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Social media is one of the best ways small businesses can reach current and prospective customers. Research from Sprout Social found that during the first year of the pandemic, 43 percent of consumers increased their social media usage to find new products, services, and brands. It’s safe to say that social media has upended the way consumers view brick-and-mortar stores in an increasingly digital world.
Businesses can capitalize on this trend by using social media management tools. Such tools eliminate the need for an on-call social media manager, allowing businesses to automate account management from one convenient platform.
In this guide to top social media management tools, we’ll explain just how that’s possible. We’ll get into the basics of social media management software and give you the rundown on the top five platforms for SMBs, so you can make your social media presence stand out.
What is social media management software?
Social media management software is a tool that allows your business to engage with consumers across social media platforms, all from one convenient hub. With social media management software, you can schedule posts or publish them in real-time, monitor customer conversations across all accounts, and even keep track of analytics and campaign progress.
Depending on the sophistication of the social media management tool you choose, you may also have access to important consumer data and brand awareness information. This kind of software can take your social media performance to a whole new level.
Top social media management software comparison
Here are the top five social media management tools on the market today. We’ve selected top performers and reliable industry leaders, so all you have to do is find the best fit for your business.
HubSpot’s Marketing Hub was designed for businesses ranging from small to enterprise, so it covers a wide range of functionalities. It aims to centralize all of the most powerful marketing tools, while still offering a user-friendly experience.
Marketing Hub’s main differentiator is the fact that it integrates with HubSpot’s CRM (customer relationship management) platform. If you’re already using HubSpot to support your sales workflow, you’ll likely benefit from the Marketing Hub, which aligns sales, marketing, and other aspects of your business for increased organizational efficiency.
- HubSpot is a trusted industry leader.
- It offers outstanding customer service, including email, phone, and live chat support.
- Online courses and a knowledge center help you develop your marketing strategy.
- The price point may be too high for many small and growing businesses.
- For the price, it’s missing some key functions, like an ad builder, engagement automation, and custom analytics reports.
- Select free tools are available, including forms, email marketing, live chat, reporting dashboard, and more.
- Starter is $45 per month when billed annually. This plan includes 1,000 marketing contacts, meaning you’ll have to pay for more if needed.
- Professional is $800 per month when billed annually. This plan includes 2,000 marketing contacts.
- Enterprise is $3,200 per month when billed annually. This plan includes 10,000 marketing contacts.
- Bundles with other HubSpot suites (like Sales, CMS, and Operations) are also available.
With millions of users worldwide, Hootsuite is an industry leader in social media management. You can manage your organic and paid social content all in one place and enjoy easy access to customer conversations on-platform, whether via social media, SMS, WhatsApp, or live chat.
Like other social media management platforms, Hootsuite offers analytical insights and brand protection measures. What sets Hootsuite apart, however, is its social selling capabilities and the Hootsuite Academy, which provides users with expert certifications and coaching to help you reach your business goals.
- Hootsuite is optimal for small businesses with only one social media manager.
- Hootsuite offers unlimited posts and scheduling (up to 30 posts at a time for the free version).
- As they grow, businesses may have to upgrade plans or switch platforms entirely.
- Because Hootsuite originally launched as a management platform for Twitter, its user interface sports a multi-column layout that isn’t ideal for all social platforms.
- No analytics features are available on the lower tier plans.
- Free is available for one user with up to two social accounts.
- Professional is $49 per month when billed annually. This plan is built for 1 user with 10 social accounts. It also comes with a free 30-day trial.
- Team is $129 per month when billed annually. This plan is built for 3 users with 20 social accounts. It also comes with a free 30-day trial.
- Business is $739 per month when billed annually. This plan is built for 5 users with 35 social accounts. You can request a demo.
- Enterprise requires custom billing. This plan is designed for 5+ users with 50+ social accounts. Contact Hootsuite directly for pricing or to request a demo.
For mid-sized businesses looking for a comprehensive social media marketing solution, Sprout Social is a solid choice. It’s a pricier option, but it will help you break free of the limitations posed by more bare-bones alternatives.
The platform offers additional tools to improve your social media performance, including algorithms that choose optimized post times and analysis tools for Twitter hashtags.
- A clean user dashboard allows you to manage your social channels intuitively.
- Social media optimization tools and detailed analytics help boost your social performance.
- Sprout Social aggregates mentions across platforms, so you can get a read on your brand’s reputation instantly.
- Sprout Social restricts the number of social profiles you can access.
- Its standard plan starts at a high price point.
- Pricing further increases If you want multiple users managing your social accounts.
- Standard is $89 per user per month when billed annually and includes 5 social profiles.
- Professional is $149 per user per month when billed annually and includes 10 social profiles.
- Advanced is $249 per user per month when billed annually and includes 10 social profiles.
- Additional premium solutions are available as add-on features to any plan.
For small businesses seeking full platform functionality at an affordable price, Zoho Social is an easy recommendation. Zoho Social offers unlimited posting and scheduling capabilities, so you won’t have to worry about those limitations as your business grows.
This software also integrates with Zoho’s CRM product, which allows you to manage accounting, projects, email, and more all in one convenient location. However, in order to access analytics, engagement tools, and more complex features, you’ll have to opt for a higher-tier plan.
- For individuals and small teams, the Standard plan is quite generous.
- Comprehensive social media and CRM integrations make it easy to manage most business aspects on one platform.
- Zoho Social offers unlimited posts and scheduling, which can be beneficial for many businesses.
- Agency plans are separate from business plans, and they tend to be more expensive.
- Multiple account managers are only available with the Premium plan or higher.
- Analytics and additional features are only available for higher-tier plans.
- A limited free plan is available for you to try Zoho Social.
- Standard is $10 per month when billed annually and includes 7 social channels for one team member.
- Professional is $30 per month when billed annually and includes 8 social channels and one team member.
- Premium is $40 per month when billed annually and includes 9 social channels and three team members.
- Agency is $230 per month when billed annually and includes 10 brands (90 social channels) and five team members.
- Agency Plus is $330 per month when billed annually and includes 20 brands (180 social channels) and 5 team members.
Buffer is an affordable and easy-to-use social media management tool. While it doesn’t offer social listening features, its plans come complete with app access, browser extensions, and two-factor authentication. There’s even a way to organize incoming messages and comments with tags. Buffer’s mobile app is also superior, beating out even the top industry leaders.
All in all, Buffer is a great option for businesses that need a reliable way to post but may not need a lot of robust features.
- Buffer is an excellent option for small businesses and one-person social media departments on a budget.
- While its features aren’t as robust as some of its competitors, it has introduced basic engagement features that could begin new trends in social media management.
- Limitations on scheduling, users, and social profiles could be deal breakers for growing businesses.
- Integrations are more limited than competitors.
- The Free plan is available for up to three channels.
- Essentials is $5 per month per social channel when billed annually.
- Teams is $10 per month per social channel when billed annually.
- Agency is $100 per month for 10 social channels when billed annually.
Why is social media management software important?
Social media management software is important because its dashboards give you an overall view of your company’s social media presence at a glance.
Smaller teams take advantage of social media management platforms for their automation capabilities, which allows them to focus more on one-on-one engagement. Larger teams benefit from collaborative capabilities, permissions controls, and compliance checks. And mid-sized teams can enjoy the ease of use and error-prevention checks.
Clearly, social media management software is important for a variety of reasons, including top benefits such as:
Post approval features ensure social media posts are authorized by all relevant parties before they go live. Additionally, they eliminate any margin for error when it comes to posting on the wrong account. Post approval is especially important for larger businesses that use multiple layers of authorization to carefully curate a brand identity.
Centralized social accounts
With all of your accounts in one convenient place, you get a bird’s eye view of your social media activity and community engagement, so you won’t have to worry about keeping multiple tabs open on your computer.
Most social media platforms don’t natively allow you to schedule posts for a future date. That means posting after business hours and planning into the future can be difficult. With automated post scheduling in a social media management tool, you get a calendar view of scheduled content across all of your social channels.
Protect account information
Rather than handing out your social media logins to each employee, they can access all accounts with their own unique login through a social media management platform. This gives you an extra layer of security and protects your login credentials.
Access to analytics
Social media platforms themselves weren’t built for market research analysis, but social media management platforms are designed specifically to address analytics beyond basic likes and follows.
With a historical overview of post performance, follower trends, and other useful data, it’s easy to determine what’s working with your social media strategy and where you should focus your efforts.
Easier customer service
Time-to-reply metrics, brand awareness information, and customer interactions are all stored in your social media management software. You can use this information to identify room for improvement and take action to improve your business’s social presence.
Related: 6 Best Practices for Social Media Customer Service
Who needs social media management software?
In short, any business with a social media presence can benefit social media management software. And in today’s digital age, every business interested in scaling and attracting new customers should make social media a priority.
However, social media management could be more important for some businesses than others. If you run a small operation with just a handful of teammates, it’s probably easier for you to manage most aspects of your social media presence manually. On the other hand, without the software, you’re missing out on key collaborative features and conversion opportunities.
Social media management platforms are also useful for:
- Freelance social media managers
- Small and medium-sized enterprises
- One-person marketing teams
- Large companies
Important features for social media management software
Here is a deeper look into some of the most important must-have social media management features:
The data your social media management tool collects can be put to further use when integrated with CRM and reporting software. Some integrations can help you learn more about customer behavior and motivations to provide products, services, and support catered directly to your audience.
Analytics is a key feature of social media management software. If you want to capitalize on in-platform analytics, consider integrating this software with a more advanced social analytics tool.
Basic reports and dashboards can provide a tremendous amount of insight around your social media performance. Data visualization features help you determine which days and times are the best to post, as well as which channels provide the best opportunities for your business.
Through employee tracking and brand competition monitoring, you can stay on top of your business’s reputation. Stay in the loop on important mentions and conversations about your brand, so you can respond in a timely fashion.
While they may have things in common, each of your customers is a unique person with unique needs. The best social media management tools allow you to practice audience segmentation by age, location, and other key demographics for paid social campaigns. That way, you can target different parts of your audience with messaging that will make them more likely to convert.
Related: Email Marketing vs Social Media for Your Small Business
How to choose the right social media management software
When choosing the right social media management software, it all comes down to your business’s unique needs. You’ll want to look at the size of your company and its marketing team. How many individuals need account access, and how important are collaborative features? Are brand reputation controls make-or-break for your business’s image?
Then, it’s time to look at your current social media strategy and develop a plan to increase engagement. What kind of analytics and reporting features do you need to reach your goals? Perhaps you need to dive into the nitty-gritty of audience segmentation or try out A/B testing. Or, maybe it’s a simple matter of shortening your list of manual tasks by automating posts.
At the end of the day, pay close attention to features and pricing, and you’re bound to find the ideal match for your business.
Read next: 10 Social Media Best Practices for Small Businesses