There are tons of social media management tools. This fact and their feature diversity paired with complex pricing strategies make it harder to choose the right platform. In this guide, we’re going over the hidden costs of 6 popular social media management tools to help you pick the best one.
The data that we gathered during our research on social media management tools and their pricing plans is open to everybody and free to share.
Finding a social media management tool to stick with is a tough task. If you’re a digital marketing specialist, you already know how tedious and time-consuming it can get. You sign up and start trying it out, scheduling, checking analytics, and monitoring your community.
14 or 30 days later, your trial is over. So you buy one of the plans only to realize you can’t add more team members or your collaborators can’t join you. While scheduling, you notice you have reached a “30 scheduled messages” limit.
We want to help you prevent this so we’re presenting you a transparent overview of the pricing tactics for 6 of the best social media management tools.
Before we jump ahead, let’s take a moment to think about your main priorities when it comes to social media management.
Ideally, here’s everything you should look for with a social media management tool:
Social Profiles - This indicates how many social network accounts you’re going to use. The number varies in different tools, with the range extending to as many as 100 profiles.
Users - Are you the only one who needs to use the social media management tool? Or do you work with a team and need to bring on multiple users? The number of users each tool’s plans allow differs and you’ll need to see what user settings and roles the apps allow. Some tools will charge you more when you want to add another user or external collaborator.
Publishing - This feature refers to the app’s scheduling and content publishing capabilities. Some tools offer unlimited scheduling while others impose limits for these.
Social inbox - The engagement feature helps you stay in touch with your audience and answer comments or messages from a single platform. This is a must-have feature if you’re hosting your entire community on your social channels or if you manage multiple social profiles and need to engage with all of them simultaneously.
Reporting - Look for weekly and monthly reports for every social media management tool you’re using. These can give you either general or specific insights into the performance, reach, and engagement of your social media marketing efforts.
Competitor Analysis - Knowing if you’re ahead or behind your competitors lets you tweak your social strategy to stay ahead. You can use this option from the start of your marketing campaigns to grow your reach and earn more leads.
Listening - Social media is not about you, it’s about your audience. This is why social media listening tools provide close insights into the latest news about your brand and what your audience is posting about you. This feature is mandatory if you plan on using your social channels for customer support as they allow you to quickly answer inquiries and complaints.
Team Features - Working with a team? You’ll need efficient ways of collaboratively editing posts, getting approval from managers, and setting up a joint team schedule.
Adding additional profiles/users/competitors monthly - You might not know how many profiles, users, or competitors you need to track on a monthly basis. So a plan that allows you to add these at a smaller extra cost is essential to avoid losing money on purchasing an entirely new plan.
Once two tools provide the same features but one is more affordable, you’ll likely prioritize a cheaper option. Most often though, there’s a hidden cost behind the seemingly more affordable option. And we’re here to prepare you for this.
Here’s a look at all of the hidden costs and tricks social media management tools use:
1. Number of maximum seats
Adding more team members or collaborators usually comes at an extra cost. But you shouldn’t have to upgrade your subscription plan just to bring a couple of users on board. In Sprout Social, for instance, adding one more seat to the Standard plan costs you an extra $99/month. This is the cost of the plan and it means you’ll have to pay double for the same features just to get one more user on board.
Instead, opt for tools with additional add-ons for new users to keep the pricing flexible. This is super important for enterprises and agencies where you can have 100 users under one plan managing as many as 1000 social media accounts.
2. Adding extra features
In a tool like Sociality.io, you get access to all modules regardless of your pricing plan. In other solutions such as Buffer, the team collaboration features come as an add-on. Problem is, the add-on is the same price as the actual plan. So you end up paying double for one more feature.
You can avoid extra costs by looking at the complete list of features for every social media management tool. Do keep in mind you’ll first need to make a list of must-have and nice-to-have features to decide which plan would work best for you.
3. Connecting multiple social media accounts
Subscriptions for social media management tools are usually created based on team sizes. So startups and SMBs will likely need up to 5 social channels while a marketing agency can use 200+. The number of social accounts you can add is usually clearly outlined at the top of the pricing list. Yet, the problem is with tools that don’t allow you to add extra social profiles. In this case, you’ll have to upgrade to a more expensive plan.
The most transparent and affordable sellers have a clearly outlined price for every new social media account that’s usually only $2.5-$10/month. Opting for a platform that marks new social channels as add-ons means you won’t have to change plans just to manage an extra account.
Now that you're aware of the traps some tools use to keep you in, it’s time to compare some of these platforms to see which ones are worth it. So how much do social media management tools cost?
Sociality.io is a full-featured social media management tool that stays flexible when it comes to adding new users or social channels. It also excels at offering a more detailed competitor analysis alongside other essential features for both businesses and individual users. The pricing is per service so you only pay for what you’re going to need. Changing your mind with Sociality.io is also no hassle as you can easily switch between plans and add-ons.
Here’s a breakdown of all Sociality.io plans:
This plan is best suited for a freelancer or solopreneur managing small to medium social handles.
This plan is a good fit for small teams that need to manage multiple social handles and report on their performance.
Choose this plan if you’re running social media for a large company or if you own an agency and work on multiple complex social media projects for your clients.
Opt for this plan if you’re a large-scale business and regularly work with 10+ users and external collaborators.
Buffer’s social media management platform offers two options for your subscription plans which make it easy for you to start testing it with a free plan. You’ll then be able to upgrade to a paid account but do keep in mind there are some hidden fees. Let’s find out more about these!
Choose this Buffer price plan if you want to test the tool for a couple of months before making a purchase.
Calculating the costs for a larger team using this plan can get tricky. Here’s a rough breakdown: Every social channel costs you $6/month. So if you need to manage 10 social channels [for yourself or your clients], the total cost is $60/month. With the Team add-on. you’re looking at double the price with $120/month for the 10 channels as the Team Pack applies to every individual channel.
Hootsuite offers the least transparency into their pricing as they only display the cost for their annual plans on their pricing page. A tiny asterisk next to each price will let you know that the monthly prices are actually based on annual billing.
The annual plan does give you 4 free months. However, if you want to try this social media management tool first, you need to opt for the monthly plan payment. To see how much you have to pay, you need to first start creating an account.
Before we dive into the paid plans and their tricks, keep in mind that Hootsuite had a free plan that allowed you to manage 5 social profiles. Now, they offer a free plan for only 2 profiles/one user/and 5 schedule messages.
Hootsuite Professional - $29/month for one user. However, do keep in mind this is not the best solution from a security point of view and you’ll need to go through extra fees to use integrations. On top of this, support is only available at plans Business and above.
This Hootsuite pricing plan doesn’t have too many extra added benefits compared to the cheaper plan except for the higher number of users and accounts along with some extra small features.
This plan gives you access to most Hootsuite features and integrations but you’ll have to pay for every new user or social account you want to add. Some features like social listening and ROI reporting are only available as an add-on.
This plan gives you access to all Hootsuite features and integrations, but keep in mind some remain as an add-on. This along with incurs extra fees you need to calculate together with the exact number of users and social channels you want before you purchase the plan.
Socialbakers is another social media management tool that prefers to keep their pricing info for a direct sales conversation. Their pricing page doesn’t include any numbers so you’ll have to dig deeper.
This Socialbakers plan will be expensive for most teams given the fact that the features you get are basic and you can get them at better rates with other platforms.
This is the best option if you want the Socialbakers advanced features and more than 5 users under the account. While the app doesn’t have many hidden costs, the Complete Solution can get expensive so it’s best to check multiple options when talking to their sales team.
Sprout Social is a social media management tool that brings together multiple advanced features teams would need on a daily basis. The catch is, the more team members you have, the more expensive it gets. On top of missing fees on the pricing page, there’s also no comparison list to give you an idea of what’s included in your plan.
This plan can get costly for teams with more than one team member as you’ll have to add in an extra $99 for every new user and you don’t get access to all Sprout Social features yet.
This plan works for most teams but do keep in mind the costs can get high and you’ll still be missing features to take your business to the next level.
Agorapulse is the only tool on this that has a free plan you can use to run short campaigns or for small projects like keeping track of social accounts for a small brand. The free plan is available for one user, 3 social profiles, and includes 40 scheduled posts/month.
Let’s see what else the other Agorapulse plans bring!
This plan could be suited for an individual user or small team but note the cost is much higher for Agorapulse than with its competitors and you’re getting the same or fewer features.
This option was created for agencies but make sure you calculate what the monthly cost with the right amount of extra team members adds up to.
Most teams won’t need this Agorapulse subscription as its only strong benefits are getting a dedicated account manager and fast customer support response.
Here’s a checklist to go through before you purchase any of these social media management tools:
Don’t forget you can use our Social Media Tools comparison platform to get an idea of how much a tool will really cost you.