Managing a Facebook or Twitter page for a company doesn’t have to be hard. Sure, interacting with users can be difficult at times, but the basic act of posting and managing content should be easy. There are actually quite a few useful and free tools to help you manage your business’s social media pages.
This article will focus on free options. There are other options for those willing to shell out for enterprise-grade material that we won’t go into right now.
The Best Free Social Media Tools
Almost everything from Buffer
Buffer is wonderful. They offer several tools that make it easier to manage your social media content, all of which are useful.
The first is the eponymous buffer system. You can download their Chrome extension and use it to add pages, images, clips of text and social media posts to your Buffer for posting later. It’s an easy way to schedule posts, especially across multiple networks.
It is also the most efficient way to schedule a native retweet I have found so far, something that is not possible with TweetDeck alone.
I like how Buffer lets you post the same content to multiple social networks at the same time. The system isn’t perfect, though. The Facebook and Twitter dual-scheduler lets you push pages as the page title, link, but no picture on the tweet. I emailed Buffer about this and got a chipper-sounding message saying it was something they were thinking about. Not holding my breath.
Buffer also deserves a note of caution for people planning to use it with Facebook. Buffer works there as a third-party application with write access to your page, and it posts the articles for you.
The third-party status can really come back to bite you if you post too often. Facebook will block posts from third-party apps that post “too often.” I received an unpleasant surprise (and our site lost a good bit of traffic) finding that one out. What’s the maximum posting frequency? Who knows? I couldn’t find anything in Facebook’s documentation.
The lack of Twitter pictures (which is important) and getting caught in Facebook’s spam filter made me stop using Buffer as my primary social media tool. It is, however, a great way to schedule native retweets.
Completely automated social media
There’s one more element to Buffer that has a lot of potential to save time (and get called spam by Facebook). Buffer integrates with IFTTT, the web automation service.
An enterprising website owner could set up an RSS feed for their posts that triggers an IFTTT recipe that schedules the posts in Buffer.
There are definitely some downsides. Everything in the feed needs to be worth pushing on social media. You’re also trusting the system to schedule posts and not laying them out yourself at advantageous times to gain the maximum traffic.
Still, a completely automated social media operation sounds pretty cool to me. It could be great for smaller shops.
Buffer offers an image creator called Pablo. You upload an image or use one of their stock backgrounds and add words over the image. It’s pretty simplistic and a thousand times easier than digging through Photoshop or something like that.
The web app was recently redesigned to a 2.0 version which looks better but lacks the ability to move the background image. Ironically, I’ve found the best way to fix the background issues in Pablo is to edit the image in Photoshop. Add this feature back in!
TweetDeck is great because it is uncompromisingly for power users. It breaks Twitter’s feed into multiple user-created columns and updates in real time. You can see Tweets as they come in and track what’s happening far easier than in Twitter’s mobile or web apps.
TweetDeck schedules posts and accepts custom URL shorteners and images but does not schedule native retweets.
I’m also a fan of how it lays out your notifications in reverse chronological order. This is less confusing than the web version, which tries to group them and usually does a terrible job.
Check out our guide for getting started with TweetDeck for more.
Pixabay and Creative Commons content
It’s damn hard to find all the photography you need without access to Getty Images or having a dedicated staff photographer. Where are you supposed to get backgrounds for those Pablo posts?
Creative Commons is good for providing stock images. They license all kinds of content under different types of licenses, many of which allow commercial reuse for no charge. It’s a fantastic way to get images without breaking your business’s budget. Just be sure to attribute your source if the license requires it.
Pixabay is the best website I’ve found for finding public domain images under Creative Commons, although the CC website is also pretty good for finding clip art. The title image at the top of this very post is from Pixabay.
Anyone who needs images in a hurry should definitely check out Creative Commons content. The quality tends to be less good than real stock photography, but it’s good enough.
What are some of your favorite social media tools? Let us know in the comments.
Further Reading: 4 Best Ways to Display Special Characters on Facebook and Twitter