Social media tools, or social media management systems, all aim to make the fractured nature of social media more manageable. For businesses that want to do more than simply have a marginal presence on social media platforms, these tools are an absolute must.
At a minimum your social media tool should include:
- a method to publish content across the social media platforms you participate on without having to log on to each one
- a notification capability that lets you know when someone comments, talks to you, or shares your content
- a way to allow more than one person to use the tool
- a way to schedule content posting
- a mobile component so smartphones and tablets can interact on the social platforms
- a way to shorten links
- analytics and reporting tools
In the competitive world of social media management tools, there are players who are including other features and variations on the basics. The problem is, until you have some experience using a tool, it might be difficult to know if these other features make those tools any more valuable to you. That's also partly because you have your own variables to add to the mix such as the size of your business, the depth of its involvement in social media, and your budget.
Here are a variety of tools that should be a fit for many different types of businesses, along with what some reviewers have written about them. The tools are listed here alphabetically.
Megan Marrs, with WordStream, characterizes HootSuite as the "most well-known social media management platform" and highlights the impressive span of social media platforms it’s capable of helping you manage. She also likes being able to see all Twitter mentions, private messages, retweets, and the home feed all in a handy tabbed format. Bloggers on the Strategy Team at Vodori, a digital agency, also appreciated the multi-column view of streams and the customization of the streams. Other features reviewers liked included a way for anyone in your company to participate in conversation threads, and analytics data presented intuitively and in a way that makes them quickly understood.HootSuite has three plans including a Free one, a Pro plan at $8.99 a month, and an Enterprise plan with a price that isn't disclosed on its website. You can get a 30-day free trial on the Pro plan. Jess Ostroff, managing editor at Convince & Convert, highlights Postling's all-in-one dashboard and large ears for listening to the web. So besides picking up Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it also brings in blogs from the major platforms (Flickr, bitly, YouTube) and sites like Yelp. In fact, you can create blog posts within the dashboard, schedule them, or post them immediately to Facebook, your blog platform, or your Postling blog.
For companies with multiple lines or multiple business interests, Postling has a brand approach to managing social presences, so accounts are grouped together according to brand.Postling costs $10 a month for up to five social media accounts, with additional accounts costing an additional $3 each per month. For a dollar, you can get unlimited use for the first 30 days.
Jamie Turner, founder of 60 Second Marketer and writing on Social Media Examiner, extolls the benefits offered by Sendible in the brand monitoring and sentiment analysis areas. Not only can you see the percentage of customers who describe your product in certain ways, you can also find out what people are saying about competitors' products. Angela West, copywriter and writing in PCWorld, says Sendible's task drill-down makes your social efforts more specific and saves time. She also says the tool makes it easy to monitor your social presence and then manage it. Sendible's tracking and analytics tools are robust enough to keep track of conversations and interactions with your brand, track clicks and referrers, and more.Sendible offers seven plans: Solo for $9.99 a month, Marketer for $29.99 a month, Startup for $39.99 a month, Business for $69.99 a month, Corporate for $99.99 a month, Premium for $499.99 a month, and White Label for $899.99 a month. A 30-day free trial is available.
This is a tool with three products. The BuilderPRO product focuses on building and managing engagement and publishing and following your competition. The AnalyticsPRO product helps you do things like industry benchmarking, competitive analyses, graphical reporting, and understanding your influence. Market Insights is for those who are in multiple markets and want to know how their targeted audiences differ based on their interests.
BuilderPRO and AnalyticsPRO aren't priced on the website, and you need to schedule a demo to get a free trial. Market Insights comes in three plans: Start at $200 a month, Basic at $500 a month, and Premium with pricing on request. The Start plan covers two markets and two users, the Basic plan covers five markets and five users, and Premium plan covers all markets and 50 users.
In his comparison of Sprout Social to HootSuite, Taylor Clark describes SproutSocial's interface as "making you instantly feel like a Fortune 500 level marketing director," because of its dashboard presentation filled with demographic and other relevant data. Likewise, Colin Cronin, digital marketing arbiter with Digitalry and who also did a HootSuite and Social Sprout comparison this year, called Sprout Social's dashboard "substantially more attractive," and laden with valuable snapshot information. He also named Sprout Social the winner in the management category, which is the whole idea behind these types of tools. John D. Saunders, digital marketing specialist at Herman Advertising and writing in Social Media Today, called Sprout Social a "great tool for social media ROI and engagement," mainly because of its reporting, messaging, and publishing capabilities.
Social Sprout's three plan levels are: Standard ($39 per user per month), Deluxe ($59 per user per month), and Premium ($99 per user per month). All plans include a 30-day free trial.
Duane Craig reports and writes on technology, construction, finance, food, and agriculture. He's been published in trade print magazines, the Washington Post, and widely on the web.