Social networking has become an inevitability for businesses of all sizes. No matter what your product or service, you’re hurting yourself if you don’t have a social media presence. And as you grow, so do your social media needs. At some point, your social presence is going to become hard to manage using the standard interfaces. You will need newer and more powerful tools that are better suited for the task.

I found five low-cost (or free) tools that can help manage your social media presence. With these tools, you can handle various tasks (some offer more than others). But most important is the ability to keep track of your social accounts as well as your followers (and their mentions of you or your company/product).

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: SocialBro

SocialBro (Figure A) is available as a Google Chrome extension and as a desktop app. It allows you to get fairly fine-grained with the viewing of your Twitter accounts. SocialBro is one of my favorite tools, simply because it offers so much information and so many capabilities with Twitter. You can search users and keywords, create specific filters, find your best time to tweet, monitor hashtags, analyze competitors, and much more. You will have to create a SocialBro account (free) and then give the extension permission to access your Twitter data.

Figure A


2: TweetDeck

TweetDeck (Figure B) is offered as a Google Chrome extension, a desktop client, and mobile clients (IOS and Android). All versions of the tool offer the same features. With TweetDeck, you can customize what you see (arranging your feeds to display the way you want), schedule tweets, monitor unlimited accounts, get notification alerts for new tweets, see media previews, handle list management, and much more.

Figure B


3: GroupTweet

GroupTweet (Figure C) is a unique tool that allows multiple users to post on a single Twitter account. This can quickly ease the burden of managing a social presence on Twitter. Each user that is given permission to post is displayed in the group account — individual names can be enabled or disabled. You can have unlimited contributors to an account and any Twitter client can be used with GroupTweet. For $4.99 per month (for the Premium account), you gain extra features like Tweet moderation, scheduled tweets, prioritized tweets, and multiple hashtag designation.

Figure C


4: HootSuite

HootSuite (Figure D) is an outstanding tool for monitoring your brand. From a single dashboard you can manage teams, get custom analytics, manage messages, manage multiple accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and more), and get Facebook insights. There are two plans: Free and Pro ($9.99 per month). Check out the feature matrix to see which plan offers which feature. If you need more, there is also an Enterprise plan. (Contact HootSuite for more information.)

Figure E


5: Seesmic

Seesmic (Figure E) is a handy tool that allows you to manage your Twitter and Facebook feeds. You can connect not only your main Facebook page but any fan page you manage. Say you have a main company page with fan pages for different services or departments. You can easily post to only those pages you want from a simple-to-use mobile or desktop client. Seesmic also allows for the scheduling of tweets and updates.

Figure E


Other picks?

Managing a social media presence doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. With the help of a few user-friendly tools, your company’s social media presence can not only be managed, but it can become far more effective.

Do you have a favorite social media management tool? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.