If you use a social media management tool to schedule posts, you’d better keep an eye on its pricing plan! Spoiler: You’ll pay more and more!
Just two years ago, I wrote about how much you should expect to pay for a good social media management tool. There were several I mentioned back then that had already increased their prices out of reach for many bloggers.
Two years later, what seemed outrageous then seems like a bargain now!
Of all of the various platforms I’ve tried, the social media management tool I probably liked the most was Sprout Social. When I first tried it, it cost $29 per month. That was just past the edge of what I wanted to pay, but I stuck with it for a few months. Not only did it make scheduling posts easy, it had one of the most attractive, easy-to-read analytics pages I’d seen.
Sprout Social now costs $249 per month, and that’s for its “Standard” plan. I don’t care how attractive a platform’s analytics is. That high a price is simply out of reach of most bloggers unless they’re racking in the dough hand over fist. Most bloggers I know aren’t in that category. Even worse, with that price, you only get five social accounts to post to.
A few years back, I used Hootsuite. It used to cost about $15 a month or so, as I recall. At one point, it had a limited free option. I used it for a while, but I never found its analytics helpful. Hootsuite likes to use its own shortlinks and you have to pay extra to get analytics to those links. Hootsuite works with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest and TikTok.
It looks like Hootsuite’s now lowest-priced option is its “Professional” plan at $99 per month. Again, that’s an outrageous price for most bloggers I know.
I recently visited Buffer, the platform I’ve been using for a few years now. I noticed a banner across the top of the page announcing it now offered support for Mastodon, a relatively new social platform that bills itself as the next Twitter alternative.
The platform Later used to be, as I recall, only set up to work with Instagram. It can now handle Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and TikTok. Its lowest price option comes with a price tag of $18 per month.
That gives you what it calls “one social set.” That means at that price, you can only schedule to one account on each platform. If you had two different Facebook or Twitter accounts you wanted to schedule to, you’d need to move up to its second tier (which gives you three sets) at $40 per month.
That $18 per month is about as much as I’d probably be willing to spend.
Just above that price point, we find SocialPilot, which gives you 10 social accounts at $25.50 per month (with annual billing). It can handle the platforms Later uses plus YouTube and Google Business Profiles.
But now you’re past the $300-per-year price range for a social tool.
Beware of potential big price hikes
With new social media platforms racing to become a legitimate alternative to Twitter like Mastodon and Post, every social media management tool must eventually figure out ways to interact with each one.
Only one — at least so far — has offered the option to be able to post to Mastodon. That platform is Buffer, which I’ve used for a while now. But when I went to take advantage of that new capability, I found a rude awakening.
I’m currently on what is now known as Buffer’s “Legacy” pricing plan, which gives me up to 10 social channels (I think it’s 10) for a total of $144 per year. But to add Mastodon, I have to switch to their “new” pricing plan.
The new plan is based on the number of social channels you have at $6 per month (or $5 per month if you pay annually). I currently have eight social channels connected to my Buffer account. To add Mastodon, I would go eight channels to nine. That would take my cost from the $144-per-year legacy plan to $648 per year — that’s nine channels at $6 per channel per month. (If I paid the full annual price in one lump sum rather than monthly, it’d be a total of $540 per year. If I switched to the new plan and added nothing, it’d jump to $480 per year — and let’s face it, why would I possibly do that voluntarily?
That’s almost quadruple the price.
The only way to have Buffer schedule posts on Mastodon is to switch to the new pricing plan. To pay no more than I’m paying now, I could only have two channels.
Naturally, I worried about whether those of us on the legacy plan would be forced to switch. Initially, I was told it would happen at some point, but it wasn’t clear when. A buffer rep on Twitter then told me this:
“Concerned”? They damn well better be concerned. I will leave that service in a hot minute when they try to invoke that kind of price hike. When I pressed the issue with their customer support team by email, I received a response which read in part:
We’re unsure if legacy customers will be forced to switch to one of the new pricing plans. If this were the case, it probably wouldn’t happen this year or maybe even next year.
That, at least, is a temporary relief. The question is how temporary will it actually be?
I get it: everything goes up in price. But there are price hikes and there are price hikes. That one is out of the question.
If I made a profit on this blog — and I don’t — I would still have a problem agreeing to that big of a jump just to add a social platform that’s too new to know if it’s even worth it.
What other options are there at a reasonable price?
The first thing you have to do is decide what “reasonable” is for your budget. There’s no universal answer for that question. It depends on the user.
For me, I’m looking for a price that’s below $20 per month. There aren’t many options anymore, unfortunately.
Loomly, which bills itself as an alternative to Buffer, offers 10 social accounts but at $26 per month.
Then there’s Co-Schedule, a favorite of some bloggers because it uses an editorial calendar-like interface and is easy to use with WordPress. But it offers support only for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest and costs $29 per month.
The lowest price I’ve seen so far is for Zoho Social, which offers up to nine social media accounts from among a reasonable list of options: Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups, Twitter Profiles, Instagram Business Profiles, LinkedIn Profiles, LinkedIn Company Pages, Google My Business listings, Pinterest Profiles, & TikTok Profiles. It offers that for $10 per month when you pay annually.
So Zoho ends up actually being cheaper than Buffer’s legacy plan. That’s an option I’ll definitely have to keep in mind.
If I were to switch to another service, I wouldn’t be able to post to Mastodon. But since there’s zero chance I’d pay that much more to be able to do it with Buffer, I haven’t lost anything there.
Hopefully as newer social platforms establish themselves, whatever social media management tool you use won’t try for such a blatant money grab by hiking prices that high.