Most professional social media management tools aren’t really for everyday users. If you’re logged into one of your personal accounts, you’re there to relax, check in with your friends and maybe RT some thought leaders or celebrities. Using social media apps to monitor, analyze and schedule your posts isn’t really a priority. Become a social media manager with several clients, however, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly that changes.
Suddenly, the world of social media ceases to be relaxing “me” time. It’s more of a gauntlet or full-out battle — and you need the right weapons in your arsenal to stay on top of your game. There are plenty of social media management tools out there that claim they can save you time and stress, but if you shell out cash for every single one you’ll spend thousands of dollars per month and will end up with a dozen tools that do the same thing (and several that don’t even do it very well).
The trick is to find the right balance, without overwhelming yourself, your team and your budget with too many tools.
At The Content Factory, we’ve done a lot of our own testing to find the best social media apps for managing multiple clients and networks at once. Here’s a rundown of our favorites, along with updated info on how much you can expect to pay for each. We regularly use all of these tools at TCF, so you can rest assured that they’ve been pre-vetted for awesomeness.
Are there redundant capabilities with the tools we use and recommend? Yes, but they each bring something unique to the table and are worth the time/money investment in our opinion. This blog post is going to start with a Hootsuite vs. TweetDeck review, then get into the other professional social media mangement tools the TCF team uses to manage the social accounts of clients like The Alternative Board and Fairtrade America (we use them for TCF’s accounts too). They include:
- Sprout Social
Our team constantly researches these tools and updates the pricing so you can be sure this data is current — if something seems off or if you’ve discovered a great social media management tool we didn’t include here, please let us know in the comments section. We’d be happy to check it out!
Hootsuite vs TweetDeck – How Much Do They Cost, and Which is Better?
Two of the most popular (and useful) social media management tools that fit basic posting/scheduling needs are Hootsuite and TweetDeck. Since this seems to be where most social media managers start, this is where we’ll begin with this post. Plus, for a lot of people Hootsuite or TweetDeck alone would be enough. Here’s the breakdown of the the cost, customer service and capabilities of these two platforms:
How Much Does Hootsuite Cost – and What’s Their Customer Service Like?
Hootsuite makes using Twitter for marketing simple. When we began using social media management tools, it was one of our first choices. Hootsuite’s dashboard is tough to beat (call us superficial, but we’re suckers for a pretty interface). A view of one of our Hootsuite dashboards is below:
Customer Service: Hootsuite does not take customer service calls, at all – not even if your account is on fire. In order to get in contact with Hootsuite, you have to complete a Help Desk request. The first time we did so, someone responded within four hours. Not too shabby.
Hootsuite Pricing: Hootsuite pricing is actually free for one user with three social profiles. For one user with up to 10 social profiles, Hootsuite charges $19 per month (billed annually). Their team plan offers 3 users 20 social profiles at $99 per month. It’s reasonable for a company of our size, but if you want to have more than 5 users logging in at once, it will cost you $5,988 per year. That fifth user comes with a big price hike, so you might want to keep it at 3 or fewer for as long as possible.
Business and Enterprise packages cost even more. You’ll have to get in touch with the Hootsuite sales team to customize a package for your company’s particular needs. Depending on the services you choose for your package (like the number of reports, the use of a custom url shortener and more), you can expect to pay a minimum of an extra $50–$100+ per month.
TweetDeck Pricing and Customer Service
We love that TweetDeck allows you to schedule, monitor keywords and manage multiple Twitter accounts with multiple team members. Plus, TweetDeck is owned by Twitter, so they automatically get a certain amount of street cred in the #SMM space.
The only downside, and in the end the primary reason we opted for Hootsuite over TweetDeck at TCF, is the fact that Hootsuite’s dashboard absolutely slays the Tweetdeck dashboard. We’re talking Mortal Kombat, “Finish him!” style. TweetDeck breaks down tweets into columns in much the same way Hootsuite does, but their columns update in real time, and when you’re running an account that’s following thousands of other active accounts, the constant movement will give you a headache within minutes.
If you only have 1-3 Twitter accounts to manage and those accounts aren’t following thousands of other accounts, TweetDeck is a simple, straightforward and effective social media marketing tool.
Customer Service: We knew exactly what we were getting so there was no need to call or email them, which is a plus. As far as ongoing TweetDeck customer support goes, you can contact them via a number of Twitter accounts, depending on what the issue is.
Hootsuite vs. Tweetdeck: Which is Best?
Tweetdeck does offer the advantage of allowing you to schedule posts whenever you want (Hootsuite requires you to schedule at least 5 minutes in advance). But when all was said and done, we went with Hootsuite. It’s reasonably priced and we heart the Hootsuite dashboard (have we mentioned that yet?). If you manage multiple Twitter accounts, it’s your best bet.
Social Media Management Tools We Use and Love
You can’t have a competitive social media strategy without staying on top of the latest apps and tools. We’re constantly checking out new social media management tools as they come out and testing them along the way. Some we immediately love, some we hate and others we put on the shelf for a while. oneQube is a good example of the latter category – it’s still in beta and there are a few kinks that need to be worked out but we have high hopes for this tool, especially since it’s brought to us via the same people who created TweetChat.
Here are the social media management tools TCF’s team currently has in heavy rotation:
Like Hootsuite, NUVI allows you to schedule posts for Facebook, Twitter and even Google+. We love the “calendar view” option for scheduled posts — at a glance it can tell you exactly how many posts you’ve scheduled for each network on each day (something you can’t do in Hootsuite). At some point, we may switch from Hootsuite to NUVI for tweet scheduling, but for now the team is comfortable and familiar with Hootsuite.
NUVI also has tools to help you monitor your social networks, so you can easily see which of your posts are doing the best and which influencers are connecting with your audience. You can even monitor the tone of the conversation — although it’s not perfect, brand mentions are labeled positive or negative — a feature not found in many other apps.
NUVI also offers more monitoring features than are possible with Hootsuite. The service will break down mentions by several categories and organize those who’ve interacted with your accounts or used certain hashtags into lists based on influence and reach. These are very useful options if you’re looking to boost brand awareness, target new brand ambassadors or just find a popular user to help co-host your next Twitter chat.
NUVI’s robust data analysis and reporting makes it a must-have for TCF, and our clients love seeing all of the important information in easy to understand charts, graphs and tables. NUVI will compile detailed and customizable reports at the touch of a button, which are great for social media managers who are busy with lots of clients.
What does NUVI cost?
You’ll need to contact the folks at NUVI to get current pricing for your specific needs. We can tell you that prices start at about $500 a month — quite a jump from Hootsuite pricing and other free tools, but NUVI does have a lot of features you won’t find elsewhere. NUVI also requires a 1-year contract, so if you’re commitment-phobic when it comes to costly social media marketing tools, you might want to give this one a pass in exchange for the combo of Hootsuite and Sprout Social.
Sprout Social is one of our favorite social media management tools due to its clean and clear graphics and graphs. For this reason, we always include analytics from Sprout Social in reports for clients.
Sprout Social also offers some great tools for cleaning up your following lists on Twitter. You can check out and unfollow “silent accounts,” those with “irregular usage” and those that don’t follow you back. We also love checking out the “conversed with” tab to see a quick rundown of users who’ve interacted with different accounts — they’re the first people we reach out to about Twitter parties, contests or new products.
You can even create and manage “tasks” within Sprout Social, which can be helpful if you’re the head of a social media marketing team and have to delegate a lot.
When it comes to publishing posts, we don’t use the service quite as often, simply because we don’t think it’s any easier to use than Hootsuite and doesn’t offer any major features that give it an edge. That said, we do think Sprout Social is one of the best social media apps for its reporting and analytics alone.
What does Sprout Social Cost?
You can check out Sprout Social free for 30 days. After that, you have the option of choosing from three plans with price points of $99, $149 and $249 paid monthly.
Canva isn’t so much a social media management tool as it is a social graphics tool. We use it to create quick custom graphics for everything from Facebook contests to Twitter banners. In fact, we rely on it so often for social graphics we thought we should include it in this post.
You don’t have to be a graphic designer to use the tool, and most of the elements are free. You can even upload your own images (which is helpful for brand logos and product shots). Since Canva’s social image templates are sized to the current specifications across all social channels, you don’t have to worry about the new cover photo or icon you create getting cropped weirdly once you input it. And manual image resizing? Pffft, that’s so 2010.
How much does Canva cost?
For most needs, the free version of Canva works just fine, though you will pay extra for certain design elements and images (usually $1 per). Canva for Work is a subscription service with extra features like the ability to create a brand kit with consistent colors and fonts, shareable photo folders, resizable designs, and more. It’ll run you $12.95 per month per user, or $119.40 per year per user.
If you’re running an event, social media contest or just want to monitor the popularity of a specific hashtag, Hashtracking can help. It’s one of the best social media apps for hashtag analytics and reports, and there’s a reason it’s so popular. Hashtracking will break down and tag users by device and tweet type, as well as show you related hashtags and the peak hours of use for your selected hashtag.
We use Hashtracking most often for things like live tweeting events, hosting Twitter chats or running contests. It allows us to show clients quickly and easily how popular a specific tag was — and that saves us a LOT of time on reports.
How much does Hashtracking cost?
You can start your Hashtracking experience with a 30-day free trial. Once it ends, you can choose from four plans which range from $50 per month to $1500 per month.
If hashtagging is an important part of your social media marketing strategy (and it should be), Hashtagify.me is a simple tool that can help. Use it to compare the popularity of hashtags and to get ideas for other related tags.
You can also find out which hashtag users have the most influence and view uses of the tag in real time. Hashtagify.me will even give you related hashtags, and you can use the tool to compare them to decide which is the best to tap into — very helpful when you’re live tweeting an event!
How much does Hashtagify.me cost?
Unlike many other social media management tools that offer a 30 day free trial, Hashtagify.me shortens its trial period to only ten days. After that, they offer three different pricing options from $9-$169 monthly.
We don’t usually pick favorites, but if we did Buzzsumo would be a top contender for the position. Hands down, this is one of the best social media apps for finding new content to share. Check out the “trending now” tab to discover which articles in each category are catching fire on social sites. Not only is this a great way to find relevant articles to share on social networks, it’s also a wonderful resource for coming up with new content ideas based on what’s currently working. Input a term or topic into the “content analysis tool” to find out how many articles have been written on the subject in a specific time period and how many social shares those articles earned.
You can also use BuzzSumo to gauge the popularity of your own content and get an idea of the social networks where your landing pages perform best. You can even discover the influencers in your industry who are sharing your content (as well as your competitors’) and see who creates the posts that go viral in your industry.
View the backlinks on a particular URL to find even more sites and influencers to follow and interact with on social channels (and to possibly pitch for stories about your clients). If you’re looking for active and engaged users to add to Twitter lists, Buzzsumo is a great resource.
How much does BuzzSumo cost?
Prices for BuzzSumo ranges from $99-$499+ per month, with three plans to choose from. Sign up for a year subscription and you’ll save 20%.
Buffer doesn’t offer much in terms of analytics or monitoring, but it is a quick an easy option for scheduling tweets and Facebook posts. With a handy Chrome extension, we think it’s one of the best social media apps for quickly queuing up articles and blog posts you find online.
Like Hootsuite, Buffer technically allows you to schedule posts, but the free version only allows you to schedule posts four times a day and you’ll need to choose those time slots in advance (you won’t be able to schedule a specific time for each post the way you do in Hootsuite or TweetDeck). The lack of customization is a drawback, but it can also be a positive if you’re looking to quickly queue up posts and timing isn’t too important.
The ability to queue posts is Buffer’s main asset, and you won’t be able to rely on streams to monitor tweets and interaction the way you can in Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.
As for analytics, Buffer does offer some additional features if you upgrade from their free plan, but from what we can tell their analytics features don’t offer anything that you can’t get from Twitter for free.
How much does Buffer cost?
The free version of Buffer will likely meet most of your needs, though you can “upgrade to Awesome” for more features. The upgraded plan is $10 a month or $102 for a year (and how cools is their transparent pricing, pictured above?). The biggest incentive to upgrading is the ability to schedule 100 posts at a time, instead of 10, though you’ll also get to connect more RSS feeds and accounts.
Brought to you by the people at LinkedIn, Rapportive is a social media marketing tool in the form of an extension for Chrome and Firefox. It automatically shows you the Linkedin profiles of users in your Gmail inbox as well as their Twitter handles, Skype username and more. With just the click of a button, you can connect with the person you’re emailing on LinkedIn, without ever having to leave your inbox.
This enables you to build your LinkedIn network without having to even think about it, and it makes you seem like you’re on the ball when it comes to you personal social media marketing. Your new contacts will be so impressed!
Rapportive is a great tool for staying connected on all your networks — that’s why we think it’s also one of the best Chrome extensions for entrepreneurs.
How much does Rapportive cost?
This extension is completely free, so why not give it a try?
When it comes to finding new followers and cleaning up your following list, there are few social media apps better than CrowdFire. It’s so easy to use that we rely on it every single day. The app allows you to discover new users to follow by searching via keyword or by inputting a competitor’s handle to “copy” their followers. Crowdfire also lets you know which tweeters aren’t following you back and which accounts you’re following have been inactive for months or years.
This social media management tool is strictly for follower building and maintenance — you won’t be able to schedule posts or analyze your tweets, but when it comes to building a following on Twitter it’s one of the best social media apps out there.
How much does CrowdFire cost?
The free version of CrowdFire allows you to follow 50 accounts and unfollow 100 once every 24 hour period. The ability to follow and unfollow more users during that period is the main incentive to upgrade. The top three pricing plans also allow you to remove the “-via @Crowdfire” suffix from the auto DMs you can set up to message new followers which is also a bonus.
TweetChat is a simple app that can be used to monitor hashtags in real time. Although we usually rely on Hootsuite for this feature, TweetChat is also easy to use and a great option to refer followers to when you’re live tweeting an event or hosting a Twitter chat. In fact, we prefer TweetChat when hosting Twitter chats (check out our 10-Step Guide to Hosting a Twitter Chat for more details).
What makes TweetChat so easy to use, especially for beginners, is the way it transforms the tweeting experience into one that looks a lot more like a chat room. You can also use the service to discover trending tags or jump into Twitter chats you may not have known were happening. Just check out the “active rooms” tab to explore!
How much does TweetChat cost?
This tool is also 100% free.
What tools do you use to manage multiple social media accounts? Have you had similar or completely different experiences with TweetDeck, Hootsuite and the other social media management tools we listed here? Are we missing any must-have social media management tools? Let us know in the comments section.
Want to know what other things cost and exactly what you get for your money? Check out our other blog posts that break down the cost of social media marketing and answer the question, “How much do copywriters charge?”