Best social media management tools for SMEs right now

Managing your social media effectively is vital to any brand's success. Find the perfect management tool for your business with this review of the best providers on the market.

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According to our expert research, the best social media management platform is Hootsuite, due to its in-depth reporting functionality, excellent customer support, and affordable cost.

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Sprout Social






Zoho Social

Best for

Collaborating with freelancers and clients

Best for

Best all round social media management tool

Best for

Understanding your target audience

Best for

Affordability, and scheduling all social content in one place

Best for

Uploading imagery quickly and easily

Best for

Pausing content in emergency situations

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£10 per user per month

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£39 per month per user

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£75 per user per month

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£0 per month

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£49 per month for two users

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£8 per user per month

Free plan
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But that’s not to say Hootsuite will suit every business, and there are other social media management tools on the market that may be more tailored to the needs of your business.

For example, Sprout Social provides comprehensive social media training resources, and Buffer offers excellent affordability.

Either way, mastering these platforms yourself can become costly if you don’t manage to achieve a healthy ROI.

This is why we’d recommend getting support from a digital marketing agency to help you use these tools effectively.

Why not use our free, custom-built quote comparison tool to compare agencies directly? It’s zero obligation and only takes two minutes to use.

Or read on to find out more about the best social media management tools on the market for small businesses.

1. Hootsuite – best all round social media management tool

Plans from: £39 per month per user

Hootsuite is arguably the world’s first social media management platform. The software helps businesses of all sizes successfully manage its social media, from startups to large enterprises.

It’s our top-rated social media management tool, and for good reason.

Its fully customisable reports allow users to generate insights across a whole range of platforms. This in turn will help you – and your stakeholders – monitor the success of your marketing campaigns in a quick and easily digestible way.

Although this is a feature offered by other management tools, no software produces visual reports as efficiently and effectively as Hootsuite. And, when it comes to social media management, reporting is paramount.

It has a number of clever interaction tools to ensure engagement with your followers remains consistent, which is a key driver of social media growth for brands. You can respond to posts quickly by routing posts to the right person in the right department.

Plus, you can also create specific approval workflows, to ensure all posts are consistent and compliant with your brand’s tone of voice, no matter who is managing which platform.

There are many other amazing features, which we have summarised in the pros section below. But the fact you can manage up to 10 social accounts for just £39 per user per month, is evidence enough that Hootsuite rightfully earns the top spot as our number one social media management tool for startups.

Although it isn’t without its drawbacks. It offers no free plan, unlike Buffer.

And although its starter plan is relatively cheap compared to the likes of Sprout Social, to get access to features such as roles and permissions you’ll need to be on one of Hootsuite’s premium plans. This will set you back at least £139 per month.

  • 30-day free trial so users can test out the platform before they buy
  • Easy-to-use, automated optimisation of the best times to post on each platform, saving you time on heavy data crunching and ensuring your content has the best chance of engagement
  • Hootsuite’s exclusive Panoramiq Multiview app allows users to manage all interactions on Instagram in one, simple dashboard - and gather data on comments, mentions, and photo tags
  • Full account audits and network monitoring make it easy to safeguard your accounts and maintain your brand reputation. You even get real-time security alerts so you can act fast
  • In order to access the post assignment and roles and permissions features, you’ll need to be paying for a more premium plan, which is expensive (£139 per month) if your marketing budget is low
  • Media in the platform can be difficult to manage, with portrait Instagram posts being especially fiddly
Georgina Bojarski, Director of Paid Social at Buddy Media Group, has always used Hootsuite to track analytics on Instagram. She says:

“With HootSuite, we can compare timeframes, download reports, tailor our dashboards, find out that ‘10am on a Monday is the worst time to post about going to the pub with your friends’.

“But most importantly, we can measure sentiment with IG comment ranking – both positive and negative. And we can measure return on investment, which is fundamental when calculating the success of your marketing.”

Visit Buddy Media Group

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2. Sprout Social – best for understanding your target audience

Plans from: £75 per user per month

sprout social

Sprout Social has a long and illustrious history in the social media industry. Its all-in-one social management platform has won countless industry awards, and looks after over 30,000 brands and organisations of all sizes.

It has a number of excellent features to help support you achieve your social media marketing goals. In particular, its social listening feature allows users to uncover critical insights, identify industry gaps and keep track of brand equity.

This includes tracking and analysing conversations around relevant topics and keywords.

Many tools don’t offer this functionality, and this is a key feature that separates Hootsuite from Sprout Social. Even when social listening is offered by other platforms (Zoho) it isn’t nearly as in-depth and efficient as Sprout.

As well as social listening, your business will benefit from efficient streamlining to save you the time and stress of interacting and engaging with followers on an individual level.

Sprout’s automation features and customisable workflows let you organise all incoming messages and reply to them from a single location.

It does have its negatives, however. It is considerably more expensive than the majority of tools on our list, particularly Hootsuite and Buffer.

And it doesn’t combine competitors’ reports cross-platform, which means you can’t measure how successful your Twitter marketing strategy is compared to another brand’s Instagram strategy. This could make it harder to predict how you will perform if launching on a new social platform.

  • Visualised content schedule helps you keep organised and plan your publishing strategy clearly and confidently in one place
  • Access to optimal posting times for your content, highlighted in a very simple and easy to understand way, simpler in fact than Hootsuite
  • 30-day free trial so users can test out the platform before they buy
  • Comprehensive training and educational materials available to help teach you and your team how to extract the important, actionable insights that impact success, rather than waste time on the insights that aren’t vital
  • Compare your performance on platforms with your competitors so you can identify new opportunities and benchmark results compared to other brands
  • The cheapest plan is considerably more expensive than Hootsuite’s, and you only have access to 5 social profiles compared to Hootsuite’s 10 which limits what you can do
  • Doesn’t combine competitor reports cross-platform, which means you can’t measure how successful your Twitter marketing strategy is compared to another brand’s Instagram strategy. This could make it harder to predict how you will perform if launching on a new platform

3. Planable: best for collaborating with freelancers and clients

Plans from: £10 per user per month 

Planable may be the new kid on the block, but it certainly doesn’t hold any punches when it comes to its social media management offering.

For starters, its customers can create, tweak, and preview social posts all in one place. This saves the effort and time-consuming task of jumping from tab to tab (previewing posts and making edits on different pages is not anyone’s idea of fun).

You can even jazz up your posts with emojis, hashtags, and GIFs all in one centralised place, unlike other social media management tools such as CoSchedule that don’t let you add emojis on platforms like Instagram unless you post directly onto the app. And without emojis, Instagram posts struggle to gain traction.

As well as its time-saving, streamlined content creation functionality, Planable boasts an efficient arsenal of collaboration features that are ideal for small businesses working with freelancers. Posts can be previewed exactly as they’ll look live, and can be shared with any clients or team members as a second (or third) pair of eyes.

You can even set different permission levels for each collaborator, allowing you to determine who has the ability to make changes to posts, and who can simply view them. Plus, collaborators can freely comment next to the post to share their ideas and feedback, meaning you can collaborate in one place, rather than wasting time messaging on Slack or sending an email.

Like Iconosquare, Planable comes with extensive media storage, allowing you to keep all your media in one central location, and even see how many posts an asset has been used in (nobody likes a GIF overkill). This is just the tip of the feature iceberg for Planable, which at £10 per month for up to 4 social media pages (including TikTok) and unlimited posts is an absolute steal.

It has drawbacks of course. It offers a free plan but this is nothing more than a tester page that gives users no access to any social media pages for their workspace.

Support is also minimal with the basic plan, with only the help (knowledge) centre to guide you if you have any issues (and no access to direct live chat or priority support).

  • Unlimited posts per month on all plans so you can post at will with zero limitations
  • Four ways to view content depending on your preference, including feed, calendar, grid, or list
  • On its pro and enterprise plan, Planable customers can import content published outside of Planable into the software, and can make edits and changes and add to other social media pages
  • One-click approvals allow managers and social media executives to carry out final checks on any social posts before they go live - quality checks are important!
  • Internal notes can be added for team members only whilst collaborating, so clients can see the post but won’t know if you are discussing making changes (handy to prevent confusion)
  • No free trial unlike Sprout Social or Hootsuite, so you can’t test out any paid plans (although you have the option to try the free version of Planable)
  • Lacking in terms of analytics and performance monitoring, making it hard to strategise and determine how each campaign is doing
Do you want support to master these tools, instead of losing time using them incorrectly?

They might seem relatively simple to use, but wrapping your head around the mechanics of these social media management tools can be difficult.

By hiring a digital marketing agency to help you, you enlist the support of a team of marketing experts to look after your social media campaigns using tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social.

Simply use our cost comparison tool to be put in touch with some of the UK’s top agencies. It is free, and takes just minutes to complete.

4. Buffer – best for affordability, and scheduling all social content in one place

Plans from: Free plan available

One of the key benefits that set Buffer apart from other social media management tools, such as Sprout and Hootsuite, is the fact it offers its users a free plan.

And although you only have access to 3 social channels, it is the perfect solution for any startup or small brand that needs assistance managing its socials on a micro-level. Particularly as it still comes with some useful features, including tailored posts and Instagram reel scheduling.

Buffer is also specially tailored to Instagram marketing management, which includes direct scheduling across all channels and automated first comments on your posts (to help drive engagement).

As well as this, Buffer has exclusively designed the Instagram shop grid, which enables brands and retail businesses to link to multiple products in their bio, without a third-party tool (goodbye!). This makes it even easier for you to sell products and services to your customers, as it is one less action required of them before purchase.

In terms of drawbacks, Buffer is heavily tailored to Instagram, and this becomes clear when you use the tool for the management of other platforms such as LinkedIn. So for brands that aren’t focusing on Instagram marketing, you will not be getting the most out of this tool if you decide to use it.

  • 14-day trial for all its plans so you can try before you buy. Also one of the only platforms that offer a truly effective free plan
  • Create visually appealing and engaging 'Start pages' for your Instagram link in bio - that genuinely help you drive traffic to your website
  • Produce fully customised performance reports, and easily export them to share with managers and stakeholders to demonstrate quickly and easily how well your campaigns are going
  • Reply to comments straight from your desktop in one dashboard, saving you tons of time replying individually to users on each platform
  • A lot of the unique features are heavily tailored to Instagram, so if that isn’t one of the focal platforms of your marketing strategy, you might not reap the benefits
  • No ‘social listening’ capabilities like Sprout Social - harder to act on insights and trends

5. Iconosquare: best for uploading imagery quickly and easily

Plans from: £49 per month for two users

Iconosquare might not be as well-known and celebrated as the likes of Hootsuite and Sprout Social, but that doesn’t make it any less of an excellent social media management tool.

Recommended as the best tool to track Instagram analytics by marketing consultant Neil Patel, Iconosquare has everything a small business needs to make data-driven marketing decisions.

Its customisable dashboard allows you to produce in-depth analytics reports across the majority of social media platforms, saving you the time and effort of putting them together yourself. And ensuring you know which campaigns are performing well, and which aren’t.

You can also manage all of your social accounts in one place, streamlining the user interaction and engagement process by enabling multi-profile management from a single dashboard.

However, easily the handiest feature of Iconosquare’s social media management offering, is its media library. Users can bulk upload images and store them for later, making it super quick and easy to attach assets to your content and keep all of your creatives in one place. It even tags images that have already been used in your content, so you don’t risk posting twice!

This is in comparison to the likes of Sprout Social and CoSchedule, in which you have to upload images individually each time you schedule a post.

Even though Iconosquare has plenty of great features at its user’s disposal, many of them aren’t accessible until you sign up for its advanced or enterprise plan, which is costly, particularly for startups.

  • The feed preview function lets you double-check what your Instagram feed will look like before you post content. This is really handy considering you can’t make changes to Insta posts once they have gone live
  • Scheduling allows you to set future posts on Facebook, Insta and Twitter, and you can even automate GIF tweets on your accounts. So if you need to step away to work on other things, you know your content is still going out
  • The Media library saves you tons of time uploading photos and resizing/compressing them for each individual post
  • Industry benchmarks allow you to compare your performance with other brands using metrics like follower growth and average engagement per post
  • A lot of features are only available on Iconosquare’s advanced and enterprise plans, which are costly
  • No listening tools to help you paint a picture of the consumer market like with Sprout Social
Digital marketing agencies can help you master social media management tools!

We’ve reviewed the best agencies in the UK for small businesses. Check out the article to get support for your marketing strategy and ensure you are one step ahead of your competitors.

6. Zoho Social – best for pausing content in emergency situations

Plans from: £8 per user per month

Many business owners will know Zoho for its excellent CRM system. But it also offers an efficient, and incredibly affordable, social media management solution for small businesses.

Its standard plan is one of the cheapest on the market (at £8 per month) and lets you post on up to 7 channels, although it only allows for 1 team member. This is good but isn’t quite as affordable as Buffer, which allows for unlimited channels and is only £5 per month.

As for its features, the stand-out for Zoho is its pause post feature. If your brand is having some sort of crisis, or there is a national/international emergency (such as the pandemic or war) and it isn’t the right time to push your campaign, you are able to pause all of your pending posts.

Once the dust has settled and things have returned to normality, you can simply continue your social media campaign by clicking the resume button. Zoho is one of the only management tools to offer this functionality, which is very useful considering the state of the world right now.

Zoho also offers a listening dashboard, much like Sprout Social. This enables you to create listening columns to track brand reviews, ‘@’ mentions and create a list of brand keywords that will alert you to a conversation on socials that your brand should be getting involved with.

Support however isn’t available 24/7, and you can only contact Zoho via email which is frustrating if you need to sort an issue out urgently.

  • Access to insights on the users that engage with your content, Zoho tells you how many times they have engaged with you, and how many followers they have, which can give you a snapshot into the value of interacting with a fan or a follower
  • Roles and permissions allow you to bring other colleagues on board and ensure the right team members have access to your brand's socials
  • A 15-day free trial lets you try out the software to ensure it is the right fit for you
  • Support is only available on weekdays and the team can only be contacted via email - inconvenient if you have a pressing issue that needs solving immediately
  • Not currently integrated with TikTok, although this is being worked on

How do I choose the right social media management tool?

When choosing a social media management tool for your small business, you should hone in on these five important aspects. To get in your good books, the right tool should tick the following boxes and criteria:

  • User experience – consider how friendly and accessible the software is to use. Think about if you need training or advanced knowledge, or if you can simply set it up and start scheduling. Will it require support from a social media marketing agency? Hootsuite has solid customer reviews, often cited because of its ease of use and simple, clear dashboard layout
  • Features – assess the features each tool offers: do you need the basic elements or a package with plenty of options? You should also ensure that your chosen tool works with all major social networks. Zoho for example has some incredibly helpful features accessible to users, including its AI functionality
  • Affordability – will it work for your startup’s budget? And more importantly, does it offer great value for money? Buffer offers a free plan that lets you schedule content and manage a number of social media accounts which is ideal for any business on a minimal budget
  • Customer support – find out how you can contact customer service, as well as how responsive and helpful the team is
  • Marketing goals – think about what you are hoping to achieve with social media marketing. Will the tool you choose help you achieve your goals in a simple way?

If the software shines in these areas, it’s bound to work well for you.

Next steps: hiring a marketing agency to help you use these tools effectively

To summarise, the best social media management tools for small businesses are:

  1. Hootsuite
  2. Sprout Social
  3. Planable
  4. Buffer
  5. Iconosquare
  6. Zoho Social

Hootsuite has everything you need to master your social media marketing strategy. Its scheduling and analytics are unmatched, and it is incredibly affordable considering the vast number of features it offers.

Sprout Social is a close contender, not least because of its excellent social listening functionality that lets you identify consumer trends and understand your brand’s equity.

Regardless of our opinion, we recommend you hire a digital marketing agency to support you. Agencies have years of experience in the industry, working with multiple social media management tools at once.

They are best equipped to ensure you get the most out of these social media management tools, and after all, you don’t want a poor ROI do you?

To compare quotes from some of the UK’s top digital marketing agencies, simply use our free cost comparison tool, and we will put you in touch with providers like Yell.

The form takes just minutes to complete, and we will do the rest! is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

Written by:
Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.
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