What to Look for When Choosing a Social Media Scheduling Tool
There is no such thing as *the best* social media scheduling tool anymore - as social media features continue to grow and business needs evolve, new platforms with new and unique features emerge at all price points. You need to use the tool that works best for you and your business needs. Keep reading to see what kind of features you might need to consider and which platforms they can be found on.
It’s unlikely that you’ll find 1 single tool that does absolutely everything you need (unless you can afford to shell out for an expensive option) so keep in mind that you may need to compromise when it comes to some features, or you may even need to use 2 tools (or alternatively 1 tool with the native network scheduler).
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SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORK INTEGRATIONS
The most important thing: does the software work with the platforms you use (otherwise what is the point)?
These days, almost all tools work with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram - it’s generally Pinterest and Google My Business you need to investigate.
However, even within the standard networks you have to consider:
- Groups - since the whole privacy fiasco, Facebook removed the ability for 3rd party tools to access groups, and those tools now have to go through an application process and be approved to access Facebook, so something that used to be able to post inside groups may no longer have that ability (even though they are still promoting that they can!)
- Profiles - no longer have scheduling capabilities, so if this is something you wanted to do it’s time to make yourself a business page or group (you shouldn’t be doing business on your personal profile anyway!)
- Stories - can’t currently be scheduled (with a 3rd party tool OR within Facebook)
- Events - can’t be scheduled with a 3rd party tool - can only schedule posts to events from right within Facebook for events created from your business page
- Company Page
- Regular feed posts
- IGTV - can’t currently be scheduled (with a 3rd party tool OR within Instagram
Tip: tools that integrate with a large number of networks are often the most general in the features they offer, while those that are focused on just a single network often have specialized features that the general tools don’t.
Here are some tools that don’t post to all of the big 5 (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest):
- Later* - does not integrate with LinkedIn
- Planoly* - only integrates with Instagram
- Tailwind* - only integrates with Pinterest and Instagram
Here are some tools that have integrated with Google My Business:
DETERMINE: which networks/areas do you need to schedule posts to? Prioritize them from most to least important.
NUMBER OF NETWORK CONNECTIONS
Almost all schedulers base their plans how many profiles you can connect to your account. The standard for free accounts seems to be 3. Keep in mind that on Facebook a profile, a page, and a group would all be considered separate profiles. Same with LinkedIn profiles and company pages.
If you need to post to your Facebook page, Group, Instagram, and LinkedIn profile that’s 4 profiles and you’ll need to look at upgrading
Tip: watch out for the following which pops up in some tools: sometimes you can have 3 connections as long as they are all from different networks - meaning that you couldn’t connect both a Facebook page and a group even if those are the only 2 you need :(
DETERMINE: how many networks do you need to schedule posts to?
You need to look at your time (or how much of your time you’ll save by using a scheduler) vs its monthly cost. If you are ever unsure about how much time something will save you, take advantage of a free plan or a free trial and use diligently as if you are paying for it - it will probably only take a week or two for you to realize if the convenience is worth the price tag.
Note: All prices below are USD.
Tools with Free Plans
Buffer: connect 3 profiles, schedule up to 10 posts at a time per profile; paid plans start at $15/month
Hootsuite: connect 3 profiles, schedule up to 30 posts at a time; paid plans start at $29/month
Later*: connect 3 profiles, schedule 30 posts per month per profile; paid plans start at $9/month
Planoly*: connect 1 Instagram profile, upload 30 pieces of content per month; paid plans start at $7/month
RecurPost:* connect 3 profiles, add up to 100 items in your content library; paid plans start at $15/month
SocialPilot: connect 3 profiles, schedule up to 10 posts a day; paid plans start at $30/month
Tailwind*: connect 1 Instagram & Pinterest profile; schedule up to 100 posts (then no more auto-posting for free); paid plans start at $10/month
Tools with No Free Plan but Free Trials
Loomly: 15 day trial; paid plans start at $15/month
PromoRepublic*: 14 day trial; paid plans start at $9/month
SmarterQueue: 14 day trial; paid plans start at $20/month
SocialBee*: 14 day trial; paid plans start at $19/month
SocialDraft: 14 day trial; paid plans start at $19/month
DETERMINE: how much is in your monthly marketing budget? Is the monthly cost worth the convenience?
Links and text work universally, but there are other considerations you need to make for video, images, and GIFs.
While all networks allow videos to be uploaded, some tools only allow video posting on paid plans
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest allow multi-image posts - but most tools can not schedule multiple imag
GIFs vary widely in where they are supported - but like videos, not all tools can post GIFs properly to those networks (sometimes they will post as link previews or as static images)
LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest fully support GIFs
Facebook Groups and Events support GIFs
Facebook Pages and Instagram (posts & stories) do not support GIFs
Note: because of how rapidly networks are updating their APIs it is extremely difficult to provide an up-to-date list of tools that meet each of these requirements. If you want to know about a specific network feel free to comment below and I’ll help you out 1:1!
DETERMINE: what content format(s) are you most often going to create?
This mainly pertains to whether you post a lot of one-off content (events, time sensitive promotions, etc.) or a lot of evergreen content. If you have a lot of evergreen content a tool with evergreen capabilities can save you a TON of time and is definitely worth looking into.
Here are some tools that have evergreen posting features:
Tip: if you do a lot of recurring events, it’s always handy to have a separate place to talk about them that won’t annoy or overwhelm people who are not attending. Right now Facebook is the only place where you can do this with events (LinkedIn is cooking something up but who knows when it will be available to everyone), and as of now, there are no tools that allow you to schedule posts into an event - you’ll have to schedule them directly in Facebook.
DETERMINE: are you going to have a lot of evergreen content to post?
HOW YOU LIKE TO WORK
How you like (or need!) to work has a big impact on whether or not you’ll actually use a tool - no matter how great it’s features are!
MOBILE VS DESKTOP
Many of the established scheduling tools are available on desktop, then Instagram got popular and flipped things on their heads. Now, some tools are mobile first because they were designed exclusively for IG posting. Most of those tools are implementing desktop sites. Older tools are developing mobile apps.
If you are always on the go with your phone and need to post or schedule in-the-moment it’s critical that your tool has a mobile app that you can use.
If you spend more time at your desk or you have multiple people working on your social media a desktop solution is likely going to be best.
Here are some tools that have mobile apps in addition to desktop solutions:
DETERMINE: do you need to be able to post on the go, via desktop, or both?
INSTAGRAM: NOTIFICATIONS VS DIRECT SCHEDULING
The pro of direct scheduling is that there are no manual steps to post which is helpful if your best posting time are inconvenient for you or you have someone else setting up your posts.
The cons of direct scheduling are: you can only post to your feed (not to stories), you can only do a single photo, and the formatting (i.e. hard returns) can get wiped out
If you almost exclusively post to stories, or always have multi-photo posts then a tool with direct scheduling isn’t going to be much of an asset to you
Here are some tools that have direct scheduling:
DETERMINE: will you need to direct post, or manually post?
PLANNING: SHORT TERMS VS LONG TERM
If you plan your content out far in advance, having a way to bulk import or upload your posts is a big timesaver (especially if that content is evergreen)
Here are some tools that have bulk upload features:
Hootsuite (paid plan)
SocialDraft (paid plan)
SocialPilot (paid plan)
SmarterQueue (paid plan)
DETERMINE: do you need a way to easily upload a lot of future content at once?
If you like to snag content and articles from elsewhere on the web (or even from your own website!) a browser extension can be another time saver.
Here are some tools that have browser extensions:
Some RSS readers also integrate with popular scheduling tools, or vice versa, allow you to add RSS feeds to automatically add posts to your queue.
Tip: this is great if you need a simple way to publish your own website updates to your social media networks; however, if you are publishing 3rd party content you may need a way to filter by keyword for only the most relevant content.
Here are some tools that allow RSS feeds:
If you’d rather keep your RSS feeds out of your scheduling tool, I’d recommend Feedly. It has direct integrations with Buffer and Hootsuite.
And of course if you read everything from your phone, having the mobile app installed usually guarantees that you can send outside links to your scheduling tool.
Here are some tools that have mobile apps (which are not only for Instagram posting):
DETERMINE: how much of your content will be curated from 3rd parties?
DO I REALLY NEED A SCHEDULER
For some of you, a scheduler is not going to be much of a time saver. Here are some for instances:
You are using Facebook exclusively - just use the built-in scheduling that comes with pages, events, and groups
Your business requires you to post mostly in-the-moment content
You only post once or twice a week
This was a pretty long read! Let’s recap the things that you need to figure out to help you easily pick the right scheduling tool. Answer these questions and then look at the things that would save you the most time if you didn’t have to do them manually - those are your most valuable features!
Which networks/areas do you need to schedule posts to? Prioritize them from most to least important.
How many networks do you need to schedule posts to?
How much is in your monthly marketing budget? Is the monthly cost worth the convenience?
What content format(s) are you most often going to create?
Are you going to have a lot of evergreen content to post?
Do you need to be able to post on the go, via desktop, or both?
Will you need to direct post, or manually post?
Do you need a way to easily upload a lot of future content at once?
How much of your content will be curated from 3rd parties?