Creating a social media posting schedule means you can post with purpose. Rather than throwing something at the feed each day and hoping it sticks, scheduling empowers you to create strategic and compelling content that engages your audience.
If you choose wisely, social media management tools can save you hours (time that could be spent learning more about your audience, and creating new products or services to fit their needs) but unfortunately, finding the right social media management tools that does everything you need it to isn’t easy.
A few months ago, we set out to find the best social media scheduler for our business, and were overwhelmed with options. Type “social media management tools’ into Google, and millions of results appear, each product claiming to be the best. Each social media management tool’s plethora of paid ads and countless blogs make it impossible to tell the real from fake.
It makes sense; these social media management tools are made for marketers by marketers. What results is a minefield of insincere reviews, confusing and convoluted feature lists, and blog posts that tell you everything, except what you actually want to know.
We haven’t got skin in the game; we’re not here to boost a brand or promote a particular scheduling software. We’re here to help you sort out what you want from what you need, because what works for one brand might not work for another. Here at Slice, we do social media day-in and day-out, so you can trust that we’ve put these tools to the test, and are only recommending the tools that we’d use ourselves.
We’re also going to spotlight some features you should look for and do a deep dive into the services offered by Loomly, Agorapulse, Sprout Social, Buffer, Later and Storrito to see who’s doing what best.
Jumping into social media management tools without a plan of attack is a recipe for disaster. Social media management tools have so many features, and it’s easy to get sidetracked, so before you begin your research, it’s worth sorting the nice-to-haves from the need-to-haves.
The best social media scheduler for you is the one that fits your business and budget. Social media management tools for small businesses aren’t likely to suit a large agency and vice versa.
Start by creating a budget and defining the top amount you’re willing to spend. Think about how many people will need to use the social media management tool at once (these are called users or seats), and how many social profiles you’ll need to connect.
If you’re a small business you might only need two or three social profiles and one user. An agency, on the other hand, may need upwards of 50 social profiles. Some brands have lots of channels but only a few employees managing posts, while others have one large social media profile with lots of users, which is especially true for brands with big communities to moderate.
These factors are crucial to consider because of the way social media management tools price themselves. Scheduling platforms charge based on how many users you have, how many profiles you need or how many features you can access. At the end of the day, your business’ needs will ultimately inform which social media management tools will give you the best value for money.
If you start by working out your budget and the number of users and profiles you need, you won’t have to spend hours researching social media management tools that don’t fit the brief.
When it comes to social media management tools, there are some things you just can’t do. There’s a reason for this: APIs, which stands for Application Programming Interface. An API is essentially a go-between that helps two applications talk to each other.
For example, if you want to schedule a post on Instagram, you can create a post using a scheduling tool and set it to post at a certain date and time. The social media management tool then tells Instagram’s API to post the image and it shows up in your feed. Sadly, some APIs are more restricted than others. For example, Instagram’s API doesn’t allow scheduling software to add alt-text or schedule reels or stories, which all must be done natively.
It’s easy to think that the best social media scheduler should be capable of doing everything you need. In reality, API restrictions mean there’s no perfect solution. The good news is that knowing this makes choosing scheduling software that much easier because you don’t have to spend hours searching for features that don’t exist.
If you do find social media management tools that claim to have functionality outside of API limitations, it’s likely they’re getting around this by using your username and password to login and post natively. If you’re considering using social media management tools like these, do your research, especially if you’ve accumulated a large following and have a lot to lose if your account’s security ends up at risk.
API restrictions are ever changing, and the easiest way to find out about current API restrictions is to ask. Contact a social media management tool’s customer support team, and ask them what API limitations exist on the channels you’re using.
If you’re going to manage social media in one place, you need your social media management tools to support all the social networks you use (think LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook etc). Some social media management tools are only compatible with Instagram, while others have the full suite, from Pinterest to TikTok.
Being able to manage social media in one place is a huge timesaver. This is also another easy way to narrow down your short-list.
If you’re spread across more platforms than you can count, try Loomly; they integrate with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google My Business, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok.
There’s some stuff you shouldn’t compromise on when it comes to social media scheduling; things that might seem small but save you time in the long run.
The best social media scheduler for you is the one that supports alt-text. alt-text is a scheduling necessity. If you want your content to be accessible to your entire audience, you should include alt-text in your posts.
Alt-text describes images for screen readers so that people who are blind or have low vision can understand the image and the post. It also helps search engines crawl and rank your website. If a tool doesn’t support scheduling alt-text with posts, you can add it natively, but it’s fiddly and takes up time that could be better spent elsewhere.
Our recommendation: Sprout Social are champions of alt-text. They support it wherever possible and always prioritise adding accessibility features.
Whether you’re in need of social media management tools for small businesses or you’re an agency with multiple employees, brands and clients to wrangle, a good workflow can be the difference between a smooth social strategy and a disorganised, inconsistent mess. A fine-tuned workflow saves you time, encourages accountability and ensures quality control.
Our recommendations: Loomly, Agorapulse and Sprout Social have built-in workflow systems, so you can create, assign and approve content across your organisation. If you’re part of a big team, it’s a good idea to look at how these work in practice to see if they’re the right fit for your way of working.
Social listening is exactly as its name suggests: it means tracking social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, products and related keywords. It also measures the sentiment of the mentions and gives you insights about competitors and customers.
Social listening empowers you to keep up with your customers. It means you’re the first to know if someone’s dissatisfied, or if someone’s loving your new content. You’re poised to put out fires in the comment section and push compliments to your page.
Agorapulse scours your social media channels, displays brand mentions and allows you to respond in real time. Sprout Social also offers competitor analysis that measures the sentiment of competitors and their engagement levels.
Social media analytics are key to your brand’s growth, which means you should stay clear of any social media management tool that doesn't prioritise precise, insightful reporting.
Our recommendations: Agorapulse and Sprout Social’s reporting stand out for their specificity. You can look at how one post performs against another and customise the date range of your reporting with ease.
Pros: User-friendly, great for newbies, has easy approval workflows for large teams, a customisable content calendar and filterable analytics
Cons: You can’t schedule alt-text and the calendar view doesn’t show post previews or allow users to quickly edit posts in a pop-up
Channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google My Business, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok
Loomly is one of the most usable social media management tools we came across. Its interface is simple and easy to navigate, which makes it a great option if you’re new to social media scheduling and apprehensive about learning a complicated system – they even have a launch wizard that takes you for a guided tour when you create an account.
Loomly’s approval workflows are fantastic for teams. You can track who’s done what, assign tasks to other team members and approve posts before they’re published. It’s fully customisable so you can be as hands-on or hands-off with your team as you’d like. Their social media posting schedule also includes a content calendar that you can save your business’ milestones in, so you’ll never forget Black Friday again.
Where Loomly falls short is alt-text. It lacks any functionality to add alt-text when scheduling, so you’ll need to add it natively when posts go live. There is a word around, though: if Loomly looks like the right option for you on all other fronts, you could try doing image descriptions in place of alt-text.
(Image descriptions sit in the caption of your post and explain the accompanying image. By placing image descriptions in captions users can understand your content without needing a screen reader; so from an accessibility standpoint, they’re the gold standard).
Pros: Great community management capabilities, ability to publish posts to Facebook groups, shared calendars make working in teams easy and it supports adding alt-text
Cons: You can’t schedule first comments on Instagram, it doesn’t support TikTok or Pinterest, and you can’t search through posts or comments easily which makes community management harder
Channels: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube
Intuitive and easy to use, Agorapulse’s social listening, reporting, and moderation features stand out from the pack.
Agorapulse’s inbox allows you to filter interactions and sort through comments, mentions and likes. This seems simple but makes the world of difference for brands with big communities to moderate and respond to.
Their social listening allows you to search for keywords, locations, hashtags and usernames. They also zoom in on fans and followers of your brand, allowing you to label them or see your past interactions with them (a great feature to surprise and delight fans who’ve been with you from the start!).
When it comes to reporting, you can customise reports from big and broad to small and specific. Agorapulse offers automatic reporting as an add-on if you’re wanting to stay on top of your progress in real time.
Pros: You can easily schedule alt-text, they’re quick to add functionality when APIs change and the inbox allows users to interact with customers easily
Cons: Can be expensive for businesses who need to have a lot of users/social media managers using the platform at once, the software updates regularly and users often have to learn how things work on the go
Channels: Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Sprout Social charges per user. This means it’s expensive if you’re in a big team, but makes it one of the best social media management tools for small businesses, because if you have fewer users, you get great features without inflated prices.
Sprout Social is one of the biggest social media management tools on the market, and they’re typically among the first to add functionality when social media platforms change their APIs.
Sprout Social is also the best social media scheduler for alt-text. They put accessibility at the forefront by supporting alt-text on every channel where the API allows it (these channels are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook).
Sprout Social has great functionality in its inbox. Most scheduling software allows you to see people interacting with your content, but you can’t reply (or like and comment). With Sprout Social, you can like and reply to Tweets, and like comments on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Pros: Great value for money, lets you schedule Instagram stories, has machine learning insights, in-platform link shorteners and supports posting to Facebook groups
Cons: Doesn’t support TikTok, doesn’t allow users to create draft campaigns, and doesn‘t give any suggestions about the best time to post
Channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest
Buffer is a great social media management tool for small businesses. You can connect three social profiles and queue up to ten posts on each channel for free. It’s perfect for businesses that aren’t able to squeeze a social media scheduling tool into their budget.
If you’re wanting to power up your posts from there, you can upgrade to their ‘essentials’ plan for $6 per month per profile. Again, this is super cost-effective if you only have one or two profiles. The essentials plan allows you to schedule, analyse and report with ease.
This plan also gives you access to link shorteners, Instagram story scheduling capabilities (by pushing notifications to your phone when it’s time to post), and machine learning insights (telling you what, how and when to post based on your current engagement).
Pros: Easy to use, allows you to schedule links to ‘linkin.bio’, has the ability to customise one post across multiple channels and provides hashtags suggestions
Cons: Doesn’t support adding alt-text to posts
Channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok and Pinterest
Want to schedule a post with an accompanying link in your bio on Instagram? Later has you covered. Using their ‘linkin.bio’ software, you can schedule all your content and not have to remember to add links to your bio. From a workflow and productivity perspective, it’s a game changer.
Later falls short when it comes to alt-text capabilities, but is reportedly working on adding this feature in the near future. If you’re in love with Later’s offering but don’t want to alienate those with accessibility needs, you can add image descriptions to your posts.
Pros: You can create, customise and schedule Instagram stories easily as if you’re in-app
Cons: Doesn’t help you schedule or post anything other than Instagram stories, requires your account information or access to your local browser to work
Channels: Instagram (for scheduling stories only)
If you’re scheduling social media for an e-commerce brand whose main audience is on Instagram, Storrito is a game-changer.
Storrito allows you to schedule Instagram and Facebook stories with link stickers, GIFs, polls, questions and other stickers. It’s important to note that Instagram’s API doesn’t actually allow stories to be scheduled by third party software. To get around this, Storrito stores your Instagram username and password to log in, or it can access your account from an Instagram session from your local browser. This way, they’re automating the process manually (the software poses as you and posts it natively).
If you’re still lost when it comes to social media management tools or you’re finding the world of social media scary, get in touch. We’d love to help you streamline your social media and start posting with purpose.