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Social Media Marketing

The 25 Best Social Media Management Tools in 2021, Ranked by Social Media Marketing Managers

June 18, 2021
Camille Trent

The best social media management tools depend on your company size, budget, and more. For this article, we asked social media managers from startups, agencies, and enterprises about the time-saving free and paid social media software they use daily.

Table of Contents

It’s easy to find a directory of hundreds of social media management tools online — but your team probably doesn’t need 200 tools. At MarketerHire, we use five. 

So in this story, we went for quality over quantity, rounding up the 25 best tools on the market, according to real social media managers.

Before we invite the victors to take their places on the podium, though, let’s level set on what social media tools are and what makes certain tools “the best.” 

The problems social media management tools solve

Social media management tools exist to make the social media manager's job easier, improving marketing productivity and performance.

Social media management tools are software marketers use to better monitor and manage social media channels. They often help marketers plan, draft and schedule content more efficiently. 

Here are a few ways social media management tools solve problems:

  1. They save time. Many social media scheduling tools let you plan, draft and schedule a month’s worth of content all at once using automations. 
  1. They create data visualizations. This comes in handy when you need to prove your impact to internal stakeholders through key business metrics.
  1. They inspire. Many bookmarking tools and extensions help you save images, posts and ideas for later.
  1. They organize. Calendars and schedulers help bring structure to the chaos, so you can maintain whatever sanity you still have as a social media manager.

“I cringe when I hear fellow social media managers who are managing, publishing and monitoring engagement through all the native network apps! I don't know how that is possible unless you only have one account!” Jessie O’Donnell, social media coordinator at TechSmith, told MarketerHire. 

“I cringe when I hear fellow social media managers who are managing, publishing and monitoring engagement through all the native network apps!”

Our ranking criteria for social media tools

Here are the seven factors we considered when comparing social media management tools:

  • Breadth. Does the tool work across multiple platforms?
  • Planning. Does it include a content calendar?
  • Scheduling. Can you easily draft and schedule social media content?
  • Analytics. Can you view, compare and generate reports for historical data?
  • Social listening. Can you set up alerts for keywords or branded terms?
  • Cost. Can marketing teams justify the pricing? Will it scale?
  • Creation. Does the tool make it easier to create impactful social content?

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to social media tools. The “best” software is subjective, and will depend on your business stage, target audience and budget. 

But where to start? Which tools save time and which lemons aren’t worth the squeeze? We talked to social media experts to figure that out.

The best free social media management tools

If you’re a solopreneur or a seed startup founder without a budget for social tools, you can maybe get by with native scheduling and creator tools. 

Or, you can string together free plans from all-in-one platforms like Hootsuite or Buffer, and layer on tools offered through the social media channels themselves, like Twitter’s TweetDeck and Facebook’s Creator Studio. 

Let’s dive into your best free options, shall we?

1. TweetDeck (for Twitter).

Ideal for: Soloprenuers, consultants and startups

Pricing: Free

TweetDeck - free tool for Twitter that lets you schedule content, respond, and discover
Source:TweetDeck (screenshot)

Best known for its multi-feed interface, TweetDeck is a free tool for real-time tracking, organizing and engaging on Twitter using multiple accounts. Within the social media tool, you can create custom feeds using keywords, schedule Tweets, and create Tweet collections.

2. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer (for all social platforms).

Ideal for: Soloprenuers, social businesses

Pricing: Free

CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer - a free tool that helps you optimize headlines for social media, SEO, and more
Source: CoSchedule (screenshot)

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer is a freemium AI copywriting tool that helps optimize headlines for humans and Google by rating each word on readability and emotional draw. Running your social posts’ opening lines through this software can help you create scroll-stopping tweets and captions. 

3. Bit.ly (for all social platforms).

Ideal for: Soloprenuers, social businesses

Pricing: Free

Bit.ly - a free tool for shortening and tracking URLs
Source: Bit.ly (screenshot)

Raw URLs are ugly and intimidating. Plus, you can’t track or type them in manually (I mean, you could, but you won’t). That’s where URL shorteners come in handy. 

Zapier named Bit.ly the best all-around URL shortener. Its generous free plan lets you shorten and track click-through rates (CTRs) on 50 URLs per month — all on a single dashboard — and you can customize everything after the slash. 

However, to create a custom domain, you’ll need to upgrade to their $35/month Basic plan.

4. Creator Studio (for Facebook and Instagram).

Ideal for: Soloprenuers, social businesses

Pricing: Free

Creator Studio by Facebook - free tool for social media marketing
Source: Later

A free social media management tool from Facebook, Creator Studio lets you manage multiple Instagram and Facebook pages and schedule posts from in one place. Unlike Business Suite, you can use it to post Instagram stories.

But proceed with caution, warns Stephen Pope, founder of SGP Labs. “[C]reator [S]tudio is a great free tool and I use it from time to time… but I do find the reach to be hampered by it.”

Freelance graphic designer Malc Barry came to the same conclusion. When he started scheduling content with Facebook Creator Studio for a client, his organic reach dropped dramatically. 

5. Other native Facebook tools.

Facebook Business Suite - Business Suite helps social media managers create, post, respond and measure Facebook and Instagram accounts in one place. Unlike Creator Studios, Business Suite also lets you respond to customer reviews, helpful for the moderation and PR side of social media management.

Audience Insights - A feature within Facebook Ads Manager, Audience Insights lets you segment your audience and, like Google Analytics, browse through for demographic and behavioral trends.

The best social media management tools under $15 a month

“So many tools today are pushed on marketers assuming they've got the budget of Bill Gates.” said Morganne Stinsman, senior marketing specialist at Dakota Micro. “But that's rarely the case… there are a host of tools to get the job done on a budget.”

One of Stinsman’s favorites is drag-and-drop design tool Canva, and she’s not alone. Canva came in second only to Google Workspaces (formerly G Suite) in our recent freelancer tools poll.

1. Canva (for all social platforms).

Canva - a free tool for drag-and-drop designing and social media posts
Source: Canva (screenshot)

Ideal for: Soloprenuers, startups

Price: Paid plan starts at $12.99/month

Why is Canva so popular? It’s a professional design tool accessible even to amateurs. according to Stinsman. 

“It's got prebuilt templates for all industries that can be easily manipulated with your brand colors and fonts and quickly resized for different platforms,” she explained. “It's the best tool I've found for creating branded social content… Everybody in social media needs Canva.”

“Everybody in social media needs Canva.”

2. Later (for Instagram).

Later - schedule posts to Instagram with visual content calendar
Source: Later (screenshot)

Ideal for: DTC, B2C, anyone doubling down on Instagram

Pricing: Paid plans start at $12.50/month

Later is arguably the best bang for your buck for visual social channels, according to Dani Marom, creative director at MarketerHire.

After trying Sprout Social, Buffer, Hootsuite, Marom concluded Later had the best functionality of any social media management tool, “especially if a brand has IG.”

Later offers a visual planner, preview tool, analytics, hashtag research and scheduling features.

Pro Tip: Later’s Linkin.bio functionality creates a web and mobile-optimized landing page that resembles the Instagram feed. It lets creators tag up to five products within an image, and functions like an interactive catalog — each tag takes the user to a different URL. 

Linkin.bio is “way more useful” than Linktree, a competing free tool that allows you to host multiple links in your Instagram bio, explained Marom.

Source: Later (screenshot)

3. SHIELD (for LinkedIn).

Shield - paid plan for LinkedIn analytics
Source: SHIELD (screenshot)

Ideal for: B2B, solopreneurs, and consultants

Pricing: Starts at $12/month

SHIELD is probably the most popular LinkedIn analytics platform out there, and certainly the most talked about on LinkedIn. (Smart marketing strategy there.) It curates the leading metrics you need to make better content decisions — views, likes, comments, engagement — in one single dashboard. 

LinkedIn superstar and SHFT marketing agency founder Jason Vana says SHIELD helped him catapult his social media presence — “from 50 reactions to 200, just by seeing what works” (and doing more of it).

4. MeetEdgar (for all social platforms).

MeetEdgar - content calendar, multiple social media accounts, and ability to schedule posts
Source: MeetEdgar

Ideal for: Small businesses, early-stage startups and consultants

Pricing: Starts at $19/month

MeetEdgar is one of the most affordable social media tools that works across all major platforms.

“MeetEdgar is best when it comes to pricing, especially against the big guns like Buffer and Sprout Social,” freelance writer Anjan Sarkar told MarketerHire.

Their $25/month plan gets you 25 social accounts and nearly unlimited everything else. 

“MeetEdgar is best when it comes to pricing, especially against the big guns like Buffer and Sprout Social.”

5. Zoho Social (for all social platforms).

Zoho Social - great pricing and social media platform analytics
Source: Zoho

Ideal for: Small businesses

Pricing: Starts at $10/month

Zoho Social is one of the least expensive social media tools out there. The fact that it includes all major channels (minus Pinterest) make it a great deal, too.

For $20 more per month, users can unlock premium features, like a Bit.ly integration, RSS feeds, and scheduled retweets and repostings. 

“Zoho Social is priced well and offers great features for the money... [It’s] easy to use, has lots of integration options and fantastic support,” said Uson LP marketing manager Connie Quinn-Reece.

“Zoho Social is priced well and offers great features for the money... [It’s] easy to use, has lots of integration options and fantastic support.”

The best social media management platforms 

The best social media management platforms can handle multiple channels and assist with everything from ideation to reporting — and that’s a big deal for marketing teams.

When you don’t have dependable social media management software, you’re forced to hop from creating to responding to posting, then to posting in another channel, then to responding in another channel. 

It’s a nightmare, and can waste up to 60% of work hours each year

To avoid unproductive tab switching, it helps to manage all your social media accounts in one place. Luckily, plenty of social media management platforms on the market allow you to do just that — and these are the cream of the crop. 

1. Sprout Social.

Sprout Social - best social media management tool
Source: Sprout Social

Ideal for: Agencies and medium-sized businesses

Pricing: Starts at $99/month

When I asked the social media managers in my network to share their favorite tools, Sprout Social came up more often than any other one. In fact, two social media experts had used it for eight years, one after trying eight other tools previously. (Yikes!) 

While it’s on the spendier side, Brooke Taibl, community marketing manager at Park My Fleet, thinks it’s a sound investment. “It’s not free, but 100% worth the purchase.” 

Two other social experts said nearly the same thing.

Why? “I like the interface, the features… (preview of posts, calendar with notes, asset library...) and the analytics,” Adle Maire, content and PR manager at RingCentral, told MarketerHire. 

Zoë Hartsfield, community marketing manager at Dooly, added social listening and employee advocacy to that list, too. It’s “very interesting for companies looking to leverage their employees' personal brands to improve brand reach.”

Top Sprout Social features:
  • Aggregated social inbox (minus Instagram)
  • RSS reader for news and blogs
  • Visual calendar
  • One central portal for paid and organic campaign management
  • Group, profile, and post-level reporting
  • Social CRM with conversation history, contract info and internal notes
  • Easy onboarding and hands-on customer support
  • Rescheduling old social media posts
  • Breezy image reformatting

2. HubSpot.

Hubspot - social media tool for scheduling posts
Source: HubSpot

Ideal for: Small businesses and startups that need all-in-one tools

Pricing: Starts at $800/month for a plan that includes CRM, email automation and social media tools

This heavy-hitting marketing platform will feel like a step down from Sprout Social, but your sales and marketing team are probably already using HubSpot’s CRM — which means you can use its social tools for free. 

They’re nothing flashy — like rescheduling old posts in one click, or instant image reformatting — but you can connect Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts; tag companies in your posts; save and schedule for later; and engage with others — all from the social hub. 

“Not sure it does anything that knocks my socks off, but it gets the job done,” said Sarah Chadwick, marketing director at Commercial Restoration Company. “Because we use HubSpot for other things, it's great to have everything in one tool.”

Pro tip: If you’re managing multiple accounts, check before you hit send. It’s scary easy to post to the wrong one, according to Chadwick.

3. Agorapulse.

Agorapulse - great social media management tool for multiple social media accounts
Source: Agorapulse

Ideal for: Small teams and agencies

Pricing: Paid plans start at $79/month

“You can't beat the price for what you get,” said O’Donnell, who used Agorapulse before switching to Sprout Social. 

While her team outgrew the tool, she still speaks fondly of Agorapulse’s support team, which was very prompt and responsive. YouTube is not a channel you see included in many social media tools, but Agorapulse lets users manage and analyze YouTube channels along with mainstream channels.

The top social media management tools: a comparison 

In our research, we found that many social media managers have used more than one social media management tool, and developed strong preferences along the way. Below, they duke it out. 

May the best software win. 

Sprout Social vs. Hootsuite.

Why these two all-in-one social media management tools? Sprout Social and Hootsuite are two of the most popular tools in social media. You’ll see them on all the SEO listicles. But rarely do you see them go head to head. 

Pricing

Winner: Hootsuite

Starting at $99/month, Sprout Social is 2X the cost of Hootsuite.

And at Hootsuite, for half the price, you get twice the social media profiles — ten versus Sprout Social’s five — and many of the same scheduling and planning features. 

Scalability

Winner: Sprout Social

Hootsuite’s cheaper when you’re starting out, it’s not a great fit for growing agencies managing multiple clients, Ryan Cormier, Director of Digital at Kalkomey, told MarketerHire. 

“I have worked with Hootsuite in the past,” said Cormier. “And I really didn't like Hootsuite. To me, Hootsuite makes it way too easy to make a mistake and post something to an account that you didn't intend to.” 

It’s easiest to scale with Sprout Social, he said.

“Sprout can scale as your needs do. Sure, additional features cost more money, but if you get to the point to where you need them, you're probably getting a great ROI from the tool.”

Consensus

Winner: Sprout Social

It’s not just agencies that benefit from Sprout Social. In-house teams prefer it, too.

“We had Hootsuite before but I prefer [S]prout,” said Zoe Hartsfield, referring to her time as community manager at BombBomb. Hyatt Hotels isn’t high on Hootsuite either, according to their senior social media manager, Katherine Gancarz.

“We had Hootsuite before but I prefer [S]prout.”

Later vs. MeetEdgar.

Later, an Instagram-first social media management tool, and MeetEdgar, an all-in-one social media management tool that automatically schedules and posts content from your queue, have essentially opposite audiences: Later is for fast-growing DTC startups, and MeetEdgar is for small business and agencies. So we’re comparing apples to oranges a bit. But if we had to choose, here’s how we’d break it down:

Pricing

Winner: MeetEdgar by a hair. 

The popular plans for each sit right around the same $20/month price point. Later gives you one more account for your money, but limits the number of posts per month. MeetEdgar allows for unlimited posting and doesn’t specify a user limit.  

Scalability

Winner: MeetEdgar

If you manage 25 social accounts, Later is 4X more expensive than MeetEdgar.

And frankly, Later’s not 4X better, according to Marianne (Mari) Rada, marketing supervisor at Valiant Artificial Lift Solutions, who calls Later “overhyped.” 

While it’s fantastic for planning visual content, “you have to keep upgrading to get what you need,” said Rada.

“You have to keep upgrading to get what you need.”

Consensus

Winner: MeetEdgar

But it’s more a question of use cases. DTC and lifestyle brands should choose Later all day. It’s built for Instagram. For in-house brands, it’s a toss up. For agencies, MeetEdgar is more cost effective. 

MeetEdgar vs. Agorapulse.

MeetEdgar’s back in the ring! Both of these are bargain social media management tools. Agorapulse is like Sprout Social lite; MeetEdgar is for those who want to put social media management on autopilot with automatic scheduling. 

One of these tools gets a little more of our love from professional social media managers than the other, though. Here’s why:

Pricing

Winner: MeetEdgar

MeetEdgar is a third of the cost for the same number of social profiles. 

Scalability

Winner: Agorapulse 

MeetEdgar runs out of gas after 25 social media profiles. Agorapulse can handle 40+.

Consensus

Serious social media users tend to prefer Agorapulse. Agorapulse “is solid and reliable and they are always adding features and improvements,” says O’Donnell

And Studiothink digital strategist Thomas Gage managed to sum up a lot of this comparison section in one sentence. 

“Using Agorapulse. Big fan (🙌). I have used Hootsuite (👎), Buffer (🤷‍♂️) and Sprout Social (👍) as well.”

“Using Agorapulse. Big fan (🙌). I have used Hootsuite (👎), Buffer (🤷‍♂️) and Sprout Social (👍) as well.”

The iffiest social media management tools

Some social media management tools are noteworthy — but not exactly for their high quality. Here are two tools that make experts say “Hmm.” 

The most divisive tool: Hootsuite.

You’ll either go to war for this all-in-one social media management giant, or run your mouth off about how bad it is. There’s no middle ground. 

“I personally think Hootsuite is the best value for money. Great for any size business from small to large.”

-Katie Aldridge, Digital Account Manager at Brands2Life

“Hootsuite is a godsend.”

Blake Herdlein, CEO of Herdlein

VS.

“I felt Hootsuite was cumbersome.”

-Connie Quinn-Reece, marketing manager at Uson LP

“I really didn't like Hootsuite.”

-Ryan Cormier, Director of Digital at Kalkomey

The most meh social media management tool: Buffer.

Buffer used to be the social media tool. It had one of the best Chrome extensions that let you save images and trending posts from across the web. 

But now, every tool has a web clipper. Every social tool has a mobile app. And some tools have more, leaving Buffer in limbo — not the best, not the worst. Nothing stands out. 

Here’s a lukewarm Buffer review to give you a taste:

“I… have had nothing but fast and enjoyable transactions with their customer service and tech support… We pay a low annual subscription fee I believe.”

-Rachel Gintner, Content Marketing Specialist at GSC

Apparently, everything about Buffer is noteworthy — except the tool itself.

The secret menu of social media marketing tools

This is the part where social media managers spill the beans on their cheat cheat codes — slept-on tools that make a major impact.  

To get in on the ground floor of new product rollouts and LTD (life-time value) deals, we also recommend browsing Product Hunt and AppSumo, and keeping your eyes peeled for free beta groups on social.

Embed a Click to Share widget in your blog to boost distribution. 

“Click to Tweet or any Click to Share tools are the most underrated tools in social media. Most of the time your audience WANTS to support you — making a Click to Share link makes it really frictionless.”

-Pat Timmons, Social Media Coordinator at Webflow

We recommend Website Planet or Share Link Generator for this. 

Rerun popular old posts with auto-rescheduling.

SmarterQueue, a MeetEdgar alternative, recycles previously posted content. 

“I have [SmarterQueue] cycle every few months.”

-Carmela Montenegro, CEO and lead digital marketer at Coda and Crush Marketing

Aggregate all your social media analytics in one place. 

No more screenshotting graphs from each social media platform’s analytics tab. Social Status does exactly what it sounds like — gives you a performance overview for each channel in one dashboard.

Track down tags and uncredited mentions.

Lastly, apps like Brandwatch, Awario, and BrandMentions will help you quickly track down untagged mentions and respond to comments. 

Social media management tools on the rise

Just as Buffer used to lead this space and lost its crown, upstarts could snag our current winners' gold stars. We rounded up some newcomers that will get you inspired and organized.

Swpely (for inspiration).

Like Pinterest for B2B, Swpely helps with content curation. For now, it’s a free Chrome extension. Like Pinterest and other Web Clipper browser extensions, it lets you save images from around the web. Unlike other tools, it also lets you save LinkedIn posts, Twitter posts, and entire websites to custom boards. Here’s how we use Swpely at MarketerHire to curate the best blog graphics for social media. 

PromoPrep (for planning).

Built for team collaboration, PromoPrep is a shared calendar that gives marketing team members visibility into all marketing efforts more with intuitive labels for each channel. So, if one freelancer is working with Later, your agency’s in MeetEdgar, and your social media manager uses Asana’s calendar, you can get on the same page with a calendar built for marketing campaign planning. 

PromoPrep Video Walkthrough by Steve Lamar, CEO and founder of PromoPrep:

Publer (for scheduling).

For $10/month, you get unlimited scheduling and drafts, bulk scheduling (up to 500 posts at once!) and more. Including Google My Business — along with other major social networks — Publer's a great buy for local businesses.

“[I]t has a cool little feature that allows you to even schedule follow up comments, such as external links, so that you don’t have to post your links in the comments natively,” said Alex Baggott, creative director at NGage Industry Marketing.

Conclusion: There's no one best tool, but there is a best fit

Of course, even the best tools won’t solve all your social media woes. For instance, scheduling tools are against LinkedIn’s policy and they can suspend your account if they suspect the use of automation.

Other social sites have similar dos and don’ts — Facebook blocks some integrations, and Twitter makes it difficult to create threads in third-party tools. 

So, study up on platform rules before you invest too heavily in tools. And at us (@MarketerHire) to tell us which social media features are on your wish list, or if you just want to rant about a social platform’s lack of organic features (ahem, LinkedIn). We’re here for it.

And if you’re thinking about investing in Ferrari-level social media tools, sign an experienced social media manager to drive it first. Social tools without a social media strategy won’t get you far, no matter what the influencers say.

Camille Trent
about the author

Camille Trent is the managing editor at MarketerHire. A copywriter and marketing nerd, she's passionate about helping freelancers and creatives recognize their value and get the knowledge they need to win long term. When she's not writing, she's hanging out with her pup and two favorite redheads. Or she's trying to coach the Portland Trail Blazers to victory from her couch.

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