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Social Media Marketing

The 21 Best Social Media Management Tools, Ranked by Social Media Marketing Managers

April 21, 2022
May 12, 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

Social media managers don’t always get to choose their own marketing tools.

But if a brand doesn’t have any social media management tools — or worse, doesn’t see tools’ value — that’s a red flag to experienced social media managers. 

Hopping from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter to LinkedIn and back is just too much of a scramble for one person. 

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

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

In other words: Those native tools are designed for individual users — not business accounts. 

So which tools belong in any professional social media manager’s tech stack? We asked a panel of 15 experts with hands-on experience, and rounded up social media marketing tools they use to create brand accounts that resonate and convert.

The 4 key value adds of social media management tools 

The most skilled social media marketers use software to monitor, manage and create for social media channels. But how exactly does the software help — and justify its price tag? 

Here are a few big-picture ways social media management tools help marketing teams:

  • They save time. Many social media scheduling tools let SMMs plan, draft and schedule a month’s worth of content all at once using automations. 
  • They organize. Content calendars and schedulers help bring structure to the chaos of an always-active channel.
  • They track overall performance. This helps social media managers — and other internal stakeholders — create data visualizations that communicate organic social’s impact at a glance.
  • They inspire. Many bookmarking tools and extensions help you save images, posts and ideas for later.

Let’s dive into the specific tools social media mangers recommend, and how they work. 

Multi-channel, all-in-one social media tools 

The best all-in-one 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 workflow, 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 is a longtime favorite of social media managers. 

Why? The interface is easy to use, and the software includes key features like post previewing, calendar notes and a content library, Adrian Lemaire, international PR manager at RingCentral, told MarketerHire. 

Sprout Social also makes it possible to do social listening within the app. Social media managers can easily monitor the average sentiment of their target audience, and compare the frequency of their brand mention with their competitors’.

Source: Sprout Social

If your brand is interested in trying  employee advocacy content, Sprout Social also has a premium platform called Bambu, which provides employees with a curated list of content they can share on their own profiles. 

It’s “very interesting for companies looking to leverage their employees' personal brands to improve brand reach,” Zoë Hartsfield, community manager at Spekit, said. 

2. HubSpot.

  • Ideal for: small businesses and startups that need all-in-one tools
  • Pricing: starts at $800 per month for packages with social functionality

HubSpot’s customer relationship management plans include social media tools — and since so many sales and marketing teams might already use HubSpot’s CRM, their social media managers can effectively access HubSpot tools for free. 

HubSpot’ss social tools don’t do “anything that knocks my socks off, but it gets the job done,” said Sarah Chadwick, marketing director at Commercial Restoration Company. 

Through HubSpot, you can connect Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts, tag other companies in your posts, save and schedule for later, and engage with others — all from the social hub. 

Source: HubSpot

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

3. Hootsuite.

HootSuite is “the best value for money,” says Katie Aldridge, Brands2Life’s senior digital account manager. It’s It’s a scalable all-in-one tool, for users from freelancers to enterprise marketing teams looking for custom solutions. 

Source: Hootsuite

The base Professional plan allows one user to manage up to 10 social accounts across platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Social listening tools, message approvals, content libraries and campaign planning, however, are only available on the pricier Business and Enterprise plans. 

4. Agorapulse.

Agorapulse is compared to Hootsuite and Sprout Social so often that the company has landing pages dedicated to comparing its product with its better-known competitors. The tool’s pricing is what sets it apart. 

The base plan includes an asset library, Google My Business management, social inbox management, listening searches and a Facebook ROI calculator, among other features. 

“You can't beat the price for what you get,” said O’Donnell, who used Agorapulse before switching to Sprout Social when her team outgrew the platform. (Agorapulse’s asset library is limited, even at the Premium level.)  

Source: Agorapulse

Agorapulse’s support team is known for being very prompt and responsive, O’Donnell added — they promise a 30-minute customer support response time. That’s valuable when your social inbox is filling up with issues faster than you can respond. 

5. Zoho Social.

At the Standard plan level, Zoho is a publishing and scheduling tool, perfect for a single social media manager with one brand to manage. At the Professional level, Zoho Social becomes an all-in-one social media marketing platform — complete with a Canva integration, post insights, a URL shortener and a monitoring dashboard. 

“[It’s] easy to use, has lots of integration options and fantastic support,” said Uson LP marketing manager Connie Quinn-Reece.

“It's easy to use, has lots of integration options and fantastic support.”

Reports, agency features and CRM integrations are available at the Premium level and above. 

If you have a larger social team working on different time zones, Zoho Social has a content queue feature they can use to create a posting schedule. 

Source: Zoho Social

Social media audience listening tools

Social pros can post to social media networks all day long, but their work really becomes impactful when they have a sense of who their audience is and what they want.

Social media monitoring and audience listening help social media managers get the pulse on their audience and build social media campaigns that perform — here are two tools that make that easy. 

1. SparkToro.

  • Ideal for: social media managers working with content marketers 
  • Cost: freemium; paid plans start around $40 per month

Co-founded by Rand Fishkin, the founder of SEO and content marketing tool Moz, SparkToro  makes audience listening accessible to small companies that can’t afford to build in-house solutions.

The tool helps marketers track down social accounts, podcasts and websites their target audience already follows. 

Source: SparkToro

This can be a great way for social media managers to identify fresh topics to post about, or follow and engage with relevant new accounts.

2. TweetDeck. 

  • Ideal for: Soloprenuers, consultants and startups‍
  • Pricing: Free

TweetDeck is owned by Twitter, and it’s a single-channel social media monitoring tool.

Best known for its multi-feed interface, TweetDeck is a free tool for real-time tracking, organizing and engaging on Twitter using multiple accounts. 

Source: TweetDeck

Within the tool, you can schedule tweets, create collections and set up custom keyword-based feeds. Think of it as a more intuitive visualizer for your Twitter accounts. 

Social media planning tools

Manually scheduling multiple posts a day across multiple channels can chew up a ton of — and on some days, all of! — a social media manager’s time. 

These four tools helps streamline that process with suggested post copy, automated scheduling and recycling, and more. (Though beware: Meta’s Creator Studio comes with a dash of controversy.)

1. MeetEdgar.

  • Ideal for: small businesses, early-stage startups and consultants
  • Pricing: starts around $25 per month

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

Source: MeetEdgar

The tool can automatically generate social content based on a blog post link, and allows for unlimited post scheduling across multiple platforms. It also lets social media managers set up automated, recurring republishes of evergreen social content. 

2. PromoPrep. 

Built for team collaboration, PromoPrep is a shared calendar that gives marketing team members visibility into all marketing efforts with intuitive labels for each channel.

Source: PromoPrep

Think of it as Asana or Trello specifically for marketing messaging. 

If one freelancer is working with Later, your agency’s in MeetEdgar, and your social media calendar is in Asana, you can get on the same page with a calendar built for marketing campaign planning. 

3. Publer.

Publer lets busy social media managers set up a posting schedule, then fill a queue with posts that will run in the pre-set timeslots — no need to manually schedule each one. 

Source: Publer

And Publer solves a common social media manager’s complaint: Schedulers don’t tend to allow for comment scheduling, but it’s common practice to include external links in comments or replies instead of in post copy. 

That means social media managers have to post links manually — effectively cancelling out the time saved by scheduling to begin with. 

Not so with Publer. “[It] has a cool little feature that allows you to even schedule follow up comments,” said Alex Baggott, creative director at NGage Industry Marketing.

“It has a cool little feature that allows you to even schedule follow up comments.”

4. Creator Studio.

  • Ideal for: solopreneurs, social businesses
  • Pricing: free

Creator Studio is Meta’s free tool for managing multiple Instagram and Facebook pages and scheduling posts from one place. Unlike Business Suite, you can use it to post Instagram stories.

Source: Creator Studio

The tool is free, and makes it easy for Instagram-heavy brands to manage all of their content in one place — but it’s also controversial.

“I do find the reach to be hampered by it,” said Stephen Pope, CEO of SGP Labs.

Pope and other social media managers have seen drops in their organic reach when they schedule brand content with Facebook Creator Studio. 

Social media content optimization tools

Every social channel rewards slightly different optimizations. Some reward punchy ledes — like LinkedIn and Facebook, which cut off long social media posts after a few lines. Instagram, which  URLs in captions, encourages a Linkin.bio technology. 

1. CoSchedule’s Headline Studio.

  • Ideal for: soloprenuers, social businesses
  • Pricing: freemium

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. 

Source: CoSchedule

The tool analyzes the balance between power words, emotional words, uncommon words and common words in headlines or captions. 

2. Bit.ly.

Raw URLs look unpolished — especially if they’ve got lingering UTMs attached — and no social media manager wants to waste precious characters on them. 

That’s where URL shorteners like Bit.ly come in handy. 

Source: Bit.ly 

Bit.ly’s generous free plan lets you shorten and track click-through rates (CTRs) on 100 URLs per month — all on a single dashboard — and you can customize everything after the slash. 

To create a custom domain or create Bit.ly QR codes, you’ll need to upgrade to their Basic plan.

3. Kapwing.

  • Ideal for: solopreneurs, social businesses
  • Pricing: freemium; paid plans start at $16 per month

In-browser video editor Kapwing  offers a suite of 59 core functions, including a resizing tool, a video and audio syncing tool, and an automatic subtitling tool.

Here’s a quick demo of how the intuitively-titled Subtitler works: 

This is the standout tool in the Kapwing toolkit, according to Joe Ray, marketing manager at Lighthouse Technology Services. He called Kapwing “a new favorite for video captioning.”

4. Later.

Later gives you the best bang for your buck for visual social channels, according to Dani Marom, creative strategist and social media producer at Bright Void.

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

Source: Later

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

It also includes Linkin.bio functionality that creates a web- and mobile-optimized landing page laid out like an 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. 

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

Social media design tools

A brand’s social media presence should look visually cohesive — but how do you achieve that and keep posts timely? With design tools like these, that make it easy for social media managers to access on-brand templates, fonts and stickers in a flash. 

1. Canva.

  • Ideal for: solopreneurs, startups
  • Price: freemium; paid plan starts at $12.99 per month

Why is Canva so popular? It’s a professional design tool accessible even to amateurs. according to Morganne Stinsman, senior marketing specialist at Dakota Micro. 

“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.”

“It's the best tool I've found for creating branded social content.”

Source: Canva

2. Mojo.

Designed for creating Instagram reels and stories, Mojo’s mobile app offers hundreds of social templates to ensure clean, consistent layouts on branded posts — and  it lets social media managers edit, animate and add stickers to photos and videos. 

Here’s one of Mojo’s video editing features in action:

“Mojo is my go-to app for creating on mobile, especially for movement,”  Social Ocean founder and strategist Chelsea Bradley told MarketerHire. “Big fan [because] I have fonts, colors, and logos stored in there.” 

3. Figma.

  • Ideal for: bigger companies whose social teams work with in-house designers
  • Price: freemium; paid plans start at $12 per editor per month

Widely used by digital marketing creatives, Figma’s design platform comes in handy for prototyping and designing still images for organic social. 

Source: Figma

The software allows users to create graphic templates — like the ones in this user-generated Figma Instagram design kit —  in a collaborative, asynchronous way, thanks to commenting functionality and clear version histories. 

Social media analytics tools

It’s easy enough to see the number of likes, comments and shares on individual posts. But if you want to track your engagement trends over time — or your competitors’ — that takes specialized software.

Here are some tools that come in handy for answering those deeper analytical questions and building a data-driven social media strategy.

1. Social Status.

  • Ideal for: startups and smaller businesses
  • Price: freemium; paid plans start at $29 per month

Social Status does exactly what it sounds like it does: It gives you a performance overview for paid and organic social channels, all in one dashboard. 

Its competitor analytics feature also lets you compare your public profiles’ performance with your competitors’ on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Here’s a walkthrough of how that works.

2. SmarterQueue.

  • Ideal for: businesses with a deep backlog of social posts
  • Price: starts at $16.99 per month

This MeetEdgar alternative can rank past posts by KPIs like likes and comments, which helps users identify and recycle high-performing evergreen posts on an automated schedule.

“I have [SmarterQueue] cycle every few months,” said Carmela Montenegro, CEO and lead digital marketer at Coda and Crush Marketing.

Other key analytics functionality: It can pinpoint optimal times to post, track audience growth over time, and highlight correlations between performance and variables like link usage.

3. SHIELD.

  • Ideal for: B2B, solopreneurs, and consultants on LinkedIn
  • Pricing: starts at $6 per month

SHIELD might be the most popular LinkedIn analytics platform out there, and it’s 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. 

Source: SHIELD

LinkedIn superstar and SHFT marketing agency founder Jason Vana says SHIELD helped him catapult his social media engagement “from 50 reactions to 200,” simply by highlighting what worked so he could do more of it. 

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 about $90 per month, Sprout Social is nearly 2X the cost of Hootsuite.

And at Hootsuite, for half the price, you get twice the social media profiles — 10 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.”

“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 Zoë 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.

Later vs. MeetEdgar.

Later, an Instagram-first social media management tool, and MeetEdgar, an all-in-one tool that automatically schedules 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 per month price point. Later is slightly cheaper, and 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 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 other brands and 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. It’s 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.”

Free social media management tools

If you’re a solopreneur or a seed startup founder without a budget for social tools, don’t despair. 

“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.”

Yes — even a budget of $0. Here are some free and freemium tools from the list above that can get you started. 

Social media audience listening tools

  • SparkToro (freemium)
  • TweetDeck (free)

Social media planning tools

  • PromoPrep (freemium)
  • Publer (freemium)
  • Creator Studio (free)

Social media content optimization tools

  • CoSchedule’s Headline Studio (freemium)
  • Bit.ly (freemium)
  • Kapwing (freemium)

Social media design tools

  • Canva (freemium)
  • Mojo (freemium)

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

Even the best tools won’t solve all your social media woes. On LinkedIn, in fact, they can create new woes entirely: Scheduling tools are against LinkedIn’s policy and they can suspend your account if they suspect the use of automation.

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

Ultimately, you want to find the tools best for your pillar social platforms and your business stage — not every tool recommended here.

An experienced social media manager can help you find the social stack for you — and you can meet one in as little as 48 hours if you hire through MarketerHire’s freelance talent platform. Learn more about MarketerHire today

This story was originally published in May 2021 and was updated on April 13, 2022. Kelsey Donk also contributed to this story.

Camille Trent
about the author

Camille Trent is head of content at Dooly. 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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