There are several platform management tools for social media marketing and each of them has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to offerings and features. When first looking for a system, there are a few things you should ask yourself before looking into any of the platforms.

What are you using the system for?

Do you want something simple that will schedule and push out to each platform? Alternatively, are you looking for something a bit more robust that includes reporting and social listening?

Next, review your budget or the budget of your client if that’s who will be paying for the use. Something to consider is the number of clients you will be setting up in the system. Many platforms will offer the first three channels for free and start charging a fee for further management.

Once you’ve decided how much you’re willing to spend and what you’re looking to use out of the system then begin the research process. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with just how many systems there are – Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Later, Buffer, Hey Orca – to name a few.

For our clients, I usually plan to use the platform for 3-4 clients and want only scheduling and posting tools. Based on my needs, I narrowed it down to Hootsuite and Buffer, ultimately choosing Buffer.

Why did I choose Buffer over Hootsuite?

Price – Hootsuite and Buffer both offer a free plan that includes all the essential tools like posting and scheduling for your first three channels which would be a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account for one client. The next plan up for Hootsuite offers ten accounts and starts at $29 a month (if you buy their yearly plan) while Buffer has a Pro Plan for $15 a month for eight accounts.

Functionality – Do you know why Apple’s iPhone was such a huge success compared to Android phones? Functionality. The iPhone was so simple and user-friendly! Of course there are always learning curves when it comes to using a new system; however, Buffer’s platform is intuitive for the user and doesn’t include a ton of extra buttons or functions that confuse the user when they’re first starting out.

With Buffer, the meat and bones of the platform are scheduling out content. Buffer suggests times and has a listed grid layout to see all of your upcoming posts. It’s also very easy to drag and drop posts when you want to change the order. When posting to multiple platforms, Buffer has the functionality to select each channel and replicate the content for each one. If you need to adjust tagging or hashtags for a certain platform, you can also make the change right in the draft box.

Hootsuite offers this capability, but the layout of the feeds tends to clutter up their dashboard. Buffer’s dashboard is simple and sleek showing the accounts on the left-hand side, and when clicked, the full queue of content splashes across the screen.

For the more advanced user, Buffer does have tabs for analytics and settings for each account that they track while Buffer has access to that account.

Support – When you search for articles covering social media, Buffer’s blog will likely show as a result. In my countless Google searches for new age marketing tactics, updates on the algorithm or even ‘how to use that superzoom function on Instagram,’ Buffer’s blog has provided to be a reliable resource of information.

Hootsuite does offer a library of resources for users as well. Their support team is there to answer any and all questions to help along the way and is timely in their responses. Hootsuite also offers certifications through their website for those looking to learn more about social media and beef up their resumes. Their blog is centered around trends of big business social media which is great for inspiration, but for those looking to really dive into the algorithm does not compare to Buffer’s provided information.

Overall when choosing a social media management tool, spend time testing each platform and learning which one works best for your clients’ workflow. Take advantage of free trials the systems offer and search for tutorials and best practices online. The key to learning a new system is committing to using it fully! And remember, needs change over time. One platform might not serve your needs after a few months or a year. Continue to evaluate and stay on top of your platform management to get the most out of your time spent maximizing your social media platforms.