5 free (or cheap) social media management tools to get your program off the ground

Some of the best things in life are free. “FREE” by JwvnEck is licensed under CC 2.0.

Facebook is free to use, so shouldn’t social media management be free, too? Nope! Just like any communications program, a great social media program is far from free, but there are some awesome tools that are free (or cheap)!

Here are my favorite free (or cheap) tools to get your social media management program started.

  1. Tweetdeck — How do you manage the flood of Twitter? With a home newsfeed that is constantly moving and refreshing, it can be hard to track conversations. This is where Tweetdeck comes in handy. With it’s simple columns and quick-search, this tool is in every social media managers back pocket. Even when I used top-notch tools like Sprinklr, I still kept Tweetdeck open to manage keyword searches or media related searches. Because Tweetdeck is owned by Twitter, it refreshes quickly and it’s easy to filter through searches. Best of all, it’s completely free.
  2. Buffer — Once you start writing and publishing content, you quickly learn that you can’t just use native platforms to post. You want to find the best time to post, and that’s where scheduling tools like Buffer come in. Buffer is simple, easy-to-use and even auto-posts content when it knows you’ll get the best return. If you have a more advance social media program, this may not be the right fit (you’ll need more analytics and versatility), but if you’re a small business or freelancer, this is an excellent entry point. It starts out free and has the option for more advance features, starting at $10 per month.
  3. SproutSocial — Okay, so maybe your social media program is a bit more advanced? Want analytics and the option to see a calendar view of your posts? SproutSocial is the tool for you! Before I went with Sprinklr, Sprout  was our go-to social media manager because it had a slick app, nice calendar view, inbound feed that showed mentions and other team-members as well as a pretty advanced analytics feed that came without an extra cost. You can get a month free trial and pricing starts at $99 per month per user.
  4. Google Analytics — A classic. If you manage a website and social media pages, you need to know a bit about Google Analytics, too. Through Google Analytics you can view page referrals, where you’ll see the real impact social media accounts are having. Get digging!
  5. Native social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in particular have gotten really good at reporting on social media analytics and even helping with publishing on Facebook. While you may not get all the fancy graphs and specific stats, all social media sites offer top-level metrics and reports. You may have to pull out the spreadsheet to manage results and benchmark, but there is nothing better than seeing results straight from the source.

There you have it. Five basic tools to get you started. Of course there are thousands of tools out there — all offering something slightly different. Once you get your social media program off the ground with easy, low-lift tools, then I recommend researching to find the management tool that fits your need. And remember, even if you find an enterprise tool you love, you may still need to rely on these free ones!