If you follow my Twitter feed, you know my love for Buffer. I follow every single employee and I mention them relentlessly (they’re probably tired of hearing from me). I love that their system can queue posts and perform custom scheduling. There is a growing list in my nightstand drawer detailing all the things I love about this company, ranging from their product to their culture.

All things considered, I’ve come to a bit of a crossroads. I need more analysis on my data; I’m working with more clients and I’m nearly at the maximum of 12 accounts on my Awesome Plan. In order to calculate reach, I’ve begun researching and trying tools that can offer me greater insight in the data I receive. All of which are free versions: Fllwrs, Friend or Follow, Retweet Lab, Tweriod, Klout, Kred, and my favorite, SumAll.

I’m at the tipping point where I may need to invest in a more advanced program. After using the free-trials of several platforms, participating in Twitter chats, and asking other social media professionals, Buffer and SproutSocial are the top choices. There are very distinct reasons why I like each and they are accompanied by equally strong shortcomings.

Buffer’s layout is beautiful. The clean, white design makes it very user-friendly. The iPhone app is easy to use, the queuing feature is wonderful, and its integration with a number of platforms is awesome. The company is constantly developing; recently, Google+ has been added as an available account to connect. There’s a “Live Chat” button added within the last week. They just released Buffer for Business and I couldn’t have been more excited.

After trying the least expensive of the premium plans ($50/month), I was a little disappointed. Jumping from $8.50/month to $50/month is quiet a leap and I didn’t feel it was worth it. The data analysis was not as detailed as I would have hoped; Sumall, a tool that is currently free in beta form, outpaces Buffer. I wasn’t yet persuaded to type in my credit card digits.

I gave SproutSocial a 30-day trial and loved the analytics. It told me where leads were coming from, compiled more detailed reports, and gave me a level of insight no other platform offered. However, the design was slightly confusing. It was an odd combination of Buffer and HootSuite with a black background. I have heard wonderful reviews about SproutSocial, but I was uncertain of the platform’s design. There may be nothing wrong with it at all–it is just unfamiliar to me–but I did not continue use after the trial period ended.

Sprout Social costs $40/month; that $10 difference compared to Buffer could save me $120 a year. For full-time social media agencies and freelancers, that’s nothing. For someone just starting out, that’s enough to make me hesitate.

My hope is that Buffer will improve its data analysis portion of the website. If this is up to par with SproutSocial and SumAll, they have my money. At this moment, neither company is getting anything more from me. Please leave your suggestions in the comments–especially if you know of another service I have yet to use.