Anyone else ever feel like they're caught in a perpetual catch-22? As a small business owner, I feel that way A LOT. For example, I know I need to increase my website views because standard conversion rates are at about two percent, meaning if you have 100 people visit your site, only two will take whatever action you've designated for them, like purchasing, signing up for your email list, or making a donation. But I have so many other things on my plate that are also important. So, which do I choose? Which do you choose?
Even as a marketer, I know that I should be marketing my blog posts much more than I am actually writing them, but they both have to get done, so my time is always split. It's a common frustration many of us share, right?
There are, of course, a lot of ways to get traffic to your site, but for most of us, the day in and day out formula revolves around social media. And if you spend several hours writing a blog post, but only promote it on social media a couple of times, it could easily go to the internet graveyard. #RIP
So, what's the solution? I think it might be a social media scheduling tool, especially if you do not have someone who is solely dedicated to your social media strategy. There are a lot of popular options out there, and I took the time to review 13 of them. None were perfect (though some come close!), and several were quite similar, but I think you'll find some great choices for your nonprofit or social enterprise.
First, let me address a hesitation you may be feeling, which I also had for months. This all sounds good, you agree with what I said, and you share the same frustrations, but you know it's going to cost money, which makes it feel more like a luxury, and something you should probably put off for "later." Sound familiar?
For those of us at small organizations, every dollar counts. And this is especially true for those of us running solo businesses or may even be all volunteer-led. We want to look more professional, but we also need to stick to our budgets. I get it, and like I said, I debated with myself about it as well.
However, recently, I've decided to put this in the "you've gotta spend money to make money" category. That, my friends, is unavoidable. And that's also what I'll be talking about for the next three weeks here on the blog.
In order to scale your nonprofit or social enterprise, you just have to be willing to put out some upfront cash knowing that it'll pay off in the long run. If I don't pay for the social media scheduling tool, I will either need to hire someone to manage my social media, or I will always be minimally promoting my blog posts, unless I slow my blogging frequency way down to make time in my schedule for it.
Granted, my traffic will likely increase organically with time, but it will take a very long time. Like I said, there are certainly other options for increasing your traffic, but for everyday efforts, I think this is the way to go.
So, here we are. This is where I've arrived, and I wanted you to benefit from my research and experience.
Two other things to note before we dig into the social media scheduling tools.
First, pretty much all of the services below have free versions and higher tiers, but as I am a small business who works mostly with small nonprofits and social enterprises, I had us in mind when I did my research. None of the free versions had the features I was looking for, so I knew I would have to pay. Prices below reflect annual plans, because that is cheaper than paying month-to-month. Also, if you are a nonprofit, most of them have discounts, so be sure to ask!
Second, in case you were wondering, it is always more effective to post "natively." So, for example, scheduling Facebook Page posts directly in Facebook. However, most of us just don't have the time to do this long-term or ongoing with our other responsibilities. But platforms will generally show your Tweets and posts to more people when they are published directly from their own site or app. I get it, I wish I could, but I just can't.
THE WINNER: SMARTERQUEUE
My biggest priority for the search was having the ability to auto recycle content. Meaning, not just schedule Tweets and posts, but once the queue was empty, it would start all over again on its own. This really allows you to "set it and forget it," and just add new content as you go into the mix.
Cost: $17 per month
Excellent amount of features without being overwhelming.
Works well with short-term promos. For example, you can set a post to expire after a certain date or number of times.
Drag and drop content calendar.
Utilizes categories for different types of content. (ex: quotes, promos, blogs, etc.). And each category can have its own schedule, and you can set a ratio of how often each category should be recycled. Categories can also be paused and customized per profile.
Has content curation features, which allow you to easily add new content from other places you follow or find, which aren't already part of your mix.
Easy set-up by analyzing your profile history and creating a schedule you can customize.
Helps you find a posting schedule based on analytics. It's always difficult to know "the best" time to schedule per social channel, and sometimes the "experts" disagree on when it is.
You an tag others in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Has a competitor analysis feature so you can see what others like you are doing, and how they're performing.
Monitors the mentions you get from other social media accounts. Who doesn't love a shout out!
Easy migration from Edgar.
Smaller plans don’t have as many restrictions on features as some services.
50% discount for nonprofits—wow!
Doesn't auto schedule. It won't pick the best time to send your posts so you don't have to. Unless you are really good at reading analytics, this is a big guessing game. So, it's nice when a service chooses for you.
Can't upload video directly in the program at this time. I imagine they'll fix this soon, though, since video is winning the Miss Popularity contest right now. They do have workaround instructions in the Help section for now, though.
This one seems a little silly and stingy to me, but if you downgrade from a higher priced tier or cancel your account, there are no refunds. Most of the others offer this, I think, so I was surprised to see it.
Lots of pros, am I right? This was only the second tool I originally checked out, and I was pretty smitten with their site. It had enough information to keep me reading and interested, but no so much that I was overwhelmed. I'm really looking forward to using it! You can sign up right here with my affiliate link, which gets you a 30-day free trial instead of 14 days. (By the way, if you need help, my friend, Jennifer Wilder, can help get you set up. She did mine!)
(Update 5/7/18: This year, Twitter, Facebook, and it seems like every other social platform has introduced all kinds of new rules and regulations to keep haters, spammers, and fake newsers at bay. This is obviously a very good thing, but has also been a bummer for those of us who schedule social media using these third-party platforms. However, I'm still sticking with SmarterQueue for two reasons.
First, they have implemented "fixes" so that their software still works. Second, even though I know manually scheduling and posting will yield better results, I maintain my position that if posting frequently on social media is going to happen, then right now, it's going to happen through a scheduler. Maybe that'll change when Signify grows up a little more, but for now, here we are. And I'm grateful to SmarterQueue for their updates and fast, friendly customer service team.)
Edgar came in at a tie for second place with Viraltag, but I'm listing it first because probably more people have heard of it. It is a really solid option.
Cost: $49 per month
30-day money-back guarantee
I feel like everyone I talk to that has it loves it.
Has content curation through a browser extension
Expiring content feature for limited-time promos
A bargain for larger businesses since there aren’t other tiers. I actually think they've come down in price since I seem to remember them being $79 when I've looked at them in the past.
Getting started guides and a support forum
I've been on their email list for a few months, and find it helpful. I really love it when service providers like this have helpful forums and emails. :)
For those who’d like an extra special on-boarding experience, every Edgar account comes with free account setup assistance and a free social media strategy call!
This is the most expensive option I looked at.
Doesn’t sync with Bitly, a link shortener, which I use a lot.
Sends performance reports, but no analytics at this point.
This was my other tie for second place. It was a much tougher decision once I'd narrowed it to these three! And if you're wondering how I arrived at these 13 social media scheduling programs when there are so many others out there, it was because I asked some social media pros I know as well as in some Facebook groups with social media managers and people more likely to use these kinds of tools. I actually hadn't heard of Viraltag until someone suggested it in one of the groups, and I was very impressed. I think you'll start to see it pop up more.
Cost: $24 per month
Learns the best times to post and which content drives more engagement—LOVE this!
Specializes in visual content, though you can have plain text posts for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Connects with Google Drive and Dropbox and Canva
Provides image editing directly in their interface
You can customize images per network
Has the content calendar feature so you can see how everything fits together rather than just in a list.
Really helpful customer service chat, even on the weekend.
You can schedule a demo to begin.
Not sure I like the interface as much from the little I saw on the site, but of course, this is a preference.
Managing Facebook Groups is "in the pipeline."
You have to manually handle any short-term promos, which means deleting them after you don't want them posting anymore.
The site says that this plan has only 30 days of analytics, but the customer service woman told me they could remove that restriction, so just be sure to ask.
This is another one I hadn't heard of until I posed the question to a social media manager Facebook Group, and I find it very fascinating. For the right person, I think it would be awesome.
Cost: $15 per month
It's good for people who need social support to keep their blogs out there circulating the internet. The gist is that it takes your blog post, cuts it up into bite-sized pieces, and distributes it over the course of a year to your social networks. Cool huh?
Looks extremely easy to use, and does a lot of the work for you. You do get to double-check and approve everything before it goes out.
It even suggests hashtags for you! #winning
It does what it does, and that's it. So, it doesn't work with other promotions or content you may want to push. You'd need another service to manage that, or if that's a rare occasion for you, just post directly to your social networks as needed.
Okay, so your brain may not work the same as mine—fair assumption. This was one of those that several people recommended, but just didn't give me much of an impression after looking at it. It's a very simple site, which sounds like a good thing, except it didn't "sell" me. And because the website is so basic, I didn't really want to contact them with the dozens of questions I had.
Cost: $19 per month
You can set targeted posts, which seems cool. (ex: send a birthday Tweet to someone every year, etc)
Has orientation video
Again, I just didn't have much of an impression. However, for people looking for a straight-forward way to get the job done without bells and whistles, this will probably suffice. But, for a couple bucks less per month, look at how much more I'm getting with SmarterQueue . . .
Even though it's still somewhat basic, this site has a nice layout and design that worked for me. It didn't have all the features I wanted, but a solid option for people wanting to keep things simple while adding some oomph to their social or launch strategy.
Cost: $0-25 per month
With so many services offering free accounts, you may be wondering why I put the goose egg in this cost category. That's because it actually offers some pretty good features for the free accounts, so if you are really concerned about the price of a social media scheduling tool, or want to start slow, you might check this one out.
They predict the best times for you to send, which is nice.
Seems like a fairly simple way to recycle posts.
Categories, calendar feature, and analytics
Has a knowledge base
Even though it checked a lot of boxes for me, it didn't wow me. Obviously, this is just an impression, and not quantifiable. It may be just the thing you've been looking for.
This is one of the more popular options. I've used it myself, once several years back on behalf of a nonprofit and also earlier this year for my Facebook Group (before you could schedule posts there). This is another pretty solid option, depending on your needs.
Cost: $10 per month
Nice, low cost
Probably the simplest tool to set up and use
Has image editing and video uploading
Lots of resources (blog, emails, guides, webinars, FAQs) to help you get better, and to answer questions
No recycling or auto scheduling
No analytics on lower plans
Hiplay serves as an add-on to Buffer.
Cost: $5 per month
For people who love Buffer, and they do have a big fan base, you can recycle your posts on a service you love without a lot of additional effort or training.
You're now having to use two programs, yuck.
This is one of the other big dogs on the social scene. I've used Hootsuite for many years, even just for my personal profiles before I had a legit business. Their free plan works pretty well, and served me for a long time. But it just isn't going to get the job done anymore, now that I need to step up my game.
Cost: $19 per month
Basic scheduler with analytics
Integrates with other apps
Auto schedules content
30-day free trial (That's a lot!)
You get unlimited scheduling with paid plans, but they recently introduced limits on free plans.
Doesn't recycle content
Once you go past that $19 plan, you're looking at $99 per month!
They skipped adding some letters in their funky company name, but didn't repurpose them on their website. This is a super basic site, which just gives you the absolute minimum information. As such, it didn't impress me.
Cost: $9.99 per month
Integrates with Google Analytics and Bitly, which is really nice.
It says it's "the easiest" way to post on Facebook and Twitter, so perhaps no explanation needed. ;)
Works with lots of social platforms, where others have more limited options.
I just don't know much about them because they didn't take the time to put it on their site.
I'd heard of this one, but not much about it. And, honestly, there's not all that much to talk about, in my opinion. Some of the big plans seem to be good options for team collaboration, but I don't know many people that need that.
Cost: $9.99 per month
Customize content per channel, which is nice
You get 10 channels for $10 per month. Most of the plans I've been touting here are only for three to five profiles at that lowest price plan.
Unlimited scheduling. Some of the plans in this post have a limit as to how many posts you can schedule at that price, like 100, 500, or 1,000.
You can request a demo.
Analytics only for two profiles at that price
Nothing super special
One of my friends who is a social media manager loves this one. And it does have quite a lot of features for the price tag.
Cost: $8 per month
Excellent, affordable option if you don’t need auto recycling
Connects to Bitly and Canva
Content suggestions if you need some help
Again, the big drawback for me was that it doesn't recycle content. I don't want the well to run dry, and me have to go set it all up again.
I've been on their email list for probably at least a year. But if you aren't into marketing or really honing your social skills, it would probably just be overwhelming. They'd definitely fall into the "more is more" category. However, I do recommend their Headline Analyzer for writing titles.
Cost: $40 per month
They definitely want you to be well-resourced through emails, blogs, webinars, etc.
Full marketing calendar available
Integrates with Wordpress, Google Analytics, Evernote, Google Docs, and more
Live demos regularly
Drag and Drop calendar
Second most expensive option I looked at
Pricier plans have much more advanced features for entire marketing efforts, not just social
In all that information, I couldn't figure out how many profiles or posts the $40 per month got you.
Whereas some of the websites only had one or two pages that didn’t impress me or provide me with enough info, this one had so much it was kind of overwhelming to get the full picture. I can see growing into it maybe, but it’s just too robust for now.
With a plethora of features, I find it funny that it doesn't work with LinkedIn.
And one to grow on: Hopper
This one was also recommended in my research, but in looking at it, Hopper is only made for Instagram. However, it says it schedules "automatically," which I didn't think was possible. It's $19 per month for one account, so I'll let you check it out of Insta is your jam.
Whew—are you exhausted!?!? I am! But hopefully I saved you hours of research, or at least narrowed things down for you. A lot of it comes down to what you need, or think you'll need, as well as your preferences.
Before you go, I want to leave you with a couple other things to consider:
While I don’t list every feature here, also take note of things like FAQs and support forums so you don’t always have to reach out to customer service, especially if you work a lot on the weekends when they may not be available.
If you are just starting to explore this idea, but aren't ready to make any moves yet, ask to get added to their email lists. Then you can learn more about the company, the culture, offers, and get more information about features. I love to see how people treat their email lists. #marketingnerd
If you are somewhat ready to make the leap, almost all of these services offer free trials with requiring a credit card. So, check them out, or at least poke under the hood. You can take a look at the systems and interface without having to upload a bunch of content.
Think long-term! This is super important. Look for options you think you might need or would be nice to have as you grow, so you don’t have to through the entire set-up process again. For example, even before I sent my first company email, I knew that I'd want to switch from MailChimp to ConvertKit at some point. But, in the interest of saving a few bucks and avoiding a learning curve when I was already overwhelmed, I went with MailChimp "for now." But I have kicked myself multiple times, and of course, every month goes by, and I will have more to set up later when I do make the switch! Ugh, I'm getting hives just thinking about it. Anyway, learn from my mistake!
See you out there in the social sphere!
And don't forget to try SmarterQueue! Remember, my affiliate link gets you a 30-day free trial!
(PS: I am a busy solopreneur with limited time on my hands, so my friend Jen is the one who got me set up and running on Smarterqueue. She is available to help you too!)
PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:
I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.