Which Social Media Monitoring Tool is Right for You?
Social Monitoring Tool Comparison
There are endless options when it comes to social media monitoring tools. Trying to narrow down the options yourself will undoubtedly leave you banging your head on your desk in frustration –– not that I would know. Whenever you attempt to find a reliable comparison online, it always seems to be from a company that sells one of the social management tools you’re looking to review. (You’ll never guess whose platform they suggest.)
Ha! Not today, “The Man”. I’ve put in the blood, sweat and eye strain to find the answers myself.
In addition to the tools I’ll be talking about in this post, I’ve used several others including Clarabridge CX Social, Hootesuite, Social Studio and Sprinklr. I’ve chosen not to highlight them in this review because they are not my preferred tools. If you’d like me to create a post reviewing these or any additional tools, I’m happy to provide one!
Let’s begin with this important disclaimer –– When it comes to social monitoring and engagement, I refuse to work in columns. I get frustrated clicking back and forth trying to look at eight different columns on my screen. I’d rather manage everything on each individual platform than to work in this barbaric manner. This is one of the most important features for me when comparing different tools and explains why the above are not my tools of choice.
Maybe you don’t have that hang up. (You masochist) But if you do, I’ve done the hard work and found you three options with inboxes! For brevity’s sake, this guide will provide an overview comparison of Sprout Social, Agorapulse and Buffer as pertains to social monitoring and publishing.
Ok, let’s talk price right up front. I’ll say it. Sprout Social used to cost way less, but recently their price has gone way up, and up, and up again and the offerings at the base level have gone way down. I get it. They’ve been working hard to add additional features. Added value = more money. But for some reason, it still hurts my feelings and…our wallets.
How bad is it? Well, the premium package costs $99 per user per month. At first, this doesn’t sound exorbitant. However, when you realize that this is the price for ONE user, it seems a bit steep. This package includes five social profiles. Their next tier is the Corporate package and is $149 per user per month and includes 10 social profiles. Lastly, the Enterprise package is $249 per user per month and still only gets you 10 social profiles. (You can add additional profiles for $25 extra a month). The Enterprise package offers advanced features like custom URL tracking, more extensive reports and a chatbot builder. If you’re working for a larger company with the budget to match, the cost may not deter you. If you’re a business with a small social team, you may forego the bells and whistles and opt for the premium package. Just remember the cost is PER user.
There’s a lot to love about Sprout Social. I might even venture to say that if Sprout Social wasn’t so expensive, it would be my favorite of all the social media monitoring tools I’ve used. One of the ways Sprout Social stands out from the rest is because of the multitude of reports they offer. Here are most of their reporting options. (Note: all of these reports may not be available for every tier.)
Here’s what I like about Sprout Social:
The user interface is clean, simple and easy to navigate.
They have the best in-platform reports of any social tool I’ve used. The Enterprise package offers a whopping 22 reports.
They offer a 30-day free trial. This is the best of the three tools.
You can easily assign tasks to your team (if you can afford to add them!)
The scheduler is very comprehensive. It’s easy to see where everything is. You get an image preview and you can schedule your posts across each platform all at the same time, tweaking them as you go.
They offer a view option that shows ALL of the social posts from each different platform on ONE calendar. (Hallelujah)
You can very clearly see a preview of how your post will look on each platform and change out link preview images (when possible).
You can schedule videos and stories to Instagram (kind of) through their mobile app. You still can’t schedule them to directly post.
It’s easy to label your posts, so you can get a better idea of how different content and content types perform.
What I don’t like:
There are several options that you don’t get in the premium package that you do get in the Corporate and Enterprise package. This makes the premium package a pretty bad deal price-wise. And if one person on your team has the Corporate package, you all do. This really ups the cost of having multiple users on your team.
You’ve got to pay extra for their social listening platform. It feels like the Enterprise package should come with this.
Let’s start with the numbers. Pricing for Agorapulse is much more flexible. Their Small plan starts at $39 a month for one user and three social networks and scales up to their Enterprise plan for $239 a month for 12 users and 40 social profiles. It’s much more affordable than Sprout Social, and personally, it’s the tool I chose to use when I worked as the social media director for my last company.
Here’s why –– If you’re looking for a best-all-around social media tool that delivers value at a fair cost, I haven’t found one that beats Agorapulse. For starters, every one of their plans includes all their features. As you scale up, there are some extra benefits including team workflow and additional months of data retention. But all plans can take advantage of the most important features –– including social listening.
Agorapulse does not offer as extensive reporting options as Sprout Social, but they do offer the necessities.
Here’s what I like about Agorapulse:
All of the features are organized in a logical way. You get everything you need and nothing seems redundant.
They offer a free 14-day trial. (They’ll usually extend this for you if you’re still deciding)
It’s easy to manage teams –– and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg to add team members.
They have stellar customer service. I’ve used their chat inbox often and they are always quick to respond. (Though, “chat priority” begins at the $159 level.)
Their social listening tool does a great job pulling in mentions, and it’s included in the price for all plans. SCORE.
As with Sprout Social, you can assign a label to posts, so you can more accurately see how specific content types and topics are performing.
You can see how many times followers interacted with your page and label them to keep tabs on them.
Here’s what I don’t like:
The calendar is lacking in that you can’t see a visual preview of your posts, nor can you see all your posts on one calendar. You have to look at each individual platform’s calendar. (I’ve been told they’re working on this.)
You can’t post video to Instagram through Agorapulse. (They’ve said this feature is on their “roadmap”.)
Their reports could be more robust. Much of what they offer can be found in each individual platforms’ insights.
It can be easy to miss items that are assigned to you. They’re somewhat hidden and it can be easy to forget about them if you don’t address them right when they pop up.
First you should know –– I love Buffer. They’re one of my go-tos for social resources and best practices, and I listen to their podcast weekly. They’re wonderful people. It’s been a while since I’ve used Buffer, so I decided to download a trial of Buffer AND Buffer Reply (We’ll get to that in a minute) so I could give it a more accurate review.
Starting with the price –– it’s pretty reasonable. They even have a free plan! From there, plans range from $15 a month all the way up to $399 a month. That gets you 150 social accounts and 25 users. It’s really difficult for me to imagine a large team using Buffer as their publishing tool, but to each their own.
The tool is pretty straightforward. It’s easy to publish content to different networks, and they provide a great solution to tweaking your social posts for each network. Their calendar is easy to use and the drag and drop feature makes moving posts to different time slots a breeze.
Now, let’s talk about Buffer Reply. Yep, they have two separate platforms for publishing and engagement. Ah ha. That’s where they get ya. For one user and one profile (Who would use this?) it’ll cost you $50 a month. The business plan is $225 a month. An extra profile is $10 and an extra user is $25. Let’s assume you have at least three profiles and one user. This puts you at $80 a month. Coupled with the publishing platform, you’re probably going to be looking at $95 a month. Not terrible. Oh, and if you want to analyze your data for Buffer Reply? It looks like they’re working on another platform for that. Pricing TBD.
Here’s what I like:
They offer between a 7-day and 14-day trial. No credit card required.
The plugin for Buffer is great. If you see an article or photo you want to repost, you can add it to your queue quickly.
It’s easy to use. The mobile app is simple, clean and effective.
The Buffer Reply platform is beautiful. I really like that I can see the context of the message completely when replying.
I love the drag and drop feature of the post scheduler. It makes it easy to move posts around or apply them to different profiles.
Here’s what I don’t like:
You can’t see all of your scheduled posts on one calendar. (Same with Agorapulse)
I want to be able to use all of my management tools in one place. Seems unnecessary to split them into two –– possibly three platforms. (Do you know how many tabs I already have open, Buffer?!)
It’s almost too simple. I can only see two to three posts at a time in my queue because of how much space they’ve allotted for each post.
They provide the bare minimum when it comes to reporting. You can find more detailed analytics from the platforms than you can with Buffer’s insights –– even with their advanced analytics option.
I’ve had issues with Buffer not publishing posts on occasion. It hasn’t happened often, but it’s happened more often on Buffer than any other publishing tool I’ve used.
In conclusion, (As soon as I wrote that, I felt like I was back in high school writing up a report.) I love Sprout Social. I really do. But I don’t think they offer quite enough bells and whistles to justify their cost. To cover my most basic needs, I’d have to go with the Corporate plan at $150 a month + the price of the social listening suite which is an add-on in the app. (Will update if I find out how much this is exactly.) With Agorapulse, I’d need the $79 a month plan that includes social listening to have most of those same bells and whistles.
While I enjoy Buffer, especially the ease-of-use of their mobile app, I find their range of options limited. They don’t have the reporting features I need or the social listening features. Eventually they may, but I don’t have room in my life (or my browser) for three separate tabs to run my social media. However, now that I’m running my own social media for my company, I do use their free plan to schedule my posts. If you’re a solopreneur, you really can’t get much better than that!
Obviously, there are tons of features that I wasn’t able to address in this post for the sake of time. If anyone is interested in a more in-depth review of any tool in particular, let me know and I’ll do a complete Kitchen Sink review. Hopefully, you found this information useful as a starting point! I’d love to know what your experience has been. If you have a different tool to recommend, please let me know. I’d love to try it out.