One of the most common questions on Reddit social media threads is “what is the best free social media scheduler?” Each time a user poses the question, a variety of answers pop up, and nobody ever seems to agree on the same platform. We decided to take on this challenge and develop an answer, too.
To start, we used this tremendous social media scheduler list from OneUp. It features nearly 100 social media schedulers from your standard Hootsuite and Sprout Social all the way to niche programs like HeroPost and FeedHive. This is linked to the marketing subreddit and is available as a Google Doc there, as well. The best part about this list? It mentions if there is a free version for each one and how many social accounts you can connect to!
What is a free social media scheduler?
Before we move any further, let’s define a social media scheduler so we can level the playing field. To us, social media schedulers are the same as social media aggregators, which was the more common term used in the early 2010s. At its core, a scheduler does exactly what you expect it to do: schedule social media posts from multiple accounts into the future.
But these programs offer more than basic scheduling functionality. Most offer a combination of the following.
- Ability to connect multiple social media accounts from multiple brands and platforms
- General account analytics, presented in a visual form that shows changes over time
- Link-specific analytics, showing how well your outbound links are performing
- Trend review, including major hashtags and other content that can help you ideate new content that will reach a broader and relevant audience
- Media library where you can upload and re-use content in future posts
- Third-party applications that make it easy to see advanced analytics and repurpose social media into other content forms
- Multiple user accounts that allow for more than one team member to use the platform and engage with users on social media
Keep in mind that this list of features is almost always reserved for paid accounts. The dollar amount associated with each platform varies greatly depending on the size of the program and the level of functionality you require.
Typically, free social media schedulers have a very watered-down version of what you would expect from a paid version. One example is the ability to have multiple users. This is almost never available to free accounts. Additionally, you are limited in the number of social media accounts you can connect to for free. All our favorite programs reviewed here allow five or fewer accounts on the free version.
Digging into the free programs
As we started this review, we knew of two free social media scheduler options: Hootsuite and Buffer. They are considered the market leaders in terms of free versions, while Sprout Social is arguably the market leader for paying customers.
To start, the spreadsheet we used was not up-to-date, so we ended up reviewing all of the programs for free account options, platform connections, and the number of posts you can schedule. Upon further review, we found that only four programs met our initial criteria of three social media accounts and access to all major social networks:
Many other programs offered free versions, but they were sorely lacking in our required criteria. The most common shortcoming with other free accounts was that they only allowed one social media account. To us, this defeats the purpose of using the program.
We then used each of the four programs for a week and shared our top three pros and cons of each.
As a market leader in the free social media scheduler category, Hootsuite did not disappoint. They recently added TikTok as a supported channel and continue to innovate their platform. Their post composer looks extremely close to what you see on native platforms, and their stream view is unique in that no other platform allows the same level of customization.
In the example above, we put several Twitter views together with a LinkedIn update list. We actually could have added one more stream within the single view but chose to keep it at four streams.
Hootsuite has plenty of limitations with their free version, however. First, analytics are completely hidden, which is a bummer because Hootsuite’s analytics on their paid version is tremendous. Next, they claim to have a limit of two connected accounts on the free version. We were able to add three accounts, so this may actually not be an issue. But we have heard others are limited to two accounts.
Finally, we ran into issues connecting an Instagram business account and a TikTok personal account. We already knew we could not publish Instagram stories on a free version, but the lack of access, in general, was frustrating. And upon further review, Hootsuite confirmed we could, in fact, only connect a TikTok business account.
One element of Hootsuite’s free account that intrigued us was the ad management feature. Allegedly, you can boost Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn posts directly within the Hootsuite app. This is not a feature we spent time exploring, but it looks enticing and is a feature you should consider in your review if you regularly boost posts. According to their Pricing page, there is a limit of $100; we are unsure if that is on a weekly, monthly, or some other basis.
Originally launched as a Twitter scheduler, Buffer now allows publishing to all major social media platforms. But similar to Hootsuite, Buffer’s free version is extremely limited compared to their paid plans.
The most unique feature we saw was the ability to design and publish landing pages. This was surprising to see on a free plan, as it is a great benefit for small businesses to drive traffic and improve the user experience. However, landing pages are considered a “channel” so it contributes toward your social media account limit, which is a total of three.
The most glaring omission on Buffer is any semblance of analytics. Similar to Hootsuite, analytics are at a premium and completely unavailable to users on the free plan. Additionally, Buffer lacks a comprehensive engagement dashboard, so we were unable to access our direct messages.
One function that piqued our interest was the ability to customize the same post for multiple networks. We did not see much use for this feature, but users publishing the same media (i.e. images or videos) consistently to multiple accounts may enjoy it. It can definitely save time when utilized on a regular basis.
Unlike Hootsuite and Buffer, Publer is a new program in the free social media scheduler space. It offers an intuitive user interface and, unlike its counterparts, allows users to connect personal TikTok accounts. While it still has a limit of three accounts on its free version, the media uploading capabilities are strong. There is seemingly no size limit on image files, and we could upload a massive video to the publisher.
The post composer looks and functions similar to Hootsuite, while analytics are completely unavailable. We found the user experience when posting content as easy as the other programs, which surprised us given the others have existed for more than 10 years.
The unique element that Publer offers is to bold or italicize text in posts. We saw this work successfully on LinkedIn but did not test it on other channels. Posts with irregular text transformations have the opportunity to stand out among competitors, making this a potentially powerful tool.
The final free social media scheduler on the list is Simplified, a program that offers AI writing, graphic design, video creation, and social scheduling in one spot. As a social media tool, Simplified does a great job of connecting the various tasks needed to succeed in the content marketing world. It features hundreds of social media image templates, short video templates, and other media formatted specifically for your favorite social network.
Based on functionality alone, Simplified has the most to offer of any social media scheduler on this list. While Publer integrates with Canva and Hootsuite connects to hundreds of sites, Simplified has everything contained in its dashboard. It also features world holidays and some national observance days on the scheduling calendar. This is a feature that is both unique and helpful, as we jumped on World Emoji Day (July 17) but would have completely missed it if not for Simplified.
However, there are some shortcomings. Specifically, they have not yet figured out how to post Instagram stories from the program, and you cannot upload videos when publishing posts. And like all other programs on this list, you have no access to analytics.
With so many content creation tools in Simplified, we did not see any social media functionality to explore more. In fact, the tool that impressed us the most was the AI copywriter. It puts Copy.ai to shame and is one of the most intelligent computer writers we have encountered.
Ranking the best free social media scheduler
We expected one of the four programs to stand out among the rest. However, they all had similar attributes. The functionality was similar, and they all lacked any semblance of analytics. Rather than definitively rank them, we believe different programs work best for different levels of social media and content marketing strategies.
First, if you are looking for a robust (or any) analytics package, do not use any of these free products. In all of the following situations, analytics must come from the native platforms.
For new digital marketers focusing on personal branding, Simplified.co is your best option. New digital marketers likely do not use much video (which Simplified lacks), and it features a wide array of content support to get your personal brand off the ground.
For new digital marketers looking for experience to put on a resume, Hootsuite is our choice. Among the four programs, Hootsuite is the only one that regularly appears on job postings. Experience using Hootsuite or other programs will tremendously help your job prospects.
For small businesses looking for the most social media functionality, we recommend Buffer by a small margin over Publer. To us, the difference is in the ability to create your own landing pages, even though pages take up one of your three accounts.
For anybody looking to schedule content on a personal TikTok account, Publer.io is the only option. All four programs promote their TikTok connectivity, but Hootsuite and Buffer only allow business accounts, and Simplified does not allow any video on their free version.