“Social media marketing” can mean a lot of things; you can use it as a content syndication channel, use it as a customer service platform, leverage paid advertising, sell your products, research your demographics, and support your other marketing strategies like email and SEO. You can use one platform, a few platforms, or any you can get a hold of. It’s a big world, and one that few can command with any level of true expertise beyond simply being familiar with the platforms’ individual functions.
Because of this, several social media management tools have emerged to make life easier for the marketers attempting to enter this world—but how valuable are they, and which ones are the “best”? As always, this is a bit subjective, but I’d like to present five of my favorite social media marketing tools, along with why I’m so fond of them to begin with.
First, let’s take a look at what a “good” social media marketing strategy needs to accomplish; no matter what your angle is or who your followers are, these tenets are practically universal:
With all that out of the way, here are the five tools I’ve found to be the most affordable, useful, and efficient in achieving the hallmarks above:
Google Analytics may seem like a strange entry on this list, since it’s mostly geared toward measuring and analyzing web traffic, but don’t underestimate its potential in improving your campaign. Once integrated, Analytics will help you identify the social media strategies most helpful in supporting your business, including which platforms tend to attract the most traffic, which posts tend to attract the most shares, and what type of user behavior you can expect from incoming followers of each platform. Best of all, it’s completely free, making it an essential for any small business with a limited budget. The only downside is its lack of scheduling and follower analysis tools.
Hootsuite is an older social media management platform, but it’s still around—and still popular—for good reason. It’s one of the most flexible products on this list, offering integration with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Among the features of Hootsuite, you’ll find a post scheduling tool to help you plan and regulate your posts, an engagement tool to monitor and manage your individual engagements, and an analysis tool to help you understand your key areas of growth (and where you need to improve). Hootsuite offers a free version of its product, but if you want all the bells and whistles, you’ll have to upgrade to a Pro or Enterprise plan.
If you’re working with a team of social media managers, Sprout Social is one of the best tools you can get. It offers much of the same functionality that Hootsuite does—namely, post scheduling, engagement, behavior, and analysis tools—but it takes it a step further by adding multiple roles and communication channels for your team. For example, you can have team leaders assign other managers to respond to specific posts, or accomplish certain tasks for an account. Sprout Social offers a free trial, but is paid subscription software.
SocialOomph is more of a specialist tool than the universal platforms of Hootsuite and Sprout Social, but it’s very effective at what it does. Offering integration with almost every platform you’ll need, SocialOomph gives you the ability to upload a “bulk” list of updates to schedule in advance, surpassing the common limitation of scheduling all your future posts one at a time. If you’re in the business of syndicating your content on a regular basis, this tool is indispensable. You can also track keywords, follow back people who follow you, and integrate the tool with platforms like WordPress.
BuzzSumo is a major name in the social media and inbound marketing industry, mostly because of the amount of original research they publish. Rather than giving you more efficient control over the posts and direction of your social media accounts, BuzzSumo is a tool to increase the relevance of your campaigns. Functioning as a “content research” platform, BuzzSumo helps you find content topics that are trending, demographic behaviors, and even helps you identify key influencers in your industry.
Any of the tools in this list should help you manage and monitor your social media campaign more effectively, in any situation and in any industry. However, I realize that not all of these tools will be perfect for the job. As you gain more experience in the realm of social media management, you may find yourself leaning toward specific uses—like customer service or paid advertising—more than others. When you do, you’ll have to do some more research to find the niche tools necessary to give you the full package. Until then, these all-in-one management systems will serve you well.