By now, it’s pretty evident that social media is not just a nice-to-have strategy for businesses. Research has shown again and again that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. are important tools that brands should be using to amplify and support brand awareness efforts – and yes, land you prospects you might not otherwise have landed.

So the question now isn’t “Should my business take on social?”

The question instead is, “How can I make the most of my efforts?”

We’d like to suggest that one of the most important decisions to make – after you’ve decided which social media platforms make the most sense for your type of business – is which social media management tool to invest in.

There are a bevvy of solutions available – from Hootsuite to Sprout Social to Gremln and more – and all of them can help your business streamline social media effort. But given that there are so many options … and so many pricepoints within all of those options … it can be a bit overwhelming.

Here, we’ve tried to simplify your options by focusing first and foremost on budget.

The Freebies

Free. It’s one of the most-loved words in the English language. As many times as “free” has lived up to its wonderful name, free in social media management tools just doesn’t make the cut.

Some programs, such as Hootsuite, offer a free plan that allows for minimal social media management features. Free programs lack the essential capabilities that separate social media dabblers from social media experts.

Free programs contain very basic and limited features. For example, Hootsuite’s free version provides analytics reports, but the information is over-simplified and ultimately useless. Why use a special program to monitor social media if it fails to show progress?

The Monsters

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the monsters. Programs such as Hubspot and Marketo contain massive features – including a social media component that enables businesses to schedule, monitor and analyze their results. Unfortunately, with massive features come massive (read: cost-prohibitive) prices.

These beasts cost more than 10 times the amount of Altitude’s social media platform of choice every month.

In addition to budget, many companies don’t have the internal bandwidth required to set up and manage these multi-headed beasts; therefore, only one or two features are being used while the others languish.

If the goal is social media management, the Hubspots, Marketos and Pardots of the world are just too much.

So where is the happy medium when it comes to social media management?

Juuuuust Right

For us, the answer is Sprout Social. We know there are a ton of other options out there … and every year we do our due diligence to ensure that Sprout is still the right choice. So far, it is.

Sprout makes managing social media easy and is just the right size for our client base.

In one dashboard, you’re able to schedule messages to publish, monitor your accounts’ inbox messages, build and manage relationships, track and measure your performance through reporting and more. This tool gives us the ability to integrate our social media management efforts and measure the results of these efforts.

We also love that you can pull in an RSS feed from Feedly (again, something else that competitors like Hootsuite offers), so that you’re not hunting for tweetable stuff on dozens of different news sites.

Another benefit: Unlike some of the “freebies” and “monsters,” Sprout Social’s mobile app is highly functional. From your phone or tablet, you can access all the same capabilities as a computer. We can monitor, schedule posts and easily maintain our clients accounts on the go. (And yes, we monitor our clients’ social media accounts on weekends and vacations, so it’s imperative that we have a one-stop-shop for all of our clients’ accounts.)

Like the children’s fable, Sprout Social is just right for the work we do at Team Altitude. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too big. Not too small.

So, which solution is best for your company?

While no two companies have the exact same needs, here are five questions every social media manager needs to ask to make that all-important decision:

1. What is your budget?
2. How many people do you have on your social media management team?
3. How many social media accounts will you be tracking?
4. What KPI, key performance indicators, you are looking to track?
5. Does it have a mobile app?