Guest post by Heather Dopson
There are tons of process automation tools out there designed to help increase interaction, provide automation and create metrics for your various social media accounts. I’ve known many people who suffer from software overload; they’ve signed up for so many different management tools they aren’t really using ANY of them effectively and are probably doing themselves more harm than good.
Keep in mind you shouldn’t automate all your social media activity — you still need to be active in the conversation. Think of these tools as a way to enhance your marketing strategy while being efficient.
We’re going to look at three different options that are affordable for small businesses, easy to use and have proven track records. I use all three of these tools to a varying degree and for different purposes, so I speak first hand to their strengths and weaknesses.
Cost: 30 day free trial; $19 – $79 per month
While Post Planner is only used with Facebook, it is my all time favorite platform to use for the world’s most popular networking site. If you know how to post an update on Facebook, you know how to use Post Planner. The interface looks and feels like Facebook , so you don’t have to worry about the learning curve a completely different platform. Also, once you have the app set up, it lives right inside your Facebook account. The realtime analytics Post Planner provides allow you to discover the best days & times to post for YOUR audience, to learn what content your followers prefer and what type of content really gets the engagement going.
By using Post Planner, you’re able to post to your personal profile, ALL of your Pages AND any groups you are a member of. You can auto-publish your blog posts and upload posts in bulk to schedule in advance.
There are two things that really make Post Planner stand out. First, is their Content Library. For those days when you’re stuck and aren’t really sure what you should post, Post Planner provides a database with thousands of status ideas all designed to create engagement on Facebook. I’ve used this many times and the content ideas are awesome. Second is probably my absolute favorite feature. Post Planner gives you brand control – you advertise YOUR brand, not the brand of the social media tool you’re using. You add your OWN Brand & Logo to your posts and it links to YOUR website! How freakin’ cool is that!?!?
Cost: Free – $10 per month
The free version of Buffer allows you to create posts for Twitter, Facebook profiles and Pages, your LinkedIn Profile and Groups and App.net. For $10 per month you can connect up to 12 different social networks.
It’s very simple to use. You fill your “Buffer” with content you want to share and Buffer chooses the best time of day to post. There are extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari that allow you to share a website you’re reading right into your Buffer to be distributed at the optimum time for your readers. You choose the frequency and if you don’t like the peak times Buffer suggests to you, you can adjust them.
The powerful thing about Buffer is you can add lots of posts at one time without having to schedule each post. And you won’t overwhelm your followers with rapid machine gun posting. (Come on, we all know people who do this!)
Buffer really takes it to the next level by allowing you to add posts using mobile platforms and apps, such as IFTTT, Tweetcaster, WordPress and many more, fully integrate with their system.
Analytics for your posts across your social networks let you know how many retweets, likes, share, et cetera you’re getting. It’s great for measuring engagement.
Buffer is a solid and powerful tool that can help create consistency and provide valuable metrics.
Cost: Free – $10 per month with add-ons available
HootSuite is likely the most well known social network management tool. And for good reason! HootSuite offers a powerful platform with a dashboard organized for you (or a team) to send and schedule, search, create list and keyword streams and monitor feeds. Integrating with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ Pages, Foursquare, MySpace (yes, it’s still around), WordPress and more HootSuite is the absolute most comprehensive platform for both small and large business.
While there are many things I love about HootSuite, the powerful analytics and ability to customize reports using things like Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, Twitter Profile Stats and more is what makes it an absolute necessary tool for me.
Using the Pro version you can create teams with complete control over user level of access. Critical if you’re using outside help to manage your social media.
The dashboard, allows you to monitor, schedule, respond and publish all from one location. The interface is intuitive, clean and responsive.
Mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry make publishing and monitoring on the fly quick and easy. I love the push notifications so that when I am out and about I can still be responsive.
In my opinion, HootSuite is an absolute necessity for small business owners who want to truly harness the power of social media marketing.
Boost your small business’ social strategy by following the tips in “From So-So to Social.”
Heather Dopson is a super savvy, self-admitted techno-geek who lives, breathes, eats, sleeps and dreams about Social Media. She loves to educate small business owners on how to maximize their social media marketing efforts and is the Social Media Specialist for Infusionsoft. You can reach her on Twitter at @heatherdopson.