Scheduling tools for social media 2021: Later vs Buffer vs Hootsuite

Imagine being a digital marketer without the existence of scheduling tools for social media. Life would be much harder wouldn’t it?

Out of all the existing scheduling tools for social media today, post schedulers are widely considered to be must-haves. And right off the bat, I can tell you that if you’re looking for such a tool, these are great options. However, they each have their own unique quirks and features.

First, let’s get the most important evaluating factor out of the way

Pricing plans

Later:

Free ($0 p.m.)Starter ($15 p.m.)Growth ($25 p.m.)Advanced ($40 p.m.)
30 scheduled posts per social profile60 scheduled posts per profile150 scheduled posts per social profileNo limit on posts
1 user1 user 3 users6 users
Add-ons are not availableAdditional social sets and users can be addedAdditional social sets and users can be addedAdditional social sets and users can be added
Instagram planning format Instagram planning formatInstagram planning formatInstagram planning format
Linkin.bio with limited featuresLinkin.bio with limited featuresLinkin.bioLinkin.bio
IG analytics with limited featuresIG analytics with limited featuresExtensive IG analyticsExtensive IG analytics
IG Stories SchedulingIG Stories SchedulingIG Stories Scheduling
Best time to post indicator Best time to post indicatorBest time to post indicator
Hashtag suggestionsHashtag suggestionsHashtag suggestions

Hootsuite:

Professional ($49 p.m.)Team ($129 p.m.)Business ($599 p.m.)
1 user3 users5 users
10 social profiles20 social profiles35 social profiles
No limit on post schedulingNo limit on post schedulingNo limit on post scheduling
Messages in a single inboxMessages in a single inboxMessages in a single inbox
Optimal posting timeOptimal posting timeOptimal posting time
Multiple post schedulingMultiple post schedulingMultiple post scheduling
Management of teams and rolesManagement of teams and roles
Allot posts/comments to team membersAllot posts/comments to team members
Review messages before they are published
Integrations with premium apps
Priority support

Buffer:

Free ($0 p.m.)Essentials ($5 p.m.)
3 social channels Unlimited social channels, at $5 p.m. per channel
10 scheduled posts per channelUnlimited scheduled posts
1 user1 user (unlimited with Team pack)
Post schedulingContent calendar
Link shortenerCustom ink shortener
Video thumbnails
Multi-channel campaigns
IG hashtag manager
Advanced analytics
Engagement manager
Team management with Team pack

On the surface, Buffer seems like the most economical option, but when you factor in the $5 per month per channel and the $5 per month Team pack, you’ll realise that Later can actually be equally (or more) economical. However, I encourage you to check out the pricing plans of all these apps on their websites for a full feature-breakdown

By far, Hootsuite is the most expensive. Now let’s see if the three scheduling tools for social media live up to their price tags.

Real-world use

For this comparison, I have considered Later’s Starter pack, Hootsuite’s Professional pack and Buffer’s Essentials pack. Basically, the most economical paid version of each app.

As far as post scheduling and publishing goes, each app does what it’s meant to, and does it well. However, there are some key differences in how the apps work, described below.

Later

Moreso than the other apps mentioned here, Later’s focus is on Instagram over all other social media profiles. You’ll know this from the moment you visit their homepage, where you see the tagline “The world’s favorite Instagram marketing platform (and much more)” in big, bold letters. This is also evident in other areas of the software, like when you have to begin creating a post by adding an image first compulsorily. It might be a bit of a let-down for people that don’t want to use Later primarily for Instagram. Also, note that in all of these apps, auto-publishing is not available for TikTok.

Auto-publishing, in my experience, worked very well and the posts were published correctly, at the right date and time. Thankfully, you no longer need to download the Later mobile app to be able to auto-publish. I know for a fact, that this would be a deal-breaker for some people.

I also really appreciated the Instagram-style preview for your posts. This, I suspect, will be really helpful to creators going for a certain vibe or continuity in their posts.

later social media preview.

The analytics (Later calls them Analytics Lite, and they’re available for the $25 version as well) for the version I was using were pretty pointless. The app just presented information like number of posts, followers/following and likes/comments on each post. Even for a ‘Lite’ pack, this is super spartan. Thus, I wouldn’t recommend this version if you’re looking for solid analytics.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite has an extremely impressive roster of features. The one thing that really differentiates it from other scheduling tools for social media are the sheer number of integrations. This alone may make even the astronomical price worth it for some people.

hootsuite integrations

The Essential Apps are really some of the most widely-used business software today, and an opportunity to streamline workflows will draw a lot of creators and marketers towards Hootsuite. Of course, the app also connects to over 35 social networks.

Overall, the UI is a bit cluttered (more on this later), but I found the customizability quite handy. For example, in your Hootsuite dashboard, you can even choose to view news and articles related to topics you’re concerned with. Convenient!

Publishing a post worked perfectly for me, though I’ve heard about occassional bugs in the software that prevent it from posting correctly. The analytics dashboard was a lot more comprehensive than the one on Later, with genuinely useable numbers and figures (the Hootsuite pack does cost a lot more though).

Buffer

I found Buffer to be the most ‘vanilla’ software overall. If you absolutely just want software for scheduling and publishing efficiently and reliably, you’ll be very satisfied with how Buffer works.

There are very few fancy integrations, but the essentials are there. You can make RSS feeds for yourself with your favourite articles, and also add images to the app directly from Canva.

Publishing and scheduling, again, work just as you’d expect them to (albeit without a feed preview option. The company has promised this will be added in the near future). I’d say the Analytics fall short of what Hootsuite has to offer, but are miles better than what you get in Later’s economical paid plans.

This was the only app in the comparison where I had the opportunity to try out engagements. It’s really as easy as replying on Instagram itself, without the pain of having to go post-by-post.

engaging with instagram users on buffer

Ease of use

Later

You’ll find the user interface of Later very intuitive, and easy to navigate. All its features and use-cases are neatly laid out in a sidebar.

later user interface sidebar

If you’re considering purchasing a post scheduler, you’ll mainly be using this to add posts to the platform and schedule them. You’ll be happy to know that doing this on Later is a breeze.

To do this, you first have to add media to the Media Library. You can upload one from your device, or through Dropbox/Google Drive. Then, you can choose an image/video and start creating your post.

scheduling social media post on later

There’s a nice, step-by-step way of creating your post. You first add a caption, select hashtags from the suggested ones, then add a first comment/location/tags if you wish to. You can then choose to auto-publish the post on a desired date and time, or request Later you send you a notification once the post is due. I like the fact that you can make minor edits like cropping/adding filters, to your creative in the app itself.

Note that you can’t tag private profiles and that the recommended hashtags cannot be sorted by reach, but only by relevance. You also have to enter a topic/hashtag first to receive suggestions.

Of course, the mandatory feed preview is here as well. You can also choose to view your post in a monthly/weekly calendar.

In the version that I tested, you can’t engage with your audience in-app. More expensive plans have this option though. Basically, you click on ‘Conversations’ (fancier-sounding word to replace ‘engagement’), and you can see all comments on your posts. Conveniently, there is some profile information available as well, for the profiles you are replying to.

Hootsuite:

Hootsuite’s user interface is a lot more overwhelming than Later’s. On any given screen, there’s just a lot more going on.

hootsuite social media scheduling dashboard

However, as you play around with it, things start to make a bit more sense. The individual columns are called ‘Streams,’ and you can add/remove them or switch them around as you like. The Streams visible on this screen are my Facebook timeline, messages and posts. I can even add Streams like mentions, activity and scheduled posts. It’s quite convenient and didn’t take me too long to get used to, but I would still prefer a simpler layout.

The publisher, analytics and inbox features can be accessed using the sidebar. Publishing here is quite simple as well, and I love that you can see your post/caption in the Instagram format as you are creating your post.

scheduling social media post on Hootsuite

The starter paid version that I was using did not give me any hashtag suggestions though.

The rest of the app works well too, and it is very snappy and responsive, as you’d expect from one of the priciest Instagram planners on the Internet. However, there was one little error in the Analytics bit that I noticed. I keep track of Predis.ai’s Instagram followers every week, and some follower information that Hootsuite was trying to convey to me was completely incorrect. Precisely, it told me that our follower count at the beginning of this week was 0.

I honestly hope this is just a one-off error, but in my case, refreshing the screen did not correct it.

Buffer

Buffer easily has the simplest interface out of the three. There are distinct tabs for Publishing, Analytics and Engagement. Also, your content calendar can be sorted by day, week or month depending on how you like it.

buffer user interface for scheduling posts

However, as far as design goes, it is a bit less appealing to my eye as compared to the other apps here, but that is completely subjective. Plus, I’d take ease of use over aesthetics any day of the week.

scheduling a post for social media on Buffer

I love the fact that you can add images directly from Canva while creating a post on Buffer. It’ll be so handy to so many people. Creating a post is fairly straightforward, but Buffer is missing a few key features here.

Firstly, the app will only post for you. I couldn’t see an option to send a reminder to post, which some people might be more comfortable with. You also don’t have the option of tagging people or receiving suggested hashtags.

Engaging in your Instagram comments section with Buffer is also super easy.

instagram engagements with buffer

At a glance, you can see the posts that have unanswered comments, which is handy when you’re quickly trying to complete your engagement activities.

Final verdict

If you are looking for a barebones app that can schedule and publish your social media posts for you, look no further than Buffer. Just don’t be fooled by the price tag; it costs a bit more than $5 a month when you start adding social channels.

But if you’re willing to shell out a bit more and want more functionality than just scheduling tools for social media, Later and Hootsuite are some of the best in the business. I found their lesser plans to be quite limited for realistic use, but the more loaded ones can actually affect your productivity by a huge amount and fetch you a solid ROI.

Before choosing between the three, I’d recommend taking their free trials, so you can determine what’s best for you!

Looking for a more extensive content planner?

Predis.ai works a little differently than a post scheduler. Broadly, it uses GPT-3 to auto-generate quality content for you, and helps you organise this content through a calendar. The app also gives you suggestions to optimise your posts for higher engagement. There are three main ways the app assists you:

1. Post creator:

Provide a couple of lines of input on the kind of social media post you want to create, and Predis.ai will generate examples for you. After this post has been generated automatically, you can choose to edit several aspects of it within Predis.ai itself i.e. the caption, hashtag and creative. In the ‘Suggestions’ tab shown below, you also get insights on your created post’s expected performance, based on your account’s history.

output by a social media ai copywriter

2. Content calendar:

You can conveniently view all your posts through a built-in content calendar. These can be sorted by a ‘month’ view (as seen below) or a ‘list’ view. All your posts created on Predis.ai can be easily viewed and edited on this interface.

content calendar from ai copywriter

3. Content analysis:

Looking outwards, and towards other handles can give you amazing insights on what content you should ideally be posting. Predis.ai lets you effortlessly analyse how your competitors’ posts have been performing on Instagram. Through this, you can easily find out what content is performing well for them, and what isn’t clicking within their audience. A great feature, if you’re looking for content that will be popular amongst your target audience, and for straying away from content that won’t.

Highest performing post category for BeerBiceps

New to social media management or Instagram?

Whether or not you’re considering scheduling tools for social media, you need a solid strategy for marketing on Instagram and other platforms. These blogs listed below will get you started. They provide helpful insights on best practices to follow (and those to avoid) on social media: