If you manage your own social networks, it’s highly likely that you will have heard of HootSuite and may already be using it. Good for you!

Social media management tools like Hootsuite and Sprout Social are great for scheduling content across many social channels, months in advance – not only saving you the daily task of coming up with witty, relevant, valuable content but also giving you more time to spend with your audience.

Rather than try to come up with something thoughtful and engaging on the fly (not easy and usually not worth it), social media management tools let you think ahead and plan for holidays, product releases, newsletter blasts and more. For example, a bakery that knows it’s National Croissant Day on January 19, can prepare some great content in advance. Another topic for another day.

If you’re ever short of ideas, just scroll through this Days of the Year calendar for inspiration. The list is endless, and fun and you’ll definitely find a ‘special day’ to tie into your company. Just don’t don’t over do it.

When I worked at a newspaper, the editorial staff would meet to brainstorm our weekly features every Monday. I think that’s what I liked most about the job. If anything else newsworthy happened throughout the week, like a house fire, or some small town political scandal, great! We’d pop those stories in that week’s paper with the features if they weren’t bumped to the following week. You’d be surprised in a small town how often there is breaking news. Maybe you sometimes think there’s nothing meaningful to share about your business but there is. There always is. At some point, I’ll write a post on how to come up with content ideas but for now, I can tell you a lot of it involves planning.

Hootsuite is the social media management tool I have the most experience (because it’s free) and it saved my life back in 2010 when I was a social media ‘guru’ managing multiple accounts. Whether I’m managing my own social media content or a client’s, I find Hootsuite to be super user-friendly and easy to use with all the popular social channels including Instagram. There are dozens of social media management tools to choose from (both free and paid), each offering its own unique twist to help your small business succeed online. Below you’ll find my review on Hootsuite and four other social media management tools that are extremely useful and, in most cases, very affordable.

Hootsuite

Free – $129/mo

Hootsuite’s free plan is great if you want to manage three accounts, schedule up to 30 messages in advance, access to over 150 free and paid apps, like Adobe Stock, and see what your customers are saying. For $29/mo you can also get analytics, 10 social profiles, and unlimited scheduling.

Hubspot

Free – $3,200/mo

Monitor brand mentions, get as you type SEO advice, analyze which marketing methods are working and SO much more. While Hubspot does have a free plan, anything worth using from the Marketing Hub is going to cost $800/mo. Yikes. Great for medium to large companies.

Sprout Social

$99-$249+/mo

Schedule content in advance, monitor mentions and relevant conversations, boost Facebook posts with integrated paid advertising, work with a team, and review marking reports all in one place. What I like most about Sprout is its slick interface which makes it easy to be creative.

Buffer

Free-$399/mo

Manage three accounts, create and upload images and GIF/videos, schedule content AND browsing the web with Buffer’s Chrome extensions – all for free. Buffer also suggests the perfect moments to post based on follower activity. Paid plans range from $10 to $399 per month.

EveryPost

Free-$100/mo

If you’re a small business and want to share content regularly from your smartphone, then EveryPost is your answer. Curate beautiful visual content, schedule posts, and update customers with promos right from the palm of your hand. For $29/mo you can go nuts schedule unlimited posts.