The time commitment and consistency needed to be effective on social media is a major obstacle for many businesses and brands. For some it’s enough to scare them off before ever really getting started. Others simply fall by the wayside when they see that social can be time consuming and feels never-ending.

Fortunately, there are fantastic tools out there that will make your social media marketing activities much more manageable and streamlined. Here are four outstanding tools, all of which have free options if not completely free, to help you better manage your time spent on social.

1. Buffer: Schedule Tweets & Plan Ahead

Buffer is an outstanding utility web utility and mobile app that can make sharing updates to various multiple social networks simple and easy. Additionally, since it’s important to have a balanced presence that lasts throughout the day, Buffer will send updates out over time, picking times that have been proven to be most effective for getting views. Buffer supports Facebook (profiles and pages,) Twitter, LinkedIn and the most recent addition is Google Plus.

2. Hootsuite: Advanced Social Media Suite – Utilize RSS To The Fullest

Hootsuite can also be used to update multiple social networks with a single post. While Buffer is a little more light-weight, Hootsuite is a little more advanced, social media management tool, but both are very useful in maintaining active presences in little time. Hootsuite posts to all networks that Buffer covers but also includes support to Instagram, YouTube and others through plugins.

You can do advanced scheduling through Hootsuite, including bulk scheduling that can be done via uploading a CSV file with the udpates, times and dates desired. Hootsuite will also track RSS feeds that you can then share and it offers some nice keyword monitoring and analytics, but our next option is the recommended method for managing and staying on top of a lot of news and content sources.

3. Feedly: Organize And Track Blogs

Organize, track and read all you news, blogs, etc. in one place. When Google Reader shut down in July, Feedly was the big winner, taking on the majority of users who switched to another RSS reader. When you find something worth sharing, you can publish via Buffer with a couple of taps. Activate Feedly in IFTTT (our next recomendation) for single tap sharing to your favorite network.

4. IFTTT: Thousands Of Channels Ready For Full Automatization

IFTTT (which stands for “if this, then that”) is a great free service that ties to many different social utilities and networks to help you automate and be more efficient. IFTTT works with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as Buffer and Feedly. The services uses a series of triggers, which when fired, causes another action to take place through many of the integrated services, such as Feedly and Buffer.

For instance, I have Feedly set to save items to a service that works with IFTTT called Pocket. I have trigger set in IFTTT so that whenever an item is saved to Pocket, it’s automatically added to Buffer. So in effect, as I scan my news feeds and press and hold down on an item, through my IFTTT setup, it will automatically go out as a tweet. How cool is that??