuite wins our top spot because it integrates with so many services, is affordable and has adapted to the changing social media landscape with grace and expertise. Started in 2008, Hootsuite is one of the oldest and probably most widely known social media toolAnd while several Hootsuite competitors have popped up over the years, it still can’t be beat. Its robust social sharing and dashboard allow you to customize streams for each profile or channel. You can also create as many tabs as you need to organize in the way that works best for your business. This tool allows you to target posts, add a location, customize privacy, and bulk upload up to 350 posts from Excel. If you have multiple accounts linked, then you can star your favorites or “pin” it to always post to that channel. Use the URL-shortening tool to create trackable links. If you are posting to Facebook, you can select the thumbnail image, edit preview text and see how it will look before posting. You can save content to drafts and use the auto-scheduler to post when it gets optimal impact and visibility. While the statistics are pretty basic, you can create and export custom reports and set up email notifications. One downside we found frustrating is when composing Tweets, it will not auto-populate suggested handles. Hoot Suite is a solid option (and free for the basic plan) for users of all experience levels.

Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram (integrates with Google Analytics & Facebook Ads – in Beta)

Pros

Cons

  • Free plan offered
  • Established in 2008, widely recognized and reputable
  • Hootsuite University and forums for support and training
  • Monitor other third-party sites like Foursquare and Yelp
  • Supports Facebook Ads (in Beta)
  • No reports
  • Dashboard can be a bit overwhelming
  • Must use their URL shortener (although it helps with tracking)
  • Can only connect one service to one Hootsuite account at a time
  • Custom reports and other features can be pricey

Pricing

Hootsuite offers a 30-day free trial.

  • Free – up to 3 profiles
  • Pro – $9.99 month up to 10 social profiles (1 user)
  • Team – $34.99/month per user (1-5 users) up to 20 social profiles + additional features
  • Business – $99.99/month per user (5-10 users) up to 50 social profiles + additional features
  • Enterprise – 10+ users, contact for pricing

Note: All pricing based on annual plans.

Read our full Hootsuite Review

Sprout Social Review

#2

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Founded in 2010, SproutSocial’s easy to use interface is straightforward and intuitive. You can schedule, monitor and analyze all in one spot. Unlike the other tools which just serve up stats, SproutSocial takes it one step further by analyzing them for you. The analytics provide useful data like engagement percentage and how your social channels are trending over time with colorful charts, graphs and other visually appealing data formats that make it easy to digest and report back to your peers so you can be sure you are optimizing your social media networks fully. SproutSocial also allows you to sort through all your messages from all platforms (i.e. notifications of new followers, comments, replies, etc.) all in one spot. You can skim through the list to reply, mark as complete or flag as a task for future follow-up. You can even categorize items as a potential sales lead or customer support issue and give it a high priority. Another great feature is the Queue which gives you the option to load a backlog of content to post at pre-scheduled times (versus selecting a date for each one individually). The major downside is that you can’t interact as much with your fans and the monthly fee is quite expensive relative to the others, winning them a close second in our comparison.

Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Instagram (integrates with Feedly RSS)

Pros

Cons

  • Assign and track tasks for team members
  • Compare different profiles and customize date range of social media reports
  • Export reports to PDF or Excel
  • Constantly upgrading and adding new features to enhance experience
  • Discovery feature to find new people to follow or engage with
  • iPhone/iPad and Android apps
  • Connect to Bit.ly account for URL tracking
  • Firefox plug-in to easily share content from the web
  • Ability to tag brands
  • No free plan and on the pricier side
  • No ability to “save” a particular column to track or monitor a trending topic
  • Can’t like a Facebook post or plus a Google+ comment

Pricing

SproutSocial offers a 30-day free trial for all of its plans.

  • Deluxe – $59/user per month for up to 10 social profiles
  • Premium – $99/user per month for up to 20 social profiles + added features like advanced reporting
  • Team – $500/user for up to 3 users & up to 30 social profiles + added features like advanced permissions and custom branding
  • Enterprise & Agency – contact for details

Additional profiles and keywords in increments of 5 – $25/month

Read our full SproutSocial Review

eClincher Review

#3

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Newer to the social scene is eClincher. Much like SproutSocial and Hootsuite, eClincher is an all-in-one publishing, social inbox and analytics tool. It’s also user-friendly with features that make scheduling and reporting easy. You can do things like sort your tweets by best performing, see a calendar or list of your upcoming posts and schedule posts to repeat daily or weekly. Its analytics dashboard is pretty basic (not more than you might see from logging into Facebook or Twitter’s insights), but it gives you a snapshot to see how things are performing all in one place.

While e Clincher does offer an affordable plan, the Inbox and other features like Google Analytics will cost you extra. However, it’s still a good value for the price. One feature we loved about eClincher, which sets it apart from the rest, is its integration with Canva (the popular social media graphic creation service). With Canva you can create custom branded images right inside eCllincher’s interface with ease. eClincher also has more social profiles than any other social media service we reviewed, which is a big plus if you’re active on many different channels.

Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Blogger, Google Analytics* (*paid add-on feature)

Pros

Cons

  • Social profiles are color coded
  • More affordable than competition
  • Create a custom dashboard
  • 20% discount for annual plan
  • Posts, analytics and settings are backed up
  • Create custom branded images with Canva
  • No mobile app (coming soon)
  • Newer than the competition (2012) yet still feels a little old/outdated

Pricing

All eClincher plans come with a 14-day free trial.

  • Individual – $15/month up to 5 social media profiles
  • Basic – $40/month up to 15 social media profiles + additional features like Google Analytics
  • Premiere – $80/month up to 50 social media profiles + additional features like Google Analytics and more frequent backups
  • Agency – $200/month up to 10 brands (15 profiles for each brand)

Other Social Media Management Tools

In addition to our top three picks above, there are many additional social media management tools on the market to consider. Below, you’ll find an alphabetical listing of other popular social media managers we’ve reviewed. Click on the link to jump straight to the review or scroll down to read them all.

Agora Pulse | Buffer | Crowdbooster | reach7 | Sendible | TweetDeck

Agora Pulse Review

AgoraPulse logo

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AgoraPulse is a visually appealing social media manager for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Setting it up is easy as Agora walks you through linking your accounts with step-by-step instructions on how to use each feature. Each platform has an individual dashboard with a snapshot of stats, upcoming posts and items to review. You can even dive deeper into each area if you wish. We appreciate how each platform is compartmentalized into its own area, making it easy to toggle among social media channels. Some of the other tools can be confusing when they intermix the networks on one dashboard. However, one downside to that is you can only publish content to one channel at a time. So if you are looking to push a post out to Twitter and Facebook simultaneously, you’re out of luck. And same goes for posting to multiple Twitter or Facebook accounts at once. One added benefit to AgoraPulse is the ability to install a number of apps and run Facebook promotions. Agora Pulse is a good option If you are a visual person with only one brand to monitor/publish. Learn more about AgoraPulse from our interview with their CEO, Emeric Ernoult.

Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, LinkedIn

Pros

Cons

  • Inbox and notifications to easily view all items across all channels that need attention
  • Easy to use with guides, support and introductory webinar
  • Calendar view to visually display content
  • Facebook apps/tabs are easy to install to run contests/promotions
  • Reports are visual and give you valuable data including ROI
  • iOS and Android app
  • Ability to assign tasks to other team members
  • Only post to one account/platform at a time
  • Advanced features like selecting dates and tracking competitors cost extra
  • No URL shortening service connections
  • Free tools but no free plan

Pricing

AgoraPulse has a limited 15-day free trial (Facebook campaigns are limited to 20 participants).

  • Small – $49 per month, 2 Admins, up to 5 social profiles
  • Medium – $99 per month, 5 Admins, up to 10 social profiles + added features
  • Large – $199 per month, 10 Admins, up to 20 social profiles + added features
  • Enterprise – $299 per month, 20 Admins, up to 30 social profiles + added features

Buffer Review

Buffer logo

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Relatively new to the social media scene, but quickly gaining popularity, is BufferApp. Their Dashboard is white and extremely clean, making it difficult to get distracted when writing posts or to become overwhelmed with data during analysis. You can enable campaign tracking via Google Analytics’ UTM parameters and install browser plug-ins to easily share content from the web. There aren’t many stats or analytics, and the free version is pretty limited. However, Buffer is one of the few social media tools we found that integrates with Pinterest. If you’re looking to monitor conversations or interact with users, Buffer probably isn’t the best app for that. Buffer is intended to auto-broadcast your messages across social media and schedule a backlog of content.

Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest

Pros

Cons

  • Connect with URL shortening services
  • iPhone and Android apps
  • Broadcast to multiple channels at once
  • Feeds give suggested posts to share (paid feature)
  • Free plan available
  • No ability to target Facebook posts
  • Reports are limited
  • No notifications or ability to interact with users

Pricing

Buffer has a Free Trial for paid plans.

  • Individual Plan: Free and includes 1 profile for each social account & up to 10 scheduled posts
  • Awesome Plan: $10/month, 10 social profiles, 100 scheduled posts
  • Small Business Plan: $99/month, 25 social profiles, 2000 scheduled posts, 5 additional team members
  • Medium Business Plan: $199/month, 50 social profiles, 2000 scheduled posts, 10 additional team members
  • Large Business Plan: $399/month, 150 social profiles, 2000 scheduled posts, 25 additional team members

Crowdbooster Review

Crowdbooster logo

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Crowdbooster’s sweet spot is turning data into useful advice and recommendations, whether it be connecting with the right influencers, converting loyal followers or optimizing posts. Crowdbooster specializes in finding the right people to talk to at the right place at the right time – instead of haphazardly throwing content into the universe. Crowdbooster is a great sales tool since it helps create and target content specifically to those who need it most. Their pricing is fair, but you’re limited to only Facebook and Twitter.

Profiles: Facebook, Twitter

Pros

Cons

  • Data-driven metrics and stats to use for converting fans and followers
  • Save 10% with annual plan membership
  • Facebook and Twitter only
  • Credit card required for free trial

Pricing

All Crowdbooster plans include a 30-day free trial.

  • Bronze – $9 per month, 1 account, 1 user, 50k fans/followers
  • Silver – $49 per month, 10 accounts, 8 users, unlimited fans/followers
  • Gold – $119 per month, 30 accounts, 30 users, unlimited fans/followers
  • Platinum – Custom

Reach7 Review

reach7 logo

Reach7 was a UK-based company that helped companies reach a diverse group of followers by translating content into nearly 100 different languages (including various dialects like “British English”) for Twitter and Instagram (only). However, as of September 2016, we were informed via email that the company will be closing its doors and discontinuing services.

Sendible Review

Sendible logo

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Sendible is a social media management tool that has CRM functionality. It pulls in your posts and comments across all channels and allows you to respond from one place. You can even highlight items requiring urgent attention. Like many other social media managers, you can use custom reports to see how effective each post is and to queue up and optimize posts. All of the reports are displayed in a nice color coded calendar format which gives you a holistic view of your publishing schedule. Another nice feature is Sendible’s RSS Auto Posting, which publishes new, relevant content from your blog or site to your channels at regular intervals throughout the day.

Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, WordPress, Google Analytics* (*paid feature)

Pros

Cons

  • Integrate with RSS to auto post new content to site
  • Color-coded editorial calendar
  • CRM manager with email and SMS (for additional costs)
  • 30-day free trial
  • Integrates with Dropbox and Google Drive
  • iPhone and Android app
  • Reports Hub
  • Credit card required to start free trial
  • Nickle and dime you for various add-ons and upgrades

Pricing

Sendible offers a 30-day free trial for all plans.

  • Lite – $49 per month, 1 user 20 services
  • Advanced – $199 per month, 4 users 100 service
  • Pro – $499 per month, 10 users 300 services
  • White Label – fully customized dashboard with API access, contact for pricing

TweetDeck Review

Tweetdeck logo

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TweetDeck (owned by Twitter) is free and allows you to post Tweets and track Twitter conversations, replies, hashtags, etc. It can be used as a downloadable application or via a web browser. You can connect an unlimited number of accounts for free (no paid version). You can schedule posts and set up desktop notifications when someone replies. Sign up for TweetDeck with your existing Twitter account log in info and you can add columns to see conversations in real-time. Tweet Deck is good to have in addition to other social media managers to monitor Twitter throughout the day. It is a great fit for anyone who manages multiple Twitter accounts, especially if Twitter is at the core of your social media marketing plans. Unlike other social media managers, this tool only allows you to manage Twitter.

Profiles: Twitter

Pros

Cons

  • Free
  • Desktop notifications (with software version)
  • Can schedule posts in advance
  • Limited in capabilities (i.e. no reports)
  • iPhone and Android app
  • Twitter only
  • No stats or reporting
  • No ability to assign roles to team members or tasks to respond to

Pricing

      • Free

Video: Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising is an affordable marketing platform for any small business to get started. These social media marketing tools can help you manage your content across platforms, but if you don’t know how to advertise and promote on the social networks effectively, you’ll be wasting your time and money. Watch this short 3 minute video for 5 steps to social media advertising success.

Which Social Media Manager is Best for Your Needs?

Many social media managers and small businesses find themselves struggling to find the one ultimate social media monitoring tool that can successfully manage all their social media efforts in one place. So, hopefully you’ve learned a little something from our social media management tools comparison. However, while there are several solutions, there is no one size fits all product for all since it all depends on your type of business, management circumstances, company policy, and budget. The best advice for anyone looking to try social media management software is to try before you buy. Get your feet wet, test the waters to see which social media analytics tools work best for you and your team, and find a system that meets your specific needs and preferences. And if you’re looking to learn more, read how to build your business using social media article.

What social media tool do you find most useful and why?

Sadie has acted as the email marketing coordinator and web designer for one of the world's largest travel companies and managed social media for dozens of major brands. She has a breadth and depth of web and marketing knowledge that reaches far and wide. She loves all things Mac and keeping up with all the latest web trends.

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14 Comments on "What Are the Best Social Media Management Tools? Sprout Social vs Buffer vs Hootsuite and More!"

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robot
robot

And perhaps honourable mention of Zoho Social as well.

robot
robot

Everypost.me – is not even mentioned?

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

We will consider adding it in our next audit.

Jake
Jake

Great post! Recently my favorite apps (and most useful) are ToDoist – for planning my tasks; Click Meeting for my video conferences; SmartClothed for my styling (it’s a new app and it’s really functional and easy to use, I love it); Sprout social for my social media accounts, it’s a bit expensive but it’s worth it.

Emma Cullen
Emma Cullen

Good detailed post. Nice to see the pro’s and con’s set out so clearly.

Eat Drink Stay Dubai
Eat Drink Stay Dubai

Thanks for an interesting review. It’s amazing how many different ways these different products can appeal to folk.

Often there is one killer function one can not do without, or something one just can’t stand. Must admit, have gone back to Tweetdeck and Hootsuite several times but just can’t deal with the busy-ness of it.

Do like the Social Sprout aspect, where one can process inbox, searches, mentions, messages etc – this way it’s easy to keep up. If can’t answer at the time, time to forget if I’m just working from the mobile alone.

Looking at trying social report next, but at this stage think it will be Sprout Social as I find it just fits in with what I need, and how I work.

Cheers though for all the content….

PS Check the two logos in positions one and two, looks like HS is mixed up with SS.

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

Thanks for notifying us of the logo mixup. We will be sure to correct that!

Joe

Thanks for this. You do know that the logos are reversed for the Hootsuite and sprout social reviews, right?

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will be sure to update that!

Emeric
Emeric

Hey Sadie, great post, very comprehensive and valuable insights! And thanks for including Agorapulse in the mix, I appreciate! Maybe be 2 cons you may want to reconsider: we do offer a mobile app (iOS and Android) and we do offer the ability to assign tasks to other team members. Happy to chat about this and see how we can help you.
On the publishing side, you’re right, publishing on multiple accounts is a must have, and it’s coming very soon!

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

Thanks for the information! We will be sure to make those changes!

Emeric
Emeric

Very comprehensive post, and very informative too, great work! And thanks for including Agorapulse in the list. Two cons that you should update: Agorapulse offers a mobile app (iOS and Android) and offers the ability to assign tasks to team members. Happy to chat about this and see how I can help you!

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

Thanks for mentioning these corrections to us! We will be sure to update the post!

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