How we spent almost five years finding the best social media scheduling tool for our agency

We’ve spent the past five-ish years testing social media schedulers. It wasn’t a choice, we didn’t intend to be difficult. It’s taken blood, sweat and tears; endless angry emails; longwinded workarounds and countless product demos, but (hopefully) the end is in sight. In this article we’ll take a look back at our experience of using numerous social media scheduling tools, with all the gory details included. I hope you’re sitting comfortably…                 

As a start-up social media agency with a fairly large client base, it’s always been difficult finding a social media scheduling tool that fits our requirements. We don’t have the luxury of shelling out thousands a month for the top shelf schedulers (here’s looking at you, Sprout Social 👀), but we’re very particular in the features we need to ensure we can offer our service to the high standard our clients expect. Some may call us pedants, but when you spend your waking hours obsessing over clients’ social pages, you can’t help but be a perfectionist.

Let’s start from the beginning – it all started so promisingly…

The Buffer era (2015-2018)

Oh, the good old days. Quick, simple and ever-dependable, Buffer is a fantastic social media scheduler that’s perfect for agencies and freelance social media managers. Slick and streamlined, Buffer focuses heavily on the scheduling aspect of social media management, which, when we started up, suited our service to a T. Whereas other social media tools can be complicated and clunky, Buffer has an interface that’s easy to navigate, and you can fire out posts to multiple pages in matter of seconds. For the ever-busy social media manager, it’s a godsend. Download the free Chrome extension and posting becomes a breeze.

Buffer pricing table
An affordable option

Unfortunately, it’s what Buffer doesn’t have that caused us to part ways (it still hurts). Buffer has no real analytics feature, making it difficult to offer your clients in-depth monthly reports. When you’ve got scores of clients, you want an analytics feature that allows you to download accurate reports that you can email across when needed. When you click on Buffer’s ‘Analyze’ button, it takes you to this mailer sign-up, which promises that an analytics feature is in the pipeline. Buffer team, when your analytics is up and running, we’ll run to you.

DMT says:

Tim: Buffer was my favourite scheduling tool by far. Its calendar view makes it so easy to keep on track of your scheduling calendar for each client.

Pros: Easy to use, free Chrome extension, ability to post to multiple clients at once, calendar view makes it easy to stay organised

Cons: No reporting feature

Pricetag: We went for the medium business package, giving us up to 50 social accounts and 11 users for just $199 a month. Bargain!

Our verdict: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

The Days of Sendible (Feb 2018 – April 2018)

Confronted with the need to find a social media scheduling tool that included a reporting feature, we began to look at alternative options. Research suggested that Hootsuite was the right fit, but we were told that the costing was a little too high for what we needed. We grumbled a bit but kept on with our search, and soon stumbled across Sendible. Jam-packed full of features, Sendible at first appeared to be a playground for social media managers, so we eagerly signed up for the large package (heh).

Sendible homepage
Big claim

Sendible seemed like the right fit for us. It integrated with a wide variety of social platforms, had a clean-looking interface and offered impressive reports that we could email directly to our clients. In-built key word monitoring also allowed us to perform social listening, which was a handy addition. UTM links sweetened the deal even more. We were sold.

Our enthusiasm was short-lived, as ONE DAY after signing up we submitted our first ticket to the support team.

“I do have a question/issue actually. We signed up for the large package yesterday as we’re pretty impressed with the service. However, I scheduled two posts to go out for clients last night (links with body text). Even though the images showed in the preview, neither of them pulled through, so we posted links and text with no image. I can’t think why this happened – the only thing I did differently with these posts was use the Google Chrome extension (I think), and a lot of the reviews said that it doesn’t work with Mac. Is this an issue that’s been reported before, can you help?”

This issue became a saga, and the first of many gnawing issues that made a promising scheduling tool into a bit of a liability. Issues included clients disappearing from the scheduling calendar, incorrect link previews and constantly having to run links through Facebook’s debugger tool. Our patience grew thin and we soon cancelled the service, turning out attention to the ultimate solution…

DMT says:

Aimee: I was feeling pretty confident with Sendible at first. I loved its simplistic layout and it had a very handy calendar letting you know any upcoming national holidays. However, it wasn’t long before I lost my trust, sending numerous tickets to the support team asking why clients had gone missing from my page, why a scheduled post had gone out without the link, etc. In the end, it was simply inconsistent.

Pros: Attractive interface, reporting tool, integrates with many platforms, UTM links, keyword monitoring

Cons: Unreliable

Price tag: The large package comes in at £245 per month, offering 192 services, 60 reports and 12 users

Our verdict: 🔥🔥🔥  

Hootsuite (April 2018 – April 2019)

Yeah, we went there. I’m not gonna lie, I pretty much stomped my feet until we got Hootsuite, pitching our directors with how great it was and how it was the next logical step in our agency’s progression. Surely millions of social media managers couldn’t be wrong?

Hootsuite logo

It was Hootsuite’s Business solution that fit us best. Sure, we couldn’t link up as many social profiles, but the 35 profile limit just about matched up with our client base at the time. The package came with a pretty thorough onboarding process, which I can’t fault, and tied us in for a year’s contract. We signed up, feeling victorious, excited about what was to come.

Hootsuite promised social listening, reports, a handy calendar view, and many other features that make it a popular choice for social media managers worldwide. However, as this article succinctly points out – it’s a tool I want to like, but don’t have much confidence in. Although it integrates with a wide range of platforms and has a useful mobile app and Chrome extension, there are numerous downsides to Hootsuite.

Hootsuite pricing
Best get saving

If you haven’t set up a Hootsuite dashboard, then you might not understand the struggle that came next. In order to best utilise Hootsuite’s wide range of features, you must set up a dashboard, allowing you to keep tabs on your clients’ profiles and incoming notifications. If I had to describe it, I’d say it was similar to Tweetdeck, but worse. The style of dashboard could well suit a social media manager who works in-house, or only has a couple of clients, but for an agency with a large client base, it was a tough task. What’s more, attempting to add so many clients and platforms to the dashboard made it very slow, to the point where our team members would dread opening it up.

Once we got past the initial set up and realised we couldn’t leave our contract for a year, we settled into using the tool. It wasn’t so bad, but it definitely wasn’t the saviour we’d hoped for, especially not for the price tag it came with. What’s more, we also faced a problem where it wasn’t allowing us to link up Facebook pages, which as a Facebook-focused agency, caused a real issue when taking on new clients. The reporting suite (both the new and old version) didn’t really offer any profound insights, and we eventually resorted to using a different tool for our reports.  

We saw out our Hootsuite contract without any real disasters, but I’d like to apologise at this point to our long-suffering account manager, who had to deal with a lot of support tickets from our team. It’d be interesting to see whether other agencies struggle with Hootsuite or if we’re just hard to please. However, we jumped ship as soon as we could. What does the future hold for our content team? Time will tell…

DMT says:

Aimee: Hootsuite offers a maze of difficult and confusing features. The reports were riddled with 404 errors, making them look completely unprofessional.

Nicole: Confusing and contains too many features that we didn’t really use

Pros: Hootlet Google Chrome extension, account manager

Cons: Clunky and slow, complicated dashboard, expensive

Price tag: £400 per month for the Business solution

Our verdict: 🔥🔥

Social Report (April 19 – )

We discovered Social Report whilst complaining about Hootsuite on Reddit. A helpful Social Report employee offered us a demo, and we were really impressed with what we saw. Unfortunately we were tied into our contract, so we had to wait a really long time to sign up for our service.

Social Report integrations
All dem integrations

It’s too early to give a real opinion on Social Report, but it seems pretty promising. As the name suggests, one of its key features is a really strong reporting suite. You can even go back in time to retrieve historical data, allowing you to make comparisons from before you take on a client. One particularly handy feature is the ability to give clients access to their account, allowing them to view any scheduled posts we have scheduled. This removes the need to send over content calendars, which is a good time-saver.

Social Report pricing table
Refreshingly affordable

The two key features that set Social Report aside from the competition are ‘game-changing customer support’ and very affordable costing. The customer support for many social media schedulers can be dreadful, and when you’ve signed up for a costly tool, you don’t want to have to wait hours (even days) for a reply to a support ticket. Social Report allows you to chat to support staff whenever you have a question, even getting a lightning-fast response from a real person! Game-changing indeed.

Nicole: I’m really excited about using this, especially after a free demo! The additional support offered by the Social Report staff will really come in handy, no doubt.

Pros: Affordable, great interface, solid support team, client access

Cons: TBC

Price tag: The pro package is $199 a month, which offers 20 projects (brands). Each project thereafter costs $10.

Verdict: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 (fingers crossed)

Other tools used

Onlypult

Onlypult Instagram scheduler
Onlypult’s recent update introduced a slick interface

We use Onlypult for Instagram scheduling, as it offers a quick and easy service which helps us manage our Instagram clients from desktop. With the ability to schedule photos, videos and stories; ‘first comment’ feature and even a direct message function, it’s a great little tool that can make your life easier.

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck dashboard
Tweetdeck has stayed true to its column-based dashboard

Twitter’s Tweetdeck stays true to the column-based dashboard, but it’s fairly speedy, and miles better than Hootsuite. It allows you to manage unlimited accounts from one dashboard and it’s free, bonus.

Facebook Business Manager

Facebook Business Manager logo
Business as usual

A staple. Business Manager is the only 100% reliable way to see how your post will look before it goes live. Scheduling using Business Manager is necessary at times, for example if you’re scheduling a shopping post or a shared post from another page. The only issue here is the fear when Business Manager goes down (every social media manager’s recurring nightmare).

We’d love to hear your experience of working with social media management tools. Get in touch! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.