The Best Social Media Management Tool for Smart Business Owners
For the business owner who wants to leverage social media, the days of simply posting to a Facebook Page are long over. Today's businesses must have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, and regularly share updates and information to each of those platforms.
Furthermore, the socially savvy brand owner recognizes that social media isn't just for marketing. Businesses and their customers are using social channels to have discussions on issues and products, and even brands themselves. Businesses that fail to listen and respond to those conversations are missing out.
Managing all these social networks and task requirements means that a smart business owner will utilize a social media management tool. Through the use of a dashboard and assorted features, the business or their social media manager can share and schedule posts to a variety of social networks, listen for important discussions, as well as measure results. And of course, budget and price are important considerations as well.
Social Media Management Tool Required Features
The following features are ones that I consider must-haves for a social media management tool that expects to support a socially savvy business.
1. Multiple Social Network Support
Perhaps this goes without saying, but the tool must support more than one network to be of any real use. Today's businesses simply cannot afford to only be active on Twitter - particularly not when there are so many connections and SEO benefits to being on another network like Google+. That means that network-specific tools may be great and have useful features, but fail to pass muster when trying to qualify as the best social media management tool for business.
2. Social Network Business Profile Support
Again, this is another obvious feature that absolutely must be incorporated into the management tool. The tool has to support multiple Twitter accounts (so that both personal and branded accounts can be connected), as well as Facebook Pages, LinkedIn Company Pages, and Google+ Business Pages.
3. Scheduled Social Media Activity
Businesses must be able to set up social media activity and shares in advance, so that posts can be published during the times that make the most sense for that business and their target audience - regardless of whether or not business management is busy during those times.
4. Social Media Monitoring & Listening
Posting to social networks is only the beginning for smart business owners. Once published, the socially savvy owner will use those posts to engage influencers and potential customers, and participate in a multitude of discussions. The social media management tool has to empower business owners and social media managers to monitor account activity and post engagement, as well as listen for customer service questions, brand mentions and prospecting opportunities.
5. Social Media Analytics
The final critical element to the best social management tools must be that of analytics. Business owners have to be able to see some metrics that help demonstrate the measurable success of past social media activity, to help determine the type and frequency of future social media activity.
Determining the Best Social Media Management Tool
First, it should be stated that the title of this post would be more aptly named, "The Best Social Media Management Tool for Smart Business Owners as of today." All of the social media management tools who wish to stay relevant and increase their user base are constantly evolving and adding new features. Undoubtedly, this is a topic that we will be reviewing regularly in the future, and my recommendation may ultimately be revised and changed.
Second, in the interests of full disclosure, I am a Hootsuite Partner. For those businesses who choose to use my affiliate link to sign up, I do receive a small commission. However, that is not why I recommend Hootsuite. Rather, I am willing to be a partner and Certified Professional for Hootsuite because I can so strongly recommend Hootsuite. When it comes to evaluating the best social media management tool, Hootsuite delivers.
But Hootsuite isn't the only tool I have used and reviewed. Because even Hootsuite is not without its deficiencies, I regularly use one or two other tools to fill in the gaps.
For instance, Buffer is a tool that I use regularly. Buffer allows me to set a daily schedule, unique to each social network, and fill up a queue of social media posts and activity to be published at the next available timeslot for whichever connected accounts I specify. With Buffer, I can have 3 scheduled posts to my Facebook Page a day, 9 scheduled posts to my branded Twitter account, plus shares to my LinkedIn Company Page and Google+ Business Page. It ensures that, no matter what, all of my branded accounts will have something going on, every day.
But Buffer does not support monitoring and listening, and analytics are limited to the activity you push through Buffer.
Another tool that I use and have talked about is Everypost. Everypost supports all of the major social networks, even personal Google+ profiles. It also allows you customize each of the social media shares per network. But it lacks any support for the last three requirements above: scheduling social media activity, social media monitoring & listening, and social media analytics. Everypost is for posting and broadcasting only.
So I have tried a lot of tools and researched dozens of others. Each time, I look at the tool objectively and determine if the above criteria are met. If not, I move on (unless there is a very specific purpose for which that tool excels and it makes sense to use it.) If the tool does pass muster, than a closer evaluation is warranted. For some, it may boil down to considerations like price.
The Best Social Media Management Tool
While there are several tools that meet the above requirements, there's only one tool that does everything above and does so at a competitive price, and that is Hootsuite.
Hootsuite supports multiple Twitter accounts, personal and business Facebook, personal and business LinkedIn, and Google+ Pages, as well as Facebook Groups and LinkedIn Groups.
Hootsuite offers a robust scheduling system that allows you to share posts immediately, schedule them for a specific time, or "AutoSchedule" and allow Hootsuite to determine the best time to share, based on predetermined timeframes and times per day that you can customize.
Hootsuite includes one of the most powerful and flexible dashboards and is particularly well-suited for monitoring and listening. Tabs and streams can be configured and saved to search for keywords, brand mentions, URLs shared and more. And results can be shared with team members and discussed right within Hootsuite.
Hootsuite features a rich and adaptable set of reports that can be called up and adjusted on the fly. While the point system is confusing, the reality is that most of the social media data businesses seek can be worked into a report, and those reports can be saved and auto generated regularly if needed.
This is not to say that other social media tools aren't great. Many serve excellent functions or appeal to businesses due to a particular feature or benefit that they need. And there's nothing wrong with using multiple tools. I use Hootsuite, Buffer and even SocialOomph, and I pay for all three.
But most businesses neither need nor want to have to use multiple tools just to maintain a presence on social media. And I get that, which is why, of course, I've written this article. If you're looking for just one tool, the tool that does the best overall job of helping a business to use social media to reach and engage a wider audience, Hootsuite is my recommendation.
If you haven't already, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial of Hootsuite Pro, after which it costs just $8.99 a month.
Other Tools Reviewed
I mentioned that I still use Buffer, and you can read a detailed reasoning of how and why I use Buffer & Hootsuite together in my article, "Hootsuite Versus Buffer For The Heavyweight Championship." I also use SocialOomph to maintain a constant presence on multiple Twitter profiles.
I have also looked at TweetDeck, Sprout Social, BundlePost, CoSchedule, Falcon Social, Maven, Octopost, Everypost, Friends+ME, DoShare, ViralWoot, and many, many more. Some, like Sprout Social, are excellent tools that you would not go wrong with using. In such instances, as I mentioned, it generally comes down to price and a few very specific features that may or may not meet your individual needs.
Additional Hootsuite Features
Still aren't convinced? Let me share some of the other features and uses of Hootsuite you'll enjoy:
- Connect up to 50 profiles
- Set up Organizations and Teams and Team Members
- Bulk schedule messages
- Configure template responses for consistent answers
- Preset Google Analytics tracking codes for shortened URLs
- Connect RSS feeds to auto-share trusted content
- Curate content from Hootsuite suggestions or RSS feeds
- Search Tweets and Google+ posts
- Monitor Lists and Google+ Circles
- Research influencers and prospects, complete with Klout scores
- Powerful mobile app
- Convenient browser extension
- Tap the App Directory to extend Hootsuite into other social networks and purposes
- Take advantage of Hootsuite University for great lectures and lessons
- Enterprise edition available for corporate command centers
- Free edition available for businesses using 3 or fewer social profiles
Note that while agencies can and often do use a single Hootsuite dashboard to manage multiple clients, I find it far easier to use a separate account and dashboard for each client. The additional monthly fee is well worth what you'll gain in additional reporting capability and ease of account management.
Give Hootsuite a try today. You won't regret it.
P.S. If you really want to maximize your use of Hootsuite, consider picking up a copy of "The Unofficial Book on Hootsuite, The #1 Tool for Social Media Management" for just $2.99!
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."Follow @Mike_Allton