For many businesses, social media is a key channel to find prospects, turn them into customers, keep in touch with current clients, and drive more traffic to your website. But to maximize your presence on social media, you need to: 1) post regularly; and 2) post on the days and at the times when most people are on a platform. Social media scheduling tools help reach both those goals.

In addition, scheduling apps let you maintain an active social media presence without spending a huge percentage of your time on it. The best apps are really management tools that give you the capability to automate, analyze, control, and get the most out of your social media accounts.

Using some of these apps you can: create multiple posts; post the same or different updates on all your social accounts; schedule updates over time; find the best times to post; and one even can create effective content for you. You get to work on your social media efforts whenever you want and let the scheduling tool do the rest. You operate more efficiently, have time to produce more content, and your audience gets in the habit of looking for your posts at specific times.

All the apps listed here can schedule future posts and updates and are cost-effective for small businesses. Some support a broad array of social networks to control your entire online presence. Others offer especially powerful capabilities for one or two social platforms. Some include monitoring features and performance analytics to show you how people feel about your business and let you follow competitors, turning tons of data into useful information. Every social media scheduling app has a free trial, some even a free plan. So try a few to see which one works best for you. Here are nine the experts say are among the best.

Buffer Publish is built around scheduling posts. There’s a free plan, plus paid options for more accounts, more users, and analytics.

Hootsuite is an all-in-one solution for scheduling, monitoring, and analyzing your social media activities. There’s a free plan and a range of paid options.

Iconosquare is for Instagram business accounts and Facebook Pages, and also connects to Twitter. Good dashboard to publish, monitor, and analyze visual content.

Later is a useful management tool for free or inexpensive visual marketing on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. It’s only for visual content, but it has a free plan that’s robust enough for many small businesses.

Loomly is a complete scheduling tool that also helps you come up with timely posts. It suggests special days, events, hashtags, and trends you can key on that relate to your business or are of general interest.

Meet Edgar is a highly automated scheduling tool, the only one of these nine that can actually create content. Limited analytics, but you can A/B test best practices and track clicks.

Sendible is another comprehensive management app, compatible with many social networks and blog services, with analytics and collaboration tools.

Tailwind is for managing Pinterest and Instagram accounts. Has a good set of tools for scheduling and monitoring your brand’s performance on those platforms.

Zoho Social is a team-based social media tool. You can have employees manage your social media without giving them your password, as well as limit their roles.

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