For business owners who rely on social networks to market their brand, social media management tools are a must. These tools help you to be more efficient and productive as you can post, schedule and manage information across your social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. And, depending on the type of account you opt for, you can add multiple profiles, permit team access and delegation, access analytics and reports, and increase your customer engagement, among a host of other things. The number of social media management tools has grown over recent years and vary in what they offer, including their price.
Before you use any of the tools available, remember that they are not meant to replace your social media marketing strategy but to enhance it. It’s advisable that you check out which one (or more) is most suited to your overall business plan. Things to consider include are, the size of your company; how many social networks your business is connected with; your budget; and what you hope to achieve. And, crucially, who will be responsible for managing posts, scheduling, responding to messages, analysing and monitoring progress, engaging with customers, and such like?
Three of the most popular social media management tools on the market are, Hootsuite, Buffer and Sprout Social. The following is a taste of what each has to offer.
Hootsuite offers a free account which allows you to post and schedule updates to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and more. From the HootSuite dashboard, you can organise your marketing efforts across social profiles without having to sign into individual networks. The free account includes:
- 1 user
- 3 social profiles
- Basic analytics
- Content scheduling
- Limited (10) content suggestions per week
- Lead capture campaigns
- 2 RSS feed integrationsWhile this free plan will suit many small business needs, you can upgrade to Professional from £7.99 per month (with a free 30-day trial). The Pro plan is an extension of the free and includes 10 profiles, real-time analytics, automatic content scheduling, and unlimited RSS integrations, among other things. Going beyond the Pro to the Team, Business and Enterprise plans can prove costly, though, as you are billed per user.
With Buffer, you need to have existing followers and fans to share information with. Buffer’s free account is basic but may suffice. It offers:
- Scheduled content sharing at times your audience is likely to see it
- Posts to all your social networks – Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn
- Engages with multi-media – Photo, Video and Pablo (Pablo allows you to create images in the right size and format for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.)You can upgrade to Buffer’s Awesome plan for $10 per month (with a 7-day free trial) where you can add up to 100 posts and tweets, have 10 social profiles, a social media calendar, and Pinterest scheduling. The Small Business account is $99 per month, (with 14 days free trial) which can appear hefty for many small businesses, but in addition to the standard plan it offers:
- 25 connected social accounts
- 5 team members
- 2,000 posts per profile
- RSS feed integration
- Rich analytics for your postsFurther upgrades allow you to increase the number of social accounts you have along with additional team members. The Medium Business plan cost $199 per month, and the Large Business plan costs £399 per month.
Sprout Social is a social media management tool which is particularly useful for marketing, team collaboration, customer engagement, reporting and analytics. It supports Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and LinkedIn, but not Pinterest or YouTube as yet. There is a free 30-day trial with Social Sprout plans after which you will pay a monthly fee. The cheapest plan is the Deluxe which is aimed at those just getting started with social media management and costs $59 per user per month. It includes standard features such as the social inbox, publishing and reporting. For established or growing businesses, the Premium plan is $99 per user per month and offers:
- A maximum of 10 social profiles
- An integrated Social Media Management system
- An all-in-one social inbox
- Publishing, scheduling and drafting
- A social content calendar
- Unlimited reporting
- Monitoring of profiles, keywords and locationYou can upgrade to the Team plan or the Enterprise plan, which allows you to customise your account to fit your business needs.
There are other social media management tools such as Tweetdeck that is useful for managing your Twitter account, but it doesn’t integrate with other social networks. This may suit those businesses that don’t rely heavily on social media networks to market their brand.
Social media management tools are great for improving efficiency and productivity in your marketing. However, data input, monitoring, analysis, customer engagement, etc., takes a huge time commitment; which is something you will have to factor into your business plan and marketing strategy, as you may have to employ someone to do it.
Do your homework to make sure you get the right management tool that fits your business, and your budget.