Editor’s Note: This blog post originally appeared on March 26, 2013. It has been updated to reflect offering changes, as well as newly available tools and solutions.
If you think you spend a lot of time on social media, stop to consider how much time it takes out of your business daily. Some businesses can afford a full-time social media guru, but for many small businesses, it just isn’t in the budget. That means one person who’s wearing multiple hats — very often, you — has to keep several social media presences up to date.
If you’re looking to save time and streamline your posting process, there are options.. Several simple apps, many of them free, tie together all your disparate social media links into a single chain. Managing everything from a single dashboard helps you save precious time, and can even help you find new and more creative ways to engage your audience.
There are dozens of tools available so we’re recommending the 25 free social media apps that we find particularly helpful.
HootSuite: They offer several paid tiers, but HootSuite also provides the option of a free lightweight account. It allows one user the ability to manage and schedule messages on three platforms. Many users “graduate” from the free plans to the more robust features of the paid accounts.
SocialOomph: With both free and professional accounts, SocialOomph has plenty to offer SMBs managing their social media schedules. Even though it’s intended as an on-ramp for the more robust professional features, the free tier still has plenty to make small businesses’ lives easier.
TweetDeck: Once an independent app, TweetDeck worked well enough that Twitter incorporated it into their service. While it’s only for one social media platform, it handles that platform exceedingly well, letting you manage multiple accounts and monitor multiple streams from a unified dashboard.
MavSocial: As is the case with many companies on this list, MavSocial offers a pared-down version of its paid service as a free option for a single user and a limited number of messages and profiles (ten posts per network day on two social profiles, in this case). Even with its limits, it’s still a useful tool for businesses to get their feet wet with this type of service.
dlvr.it: In contrast to some of the freemium offerings on this list, dlvr.it offers a bit more than most with its free tier. You can set up sharing across three platforms, with ten daily posts per platform. You can also configure up to five RSS feeds, content curation, stats, and quite a bit more.
EveryPost: Here’s something you don’t see every day: a free account that just requires you to pay with a tweet. EveryPost’s Personal tier is free, but limited; you can only manage one channel and three feeds, and only schedule ten posts per day. The company also offers 14-day free trials for each of their paid tiers.
Buffer: Not one product but several, Buffer gives you the tools to schedule your social media posts and then goes two steps further, aiding in customer engagement and better content creation. The free version of the service offers one social profile and ten scheduled posts per profile; the monthly cost for a paid account starts low enough that you may find yourself migrating to one before long.
Agorapulse Analytics: Agorapulse offers two different analytics plans: the Facebook Page Barometer and Twitter Analytics. Each comes in handy if you want to monitor results in addition to managing your postings.
ManageFlitter: With both free and pro accounts, ManageFlitter gives you a wide range of tools to manage social media. The free accounts are somewhat limited (with light account growth and cleanup features). As with other offerings on this list, the free service is just an appetizer for the extended features offered on paid plans.
Twuffer: The paid plan on Twuffer is so inexpensive (a mere $5.99/month) that you may find it easiest to just bite the bullet and fork over the cash. With the free plan’s limit of 50 scheduled tweets per month, it works best for small businesses with limited Twitter activity.
FullContact: If your business relies less on social media broadcasting and more on direct contact, FullContact might be for you. It’s a powerful contact management system that mines personal and company data for business use. The free tier is meant to test drive the system, with pricing starting at $99/month should you decide to upgrade.
Bitly: Best known for the free portion of their service (the link shortening that’s a staple of Twitter and Facebook), Bitly also offers analytics, branded shortlinks, and more on their paid plans.
If This Then That: IFTTT runs on roughly 500 applets that let you create custom rules-based actions to automate large chunks of your workflow. Its uses go far beyond social media, and it’s free to get started.
Zapier: Similar to IFTTT, Zapier highlights a different set of applets that are targeted more at pro users. Both services perform a similar service for their users, freeing up time (and saving money) by automating the mundane. Our suggestion? Try both and see which works better.
Canva: Everyone dreams about generating the kind of viral, shareable content that gets people talking. Canva’s free tier makes it easier by giving you the tools and templates to design eye-catching visual content.
Alltop: Your content isn’t going to create itself. Alltop aggregates news and opinion from thousands of sites within hundreds of verticals, making it easy to find the content you need quickly. Want fodder for your next think piece, or a quick shot of inspiration to get you through a slump? Here’s where you’ll find it.
Personapp: Your social media and marketing works best when you’re talking to individuals rather than an undifferentiated mass of people. Personapp helps you visualize your customer personae and get a handle on who you’re talking to, improving and personalizing your outreach.
Facebook Insights: It may cost an arm and a leg to make your Facebook page visible to your fans, but at least it’s still free (for now) to get analytics. Facebook Insights helps you better understand your organic and paid reach.
Over-Graph: Some brands run multiple social media presences, not only for their companies but also for individual products. Over-Graph seeks to simplify that process by unifying brands’ efforts within a single dashboard. Free and paid plans are available.
Followerwonk: MOZ is best known for its SEO offerings, but with apps like Followerwonk, it has a significant foothold in social media as well. The free version of the application is highly limited, but can nevertheless be helpful in beginning to manage your social media efforts.
ClickToTweet: Social media management is about more than simply generating and sharing content. You’ll want your followers to spread the word too, and ClickToTweet helps them do just that with a simple WordPress plugin.
Cyfe: Many of the services listed above offer dashboards with an overview of your social media. Cyfe, on the other hand, offers a dashboard that lets you see everything — social media, business intelligence, analytics, and lots more. Paid plans have access to more widgets, but the free version is surprisingly capable.
CoSchedule: Long-term free use isn’t an option here (it’s just a free trial), but CoSchedule’s tools — scalable from solo bloggers all the way up to enterprise — make it much easier to manage your social media and your editorial calendar.
Nuzzel: There are plenty of news aggregators out there, but Nuzzel works a bit differently. A web-based real-time newsfeed, it’s designed to give you industry-specific intelligence that comes in handy whether you’re keeping an eye on your own industry or your customers’ industry (making it great for B2B). After a free trial, it’s billed month-to-month or annually.
Feedly: Like Nuzzel and Alltop, Feedly is a newsfeed-based service. Unlike its competitors, it supports social functions and sharing, plus a number of integrations. That makes it an excellent tool not only to mine content for your social feeds, but also a viable tool for collaborative creation.
There are only 24 hours in the day. With your business pulling you in several different directions at once, and with all the challenges of work-life balance thrown into the mix as well, every minute counts. Having the right social media marketing tools in your kit helps, even if some of the free tools listed above are just a stepping stone to a paid service. After all, if time is money, a bit of your hard-earned cash is well-deployed if it gives you more time to devote to your business… or just some much-deserved sleep.