First things first: if consistent, quality content on your social media feed is part of your digital marketing strategy (and, in 2021, it probably should be) — you need to be using a scheduler.
Social media schedulers allow you to plan batches of content in advance, rather than creating and sharing content whenever you have time. And let’s face it, posting to social is never your top priority when you have a business to run, a creative practice to nurture, or a human brain to protect from the doomscroll. Social media schedulers can help you turn a constant, nagging to-do list item into a weekly two-hour task.
The main con to social media schedulers is that they can get pricey. When I was just starting out DIYing my social media presence as a freelancer, I experimented a bit with different tools to see which one best suited my needs at the lowest possible price point. This post includes no sponsorships, no affiliate links, and no BS—just my honest, unfiltered, professional opinions. Here are my two favorite low-to-no-cost social media schedulers for artists, creatives, and small businesses on a budget.
Formerly Latergramme, Later is a marketing-focused social media scheduler for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and TikTok. It features four different pricing tiers, the first of which is totally free (and surprisingly functional for a free tool).
The free plan allows you to connect one “social set,” which is one of each type of account offered (one IG, one FB, one Twitter, one Pinterest, and one TikTok). You can post up to 30 posts per social profile per month. It also offers “lite” analytics reporting.
At $15/month, the Starter plan gives you Instagram Stories scheduling capabilities, allows you to see your best times to post, and gives hashtag suggestions (although Later’s hashtag suggestions function isn’t super helpful, in my opinion). You can post up to 60 posts per profile per month on the Starter plan. You’d be hard-pressed to find a paid social scheduler that’s cheaper than $15/month, but the boost in functionality from the free plan isn’t huge. It also allows you to connect more than one “social set” for an additional $15/month.
Why Erin likes Later
The interface that Later uses for scheduling across all platforms is simple, highly visual, and adjustable—just how I like it! I appreciate the simplicity of being able to drag-and-drop my images into my week, paste in my copy, and tweak it for each platform right in the interface.
Once you connect an Instagram business account, you can set posts to auto-publish, which is unique for free Instagram schedulers (most schedulers require you to log in and publish manually, due to limitations with Instagram’s API).
Later also allows you to preview your Instagram grid based on scheduled posts, and you can rearrange directly in the preview to perfect the look of your grid. Access to Later also gives you seamless integration with Linkin.bio, my personal favorite Instagram bio link solution.
Later was developed with Instagram in mind, so it requires an image to schedule a post. If Instagram isn’t your main social media focus, it might not be the right tool for you. It also lacks LinkedIn scheduling functionality.
The free plan is functional for the price point, but it’s not perfect. It doesn’t allow you to schedule Instagram stories, and the “lite” analytics it offers are pretty limited depending on which metrics you need to track—it will show you followers, conversions (via Linkin.bio), and your best performing posts, but it won’t calculate engagement or show you reach, impressions, or follower growth over time.
Buffer offers no-frills social media scheduling for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn on its free plan (upgrade for Pinterest functionality). It also features four different pricing tiers. The first two are on par with Later as far as price and functionality, and the latter two are pricier and more powerful than Later’s premium tiers, especially if your focus is outside of Instagram.
Why Erin likes Buffer
Buffer is streamlined, utilitarian, and not pretending to be anything more than what it is. It gets the job done! And the free plan mostly limits users by posting volume, not by functionality, which is nice.
Buffer allows you to pull other users’ tweets directly into your schedule for future retweeting, which is awesome for Twitter users who want to engage with their community and avoid seeming like they’re tweeting from a silo.
Free plan users can connect up to three social media accounts regardless of platform, which is a great solution for creatives with multiple side projects on the same platform. For example, you could manage your fiber arts insta, your food styling insta, and your dog’s insta using the same free Buffer account.
Buffer’s utilitarianism might be a downside for users who like highly visual, interactive, and pretty interfaces. I find the workflow there to be a little clunky at times.
Buffer doesn’t offer any analytics reporting on its free plan, which is a bummer.
But what about Facebook Business Suite?
It’s true, there are pretty powerful free tools available for scheduling and analytics directly through Facebook’s Business Suite (aka Facebook Business Manager). If you love it, stick with it! But here are some reasons why I don’t recommend it relying on it as your first and only scheduling tool:
- It’s not scheduling-focused. Business Suite is more focused on managing audience interactions and insights. My preference is to handle audience interactions directly in the relevant app, because it feels more organic to me (and as a one-person show, I don’t have so many interactions that I need a tool to manage them!). Plus, you kind of have to hunt for the “schedule post” functionality, which is not helpful for me as a visually-oriented planner.
- It limits your platforms. You can only use it to schedule to Facebook and Instagram.
- The interface is clunky. When you’re in DIY mode, time is your most valuable resource! There’s no sense in ascending a steep learning curve to get familiar with a new tool when you could be using something simpler…for the same price of $0.00.
When I was just getting started launching my brand online, I used Later, and it worked really well for me. Now that I have steady income from my social media strategy work, I’m using Later’s Growth plan, and I supplement with Buffer for LinkedIn posts and tweets without images. I aspire to level up to a more functional and inclusive tool in the future, but for now, this stack works just fine for me.
My best advice? Start with what you can, then work your way up as you go. And let me know how it goes — I’m rooting for you!! ✨