Companies are constantly evolving, looking for new ways to diversify their marketing strategies to attract new customers while managing effective engagement with their existing followers.
The rise of social media, more than its traditional scope of practice, has meant that businesses and companies can increase their communication and marketing efforts towards previously under-recognized consumer markets.
As the internet spawned to become a platform through which several million companies now operate, managing direct social interactions on social media channels can be an arduous task if companies and marketing teams are properly equipped.
There are copious reasons why it’s important to have the right team and tools behind social media marketing and management. For many businesses, the idea of social media is more than basic use, but rather a place from which they can market new products and services, drive sales, increase brand exposure, offer social commerce options, and introduce brand awareness within their target audience and the greater public realm.
Aside from social commerce, these communication networks have also become a way to improve customer experience as studies show that 1 in 3 social media users prefer customer service and customer care being conducted via social media to phone or email.
These networks drive sales and create brand awareness. Still, they also play an important role in analyzing target audiences and consumer markets, giving companies a broader overview of the tools and resources they require to leave a lasting impression on their followers.
Let’s have a look at five free social media management tools any small and medium-sized business owner should be considering for their organization.
While Later was originally designed and launched as an app dedicated to Instagram, the platform today supports several other social media networks while constantly adding new features as it grows.
Later is more than a social media marketing tool; it helps business owners create content that is striking and engaging and generates more click-through traffic helping owners direct their followers from their social media accounts to their websites.
There is a strong emphasis on visual content on Later, which makes it a more suitable add-on for businesses looking to increase their Instagram and TikTok following. Content scheduling still plays a big role, and in recent years the platform added tools and features that help to create and schedule images, videos, posts, and stories all under one umbrella.
What’s unique about Later is that it seamlessly helps tie together several important aspects of social media management, both visual and non-visual, to bring forth a powerful platform that can be used for free.
Free subscriptions on Later still give users access to features such as analytics, saved captions, and scheduled stories, among others. For small business owners who want to splurge a bit of cash on their social media management tools, Later’s cheapest plan starts at $9,00 per month, a good starting point for any small-scale operation.
For quite some time, Buffer has remained a strong contender in social media management, allowing users more streamlined social media marketing features.
Although the platform only supports several social media networks, including LinkedIn and Pinterest, it does have some noteworthy free features that can help small businesses effectively manage their social accounts from one dashboard.
The basic layout of Buffer includes posting schedules, a Google Analytics campaign tracker, and a shuffling queue to create and enhance the variety of posts and content on a feed.
The platform helps to scale social media marketing efforts, and it comes with a friendly-to-use interface, which is perhaps why so many businesses and social media influencers are currently using it.
In a nutshell, one could say that Buffer is more of a social media automation tool with added features and resources. A majority of the core focus does help businesses queue their content and allow for it to publish automatically. For any small business owner, automated publishing helps them to post content that will keep their audiences engaged at all times, even when they are not present or seeing slower online traffic.
Free subscriptions include a small powerhouse of resources, but business owners who are looking to scale up their operations in the coming months or years will find more benefits with their paid plans.
Twitter is one of the most underutilized social media networks for small businesses, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be, as the app sees more than 229 million daily active users as of 2022. Although 67% of B2B businesses use Twitter as a marketing tool, there is a lot of potential for smaller businesses when it comes to this social media network.
For the businesses that are on Twitter, though, TweetDeck is a simple management system that helps users create customizable social media dashboards which they can use to send and receive different tweets, manage their accounts, and monitor their profiles.
Users can upload and save future tweets and posts in their scheduling domain and set their tweets to be posted on predetermined dates.
TweetDeck isn’t necessarily the most intriguing or complex platform out there, but it does serve a good purpose for business owners who are leveraging the possibilities of Twitter.
There are paid subscriptions, but smaller businesses that can get away with the basics will be able to enjoy the standard free features.
Not many business owners and entrepreneurs know about this beginner social media management platform that includes several interesting features that are available for free to any person.
Something that sets Friend+Me aside from others is that it gives users the freedom to integrate with several browser extensions both on desktop and mobile devices and works on Android and iOS.
The basic free account also gives users access to post-scheduling options and automated actions such as creating new posts or even streaming content from RSS feeds.
All other integrations can be controlled and monitored from one account and work on Facebook, now Meta, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Although there is the opportunity for the platform to become integrated with other popular social networks such as Instagram or TikTok, Friends+Me is a straightforward tool that gives small business owners just enough power to get their social media management under control.
There are some drawbacks, and the platform doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles that one would expect, but for a small team of marketers and creators, this could be the right tool that can help get them started with social media management.
Aside from the free and basic subscription options, users can also choose from paid plans which are between $9,00 and $1,200 per month. The bigger the plan, the more one can queue and schedule posts while also adding up to 50 team members when paying for the premium subscription.
With so much cross-integration between social media networks while also including a business website, keeping track of and monitoring everything can be a tumultuous challenge at best.
CoSchedule is a bit more than a social media management tool, and it comes in different sizes depending on the scale of the business and social media marketing requirements.
For starters, CoSchedule has a built-in scheduling system that allows users to upload their posts and set them to be posted at a specific time. This might seem straightforward, but users can schedule a single post that can be posted across various social media networks at different times.
Users will also be able to view performance reports to see how a campaign or post has been performing. With this information at hand, it gives users a better chance to schedule posts to be posted at times when they are more likely to enjoy better exposure and interaction from followers.
Everything on CoSchedule can be done through a tailor-made publishing schedule, even messages to followers or follow-up messages. These features are all part of the free package, and for smaller, mid-tier businesses, there is a paid option that starts at $39,00 per month. Larger companies can request a quote directly from CoSchedule.
Performance is a key driver for CoSchedule, and that’s why many companies and entrepreneurs choose to work with a platform that allows them a lot more freedom, flexibility, and autonomy when it comes to managing their social media tasks and campaigns.
Social media influence on social commerce
Social media has become such an integral part of organizations these days that some high-end and medium-tier brands spent an estimated $132 billion on social media advertising in 2020, with some experts suggesting this figure will grow exponentially in the coming years as more brands and consumers move online.
Traditionally, social media was seen as a powerful tool to connect and stay connected; nowadays, it’s a platform through which companies can establish an intersection of both media and commerce.
Rapidly changing consumer behavior has led to companies adjusting their marketing strategies according to their customer’s needs; without change or innovation, many could see their profits being run into the ground.
Only in the last few years have we seen social commerce play a more prominent role in the way businesses operate. Changing consumer behavior against the backdrop of younger generations – Millennials and Generation Z – now having more spending power is leading to surging demand for digital tools for companies to utilize properly.
Shopping on social media is big money, and in the United States, it’s estimated that by 2025 social commerce will inject close to $100 billion into the local economy. The majority of this comes from younger shoppers as they accumulate wealth and increase their spending power.
Research by the Influencing Marketing Factory revealed that more than 40% of Millennials and Gen Zs shopped on social media last year.
This marks a strong turning point in how companies not only present themselves online but also how they engage and sell to customers.
While there are a lot of factors that are directly woven into the success rate of social media performance, with the right guidance and management tools, smaller companies can achieve a success rate faster and more sustainably.
From afar, social media management can seem intimidating, especially for younger entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Running a single-person operation or managing a team of a couple of employees is already taxing enough; checking up on social media performance only adds more burden to any business owner’s schedule. Not only this, there are specific costs involved when looking to hire a professional or purchase specific tools that can help to automate processes.
Social media management is more than posting a picture on Facebook and Instagram or responding to customer questions and comments directly. It’s also more than uploading short YouTube content videos hoping to receive countless views in a couple of days.
While customer experience is a key differentiator between a well-thought social media strategy and a lesser-planned one, analytics, and growth help to paint a better picture of where a company should be better focussing their efforts.
Sprout Social found that although brands will spend differently on social media management as this is largely based on their needs and goals, on average, some businesses will spend roughly $12,300 per month on managing their social accounts.
The breakdown consists of content creation ($5,250 per month), social advertising ($5,000 per month), and platform management ($2,050 per month), among other types of expenses that are not always accounted for when starting.
For small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, social media management costs can take a hefty bite out of their monthly budgets and profits. Using the right tools not only makes the work a lot less streamlined but can help deliver better insights on how strategies need to improve to gain more followership, grow brand awareness and drive sales.
While social media has allowed businesses a new opportunity to gain better market attention while also increasing their profitability and brand loyalty, it’s also given them a new set of challenges that are not easy to overcome without the right set of tools.
Digital advancements have made it easier and more convenient for businesses to develop a social media marketing strategy that will help them become more efficient while also delivering engaging content on multiple social network channels.
These tools are becoming omnipresent, and for small business owners, it means that they have a way to build their social media and increase followership while at the same time managing all these properties from the comfort of a single dashboard.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Tracy Le Blanc; Pexels; Thank you!