Social media is tough. There's just no way around it. It can be time-consuming, burdensome, require that you learn all new tools, and add a massive level of stress and management to your day.
That being said, there is simply no avoiding its use. Consider the following:
However, like any business owner or employee, your time is limited, and you can only do so much. That's why it is so important that you find a great social media management tool that can help you efficiently manage your time and energy while keeping your social media usage on brand and on message.
Given the massive sprawl of social media, and that there is so much to manage, a social media management tool can make your life easier. A social media management tool is supposed to help you locate all of your social media on one app. It involves scheduling, customer service, management, and more, and all across multiple social media platforms. Depending on the program that you use, a social media management tool can cut out a ton of workload, make it easier for you to respond to concerns, and generally assist you in being more responsive to your customers. This, of course, can only increase your bottom line.
There is no doubt that every business has different needs out of this type of program. Some businesses are one-man shops, requiring only that a social media management tool allows them the ability to schedule posts and monitor analytics. Others have massive marketing departments, meaning that they will need the ability to monitor dozens of platforms, post image, and produce in-depth reports on their social media use.
Regardless of your needs, and regardless of the platform that you use, there are some features that you should make sure every program has.
The most basic feature of any of these social media management tools is the ability to schedule posts ahead of time. This means that you can plan for days or weeks worth of content, prepare it to run, and never have to worry about it again. You can also schedule content across multiple platforms, allowing for your brand to be consistent, no matter what social media platform you are using.
However, be warned: You cannot just schedule something and walk away from it. You will also have to monitor responses and additional customer service actions. Furthermore, if you schedule some piece of content and a world event happens that may make your content look callous or distasteful, be sure to cancel that content immediately. For example, you don't want to be trying to sell a sweater in the middle of a terrorist attack.
Good social media management tools should allow you to monitor and track responses while engaging in direct conversations with customers. However, a good program should also allow you to monitor keywords, competitor brands, and more. It should also have a robust enough system that allows you to receive app notifications. Broadly speaking, you should be able to customize what notifications you receive, and how you receive them.
The only way you know what social media content works and what doesn't, is by reviewing the data and analytics. As such, make sure that the program you select has a robust suite of built-in reports and the ability to create reports that fit your needs. This can help you determine what content works, what doesn't, and what are the best times and platforms to use.
Bigger companies may have multiple individuals monitoring and managing their social media platforms. If this is the case for you and your business, make sure that the program you use has robust team features, including tracking, customer-service options, the ability to assign certain tasks to others, and more.
Scheduling and posting are basics of any halfway decent platform. Additional services should include a variety of other features, including allowing you to sen direct messages, upload pictures or videos, and more. You also want a platform that will enable you to monitor multiple accounts and use numerous different social media platforms.
When it comes to social media, content is king. A good social media management program will help you find content. This may be through establishing alerts, helping you locate similar pages, or pointing out when content similar to what you have used in the past becomes available. Furthermore, a good social media management program should make it easy for you to save and review the content at a later date, or send it to someone who can make a determination about whether or not it is a good fit for your social media platform.
It can be extremely helpful if you have a social media management platform that has automated integration with other services, such as Email newsletters (like Mailchimp) or Customer-Relations Management (like Salesforce). This can help you to better track data and populate content for later review.
It's worth noting that many of these services operate with a Freemium model. This means that they allow you to use a limited set of services for free, but may charge you for more advance features, like additional accounts, analytics, or customer service. This model works very well for some services, as it allows them to hook you into their use before charging you for additional products.
Many businesses may find that a freemium model works perfect for them, but others may find that they need to pay for services, or that their social media use eventually expands to the point that payment is required. Make sure you know what features are free and what you will have to pay for before you use a product. The last thing you can afford is to use one of these programs and ultimately be forced to pay for a service that you absolutely require.
The past decade or so has seen a massive explosion of social media management tools that can be exceptionally useful for you and your business. Here's a list of some of the best, and which one we prefer.
e-Clincher is one of the more popular programs available today. It offers access to all of the standard programs (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) but also has some rarer integrations, letting your business manage your Google My Business page, as well as Yelp. This makes the program ideal for retail stores that thrive on reviews and direct customer interaction. It also comes with relatively deep Google integration and allows for easy integration with Canva, ensuring that graphics can easily be shared from their page to yours.
That's not it, however. eClincher allows you to use its built-in program to select a variety of stock features. You can view all of the content you have planned in an easily checkable visual calendar. You can boost a Facebook ad right from the eClincher platform. It's scheduling feature allows for certain categories of posts to be automatically posted. You can directly make posts from an RSS feed.
When it comes to direct customer interactions, e-Clincher also has a "one-stop-shop" that allows you to track all of your social media interactions with others, regardless of the platform you are using. This makes it easy to interact with and respond to customers.
e-Clincher Isn't Cheap
All of this barely scratches the surface of eClincher's very impressive features. However, this isn't a free program, nor is it one that uses the freemium model. While there is a free trial of the program, monthly costs range from $59 to $219 a month. That being said, this is a program for power users, and you should get amazing results with it.
Why eClincher is My Preference
When it comes to social media use, I have always found the most benefit from eClincher. This is for many reasons, including:
Unlike other networks, Buffer is a more limited tool. The platform allows users to manage only Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter & LinkedIn. However, it's emphasis on the two most visually-friendly networks does ensure that users at least get a chance to concentrate on management here.
Buffer has special features for Instagram users, allowing you to set reminders and even set up shop grids. This can be highly important if your brand is extremely visual.
Buffer does offer basic scheduling features, including scheduling posts in advance, viewing all of those posts on a nice visual calendar, and tailoring the posts that you make for each separate social network. This, of course, is very important, as a hashtag-emphasized post that may work for Instagram will look ridiculous on Facebook.
Buffer has a nice team set-up, allowing for collaboration and different levels of permission. Team leaders can approve or modify posts before they go live.
Buffer, too, eschews the Freemium model of pricing. It gives you a 14-day free trial (no credit card required) and then charges you between $15 and $99 monthly. As such, while its features and platforms are more limited, its price is also more reasonable, making this an appropriate tool for people who don't need to use quite as many networks.
Hootsuite is one of the oldest of these social media management programs, having been around for well over a decade. As such, it's features are a little bit more refined, and that makes sense - they come from a company with years of experience.
When it comes to options for you to use, Hootsuite isn't messing around. It allows you to use up to 35 different social networks. In other words, if it exists and is even remotely popular, odds are really, really good that Hootsuite will allow you to use it.
More to the point: Hootsuite comes with all of the bells and whistles you would expect out of a social media management program. It allows for scheduling, in-suite promotion, and monitoring/automated responding to certain keywords. It has team functions that allow for conversations to be assigned and content to be approved. It is integrated with 250 different apps and other programs, making content creation and a breeze.
Incidentally, Hootsuite also has one of the more robust content curation suites of the programs we review here. It allows you to search for content by keywords or hashtags, save it for later, and schedule a repost. It also has some pretty nice libraries that allow you to organize your content by tags and categories. And, of course, it has a lovely visual calendar that makes it easy for you to determine what content works best.
Freemium - Sort of
Hootsuite does have a Freemium model, but it is extremely limited. Users can set up only three channels, have one user, and schedule up to 30 posts. In other words...you aren't going to get a lot of mileage out of a free account with Hootsuite.
When it comes to pricing, Hootsuite runs the gamut. The use of the program can cost anywhere from $30 to $600 a month, and that's before any of the customized "Enterprise" programs that can be much, much more expensive. However, you can get a 30-day trial membership.
Sprout Social is another one of the older social media management platforms that are out there.
Sprout Social comes with a series of impressive features. It has a variety of easy to read analytics programs that can enable you to make good social media decisions about what content works and what doesn't. It makes engagement easy by offering a "unified inbox" that allows you to respond to comments in one place. It also has a series of options that can make it easy to see when your brand is being discussed and simple to find good content to share.
Like many other networks, it offers management of the "big five" social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
Perhaps owing to its special emphasis on these two features, Sprout Social goes out of its way to discuss two additional features.
First is its collaboration. Like other platforms, it has extensive collaboration options, allowing users to manage tasks and responses, assign conversations, and turn conversations into specific "to-dos" to be managed. Sprout Social does offer conversation auditing as well, a very nice feature that allows for messages to be looked into. By doing so, managers can ensure that their staff is specifically following up on the messages they are sent.
Additionally, Sprout Social has an entire section on its website dedicated to its automation options. These options allow users to create specific robots that automatically respond to chats on Twitter and Facebook, schedule automated comments, and prioritize messages based on keywords and responses.
MeetEdgar is a different sort of program in that the features it offers are far different than most automated social media platforms. It doesn't just concentrate on scheduling posts and allowing for team collaborating. Instead, it offers features that you really can't find on other platforms.
At its core, MeetEdgar is largely built around an emphasis on smart automation. It offers a variety of these functions. First, MeetEdgar will analyze your social media content and analytics, developing "smart" status updates that are based on your voice and what data works for you. MeetEdgar will regularly repost "evergreen" content that is useful and relevant, helping to drive traffic your way by using the content that works best.
MeetEdgar performs these services with a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. It is also relatively cheap at only $49 a month, with a plan available that contains fewer features at $19.
A/B Testing on Social Media
A/B Testing is a regularly used process on Email marketing when Email content is sent out, but with tweaks sent to different groups, like different subject lines. The results are analyzed and used to determine what content performs best. Meet Edgar does A/B testing on social media posts, and again, this process is highly automated to help you find the content that works best.
Look, we get it: Social media can be exceptionally complicated, and if you are a business that has a million things to do, you may not have the time, energy, or expertise to run your social media. If that's the case, make sure to reach out to us at the Baron Media Group for information on how to grow your social media presence and more information on how social media can help you. We can help teach you how to use an array of social media tools, including LinkedIn.
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