Staying on task when managing your social media responsibilities isn't as difficult when you have the right tools at the ready. Here are five tools to consider.
Social media takes a lot of time and effort. In addition to producing relevant, quality content that engages people, the social media manager needs to keep up with netiquette (i.e., etiquette rules for online encounters) and build relationships. Then there is all the interesting content the social media manager encounters during the course of her daily tasks, and, well... time flies when you're building relationships with the entire global population.
If you build your own social media toolkit, the job becomes much more manageable and less time-consuming. In short, social media management tools can keep you from getting lost down content rabbit holes and losing your entire day to Internet reading. Here are five of my favorite tools for keeping my social media time manageable.
1: Google Chrome
One of my favorite things about Google Chrome is the ability to have multiple accounts. I keep one Chrome account for work and have another one for my personal life. If I need to flip over and get something from my personal account during the day, I can, but my work computer is set to my professional Chrome account, which makes it easier to manage my work tools. The flip scenario is also good -- I keep my home computer set to my personal Chrome account so that work is less likely to seep into my family time. If only the system were so easily managed on my mobile office (Samsung Note II).
Chrome's multi-account feature is particularly convenient for managing the social media accounts that I'm charged with. In the toolbar in my professional Chrome account, I have a Facebook link set to go directly to my company's Facebook page (Facebook.com/HuTerra). This allows me to pop over to post or check on the community without having to see my personal Facebook feed. There's no temptation to waste time, as setting the bookmark for the company page keeps me focused on the task at hand. I use this trick for Twitter and Google+ as well.
2: The post calendar
A quick Internet search will turn up all manner of post planning calendar templates, but I find that a simple spreadsheet or even a Word document with a table works just fine. The length of time to schedule your posts out depends on how timely your messages need to be. I find that maintaining a monthly calendar with some planned posts but that leaves plenty of room for timely information works well. We'll cover post planning in detail in the next article in this series.
HootSuite is a social media tool that allows you to do two key things: monitor all your social media feeds in one application and schedule posts in advance. There are multiple levels of HootSuite membership, but you can probably get away with the free version. While it is a very handy tool, especially for post scheduling, I find that HootSuite doesn't completely replace the human aspect of interacting directly with your communities. Try it out, but keep your pages bookmarked too.
Tweriod is fast and easy to use. Log in with your Twitter account, and it generates a report letting you know the best times to post to Twitter. This is the type of tool that you can check in with occasionally, doesn't take time to master, and helps you optimize your time online.
5: Google Analytics
Google Analytics allows you to track all kinds of wonderful things about your website and marketing efforts. You do have to put a line of code in your website for tracking purposes, but the Help files make it really easy and the folks who run your company's site can probably pop it in in just a few minutes. Google Analytics gives you a Dashboard where you can measure where your traffic sources come from, and see whether your social media efforts are paying off. It also includes a host of SEO tracking tools, which makes it a quick go-to for measuring ROI.
What's in your toolkit?
There are many more social media tools available, all at varying price levels. These five are a great place to start and are either free or offer free versions. Most tools on the market offer free trials, and you should test out several and master one before signing up for all the bells and whistles.
Now you have some tools, an audience, and an idea about how to message and where. Next time, we'll take a look at planning content in advance and managing planned postings with timely material. In the meantime, test out some social media tools, and let us know which ones you prefer and which ones you can do without.