A Hubspot study states that half a billion people joined social networks last year.
It may not be surprising that there are many people joining social media, but what’s shocking is the amount of hours people spend on social media each day. As a matter of fact, Millennials are logged on to social media for an average of two hours and 38 minutes daily, while Gen Z logs on for two hours and 55 minutes, according to the World Economic Forum.
Although this may sound like an absurd amount of time, can you really blame them? Social media has become integrated into all aspects of our lives and daily routines so seamlessly that sometimes we don’t realize how much we’re actually using it. Think about it, how many times have you picked up your phone for a task, only to find yourself socially scrolling somewhere you’d never intended to be?
With an audience this dedicated and attuned, it’s a no brainer for businesses to be thinking strategically, and seriously, about their social media strategy, one of the most important pillars of which is their social media management platform.
Picking a social media management platform isn’t an easy task. You’ll want to choose an option that can fulfill all of your needs. Make sure to take into account three factors:
Analytics and reporting
Social channel integration
Scheduled posting capability
According to Sprout’s 2019 Social Index, 63% of marketers are expected to discuss social ROI with their bosses to justify their spending on campaigns. That means you’ll need a platform that tracks conversion on your most valuable KPIs. By choosing a platform that offers analytics and reporting, you can hand your boss the information they need to make executive decisions without them sorting through all the details themselves.
2. Social channel integration
At a minimum, the platform you choose should be able to connect with the most popular social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you’re going to use a free version of a social media management platform, make sure you know how many social channels are supported, and whether they’re the social channels that are likely to be most impactful for your business. For instance, if you're a B2B business, you may want to look into LinkedIn. If you're a B2C looking to attract shoppers, Pinterest may be the place to be.
3. Scheduled posting
This is the most important piece of all, without this feature, there’s no point even considering a social media management platform at all. By scheduling posts in advance, you save hours of work; the platform will automatically send out the post across the social media platforms selected.
Hootsuite vs Buffer: free plans
Free plans are a great way to see if a platform is right for you without a trial deadline. Since they are unlimited, you can stay on the plan for months before you decide to level up to a paid plan. Although these are useful, I want to point out that free plans are lacking in analytics and reporting. In fact, Buffer has included no analytics or reporting in the free plan at all, and Hootsuite has basic analytics but you’ll need to upgrade for in-depth reports, CSV exports, and real-time data - in other words, most of the key reporting features. Whichever free plan you choose, you’ll want to have a plan in place to define and track your success.
Below, I’ve laid out the most important details you’ll need to know when picking a free plan.
Hootsuite free plan
Social accounts: 2
Scheduled messages: 5
Analytics and Reporting: no
Buffer free plan
Social accounts: 3
Scheduled messages: 10
Analytics and Reporting: no
In terms of free plans, I’d say Buffer is the winner since the number of offerings in Buffer’s free plan provides more than Hootsuite. Just make sure you plan to track success on the side.
Hootsuite vs Buffer: paid plans
If you weren’t sold on the idea of a free plan, or you're ready to commit right away, let’s talk about paid plans. Both Hootsuite and Buffer offer a variety of paid plans that include analytics and reporting, social channel integration, and scheduled posting. Below I’ll be comparing the lowest cost paid plan for each platform.
Hootsuite Professional plan
Price: $49 per month
Social Accounts: 10
Analytics and Reporting: Yes
Buffer Essentials plan
Price: $5 per social channel per month
Social Accounts: Unlimited ($5 per social channel per month)
Analytics and Reporting: Yes
Although these plans seem nearly identical from the surface, I dove into the details and discovered some key differences. For starters, you’ll notice Hootsuite automatically grants you 10 social accounts which can be a waste if you don’t have that many to actively post on.
In contrast, Buffer allows you to pay per channel per month. If you have less than 10 social accounts, it’s great to pay only for what you need. This can save you a great deal of money, especially if you plan to focus on the big three social platforms - Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Specifically with analytics, each platform offers the ability to see which posts people are engaging with the most and other review performance KPIs. There are only a few analytics capabilities that differ between the platforms. Hootsuite reserves insight-based social suggestions around what, when, and how often to post to subscribers of their more expensive Team paid plan, which clocks in at $129 per month. Buffer offers this in their entry-level Essentials paid plan. In addition, Buffer offers custom reports that are white-labeled and annotated for easy analysis; Hootsuite only offers this feature - you guessed it - in their Team plan.
In terms of paid plans, I’d say Buffer seems to have the most value for your money depending on how many social channels you will be using.
After having used both Hootsuite and Buffer, I recommend Buffer as a social media platform. Especially if you are new to social media management, theirs is the perfect beginner tool that offers the most features and capabilities in their free and low-cost plans.
Even our social media expert Jackie Heikel agrees, “Buffer has a more intuitive user experience and cleaner layout if you're looking to just schedule posts. Hootsuite offers more for users that want to manage a content calendar and respond to post replies. However, if you are looking for a free social media tool, Buffer allows for more posts and accounts in their free version than Hootsuite.”
Now that you have an idea of what platform to try - do you know who will be in charge of running it? Don’t underestimate the value of a social media manager. Check out another blog post where I explain why you need a social media manager.
If you need any help, drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.