While many small business owners will understand the value of social media as a marketing tool, putting the usage of social media into practice may be a different story. Many businesses choose to hire social media agencies to manage their accounts because of a lack of resource or understanding, but help is at hand for those who are looking to avoid third party costs.
A number of useful tools exist to facilitate social media management for small businesses, with the fifteen described below being some of the more popular options.
Management tool Hootsuite began life in 2008, allowing users to manage all of their social media accounts from a single dashboard. Benefits of the service include the ability to schedule posts and the presence of an “Insights” tab within the dashboard, which allows users to create custom reports on their activity. Additional team members can also be added to accounts within the Hootsuite interface, and there is an app for tablets and smartphones.
Sprout Social features a number of benefits over Hootsuite for its users. Businesses are able to compare their social media performance with that of their competitors, showing engagement, daily mention stats and more. The conversation history facility means that customer service can be even better tailored by remembering past conversations with your customers. In addition, you’ll be able to see which social media users are the most influential, which may help to improve your brand presence.
CrowdBooster is a strong choice for those with smaller budgets. The platform, developed by Stanford graduates in 2010, is a low cost tool that analyses your Facebook and Twitter activity and provides recommendations based on the results. Dashboards are visually appealing and navigation is simple, and in addition to basic stats, it can recommend the best times of day to post based on the performance of previous posts, who you should interact with and more. However, the analytics offered by CrowdBooster are relatively simple, it can take time for the service to aggregate content and only Twitter and Facebook are supported.
TweetDeck has some similarities to Hootsuite: multiple columns can be viewed on a single screen and created based on your requirements; tweets can be scheduled; and users are able to post to more than one social media account at once. The service also allows tweets of over 140 characters (which are automatically shortened), and any links included in your posts will be automatically shortened. Users will also find that their bit.ly API key will be accepted, meaning that any links posted through the service can be tracked for clicks. However, as a desktop application, TweetDeck will need to be downloaded before it can be used, and users will also find that there is no analytics feature built in, which may well be their primary reason for using such a service.
Tweepi was launched in 2009, and is designed to help users to strengthen their social media presence. It allows users to search for relevant influencers, and uses Klout scores to show the social media performance of those you are looking to connect with. Those managing multiple social media accounts are able to manage every account in the same place, while features such as Tweepi’s own statistics tool and the “force unfollow” feature, which forces undesirable followers to unfollow you, is useful for businesses wishing to maintain a strong and clean brand image.
Rather than allowing you to manage your social media accounts online, TweetReach is a tool designed to understand how far a tweet has travelled via Twitter. It can help users to understand the impact of their Twitter campaigns and is ideal for tracking the performance of hashtags, with strong analysis of the data that the user’s search returns, and the ability to both save and print activity and the analysis of TweetReach results. The service also allows analysis of Instagram and Tumblr activity.
Buffer is a tool that proves useful for those small businesses who are looking to share high levels of content via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – but who do not have the available resources to post regularly throughout the day. The tool allows users to schedule their posts to these three social media networks, queuing posts to be automatically posted throughout the day or at times specified by the user. Buffer allows users to keep content flowing even when the user is not online.
SocialBro is a Twitter management tool that allows the comprehensive management of any Twitter account. A thorough video tutorial explains how this fairly confusing-looking tool operates, in order that you can analyse your community in the most effective way possible. It can inform you of the best times at which to send tweets, based on the analysis of your community, and links with Buffer to allow tweet scheduling.
Downsides are limited, but centre around the fact that SocialBro works with Twitter only, meaning that other social media accounts must be managed separately.
Twazzup is a search engine that allows users to search Twitter for key words, names or phrases – either with or without a hashtag. This allows business users to search quickly and easily for mentions of their brand across the social media service. Results are far more comprehensive than Twitter’s own search function, and its user-friendly interface displays results quickly. Search results are summarised in groups of top influencers, top RT links and Google News alerts, allowing you easy access to all mentions of your brand.
SocialFlow is a tool that was designed in order that social media users can distribute their content to their audiences in the most effective way possible. Every individual user sets their own rules to determine what to publish and when, and these rules work in conjunction with real-time data analysis from the SocialFlow software. The tool is designed to help users to understand the best times at which to interact with their target audiences.
Argyle Social is a social media dashboard that is used by a number of social media agencies to manage their clients’ accounts. It was designed for serious use, and has the added benefit over other such tools of tracking conversions and revenue. Argyle Social have offered their tool as a white label service for agency use, and both their static and trended analytics service has garnered positive comments.
Vertical Response is a service that provides its users with all of the tools required to run a successful email marketing campaign. Users are able to choose an email template or create their own from scratch, using an interface that is very user-friendly. Vertical Response also allows additional features, such as the built-in creation of surveys, full integration with Salesforce, event management tools and the inclusion of social media buttons to make content easy to share.
Klout is a tool that uses its own algorithms to measure the influence of an individual or business across a variety of social media channels.
The tool measures the number of people that a user is influencing, the extent to which these people are influenced and how influential the people influenced are, in order to give each user a score that shows their level of influence. It also provides a breakdown of the topics about which the user is most influential, and gives a description of their social media profiles based on these scores. Klout allows users to search current topics being discussed in a user’s network.
Social Mention is a free social media analysis tool that operates in real time. It offers users the option to receive social media alerts, such as daily email alerts of the talk around topics of your choice.
The tool allows users to search for topics across the board, or to find mention of them in a specific medium, for example, videos, blogs, comments or news. It can track whether sentiment is positive or negative, average mentions per hour and reach.
Spredfast is a social media management tool that is aimed at organisations rather than at individuals. It was designed to enable businesses to monitor, measure and manage their social media presence, and integrates with a range of existing business systems.
A customisable dashboard offers a wide range of analytics, as well as allowing businesses to create individual user roles and see what activity has come from which individual – as well as having the opportunity to review content from certain individuals before it is posted. It also allows the scheduling of messages.
Most small businesses will find that they have a need for social media marketing – but measuring its success can be difficult. These tools all offer different solutions, showing that there is plenty of help available when it comes to maintaining a strong social media presence.