Whether you are just launching your business’ social media marketing or whether you have a robust social media strategy, you may be considering a social media management tool. Social media management tools (sometimes called social media management platforms or social media tools) can make it easier for your business to manage its social media presence, whether it’s building an audience, posting visual content, running ads, or responding to customer messages. Social media can be an essential part of your marketing strategy and effective management can make all the difference. Here are some considerations when selecting the best social media management tool so that you can get the best return on your social media efforts.

Social media management software centralizes your social media management into one place

Your business may have pages across many social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and more. It can be cumbersome and time consuming to manage these social media accounts within their individual platforms. Remembering the logins for your Facebook pages and Instagram accounts and delegating access to your employees can be annoying. It also requires that you learn the ins and outs of every platform, which takes time away from running your business.

With a social media management tool, you can centralize nearly all of the functions into one place. In addition to posting your content in one fell swoop across platforms, you can also manage ads, monitor engagement, and interact with customers in one place. This can ultimately save a lot of time. Michael Nemeroff, Founder of RushOrderTees explained why his company uses a social media management platform for his social accounts: “The biggest benefit of using …any social media management platform… is the amount of time it saves you. Logging in to different platforms and taking the time to post to each several times takes up a considerable [portion] of the workday, so being able to seamlessly post at once is a huge advantage.” A social media management platform can also save you money because you may need to hire fewer employees to manage the posts or you may be able to do without a social media agency. Gilad Rom, the Founder of Huan, a company that makes smart tags that help find missing pets, uses HootSuite to manage his social profiles, and finds that he doesn’t need an agency to manage it: “The Hootsuite interface is well-designed and user-friendly, so we are able to manage the platform ourselves.” If you do end up hiring an agency for social media marketing, content marketing, or content creation, they will sometimes request that you move over to their social media management platform or they may agree to use your existing software.

There are several top social media management tools and most of them have similar capabilities, although they vary in user friendliness, cost, and certain features.

When considering which platform is right for you, first research and evaluate what features you need in a social media management tool. Capabilities you will want to look for and consider include:

Scheduling Tools

Almost every social media management platform offers scheduling tools so you can plan social media posts in advance across social channels. This is sometimes called a “content calendar” that enables you to schedule content for specific dates and times. Post scheduling can save a lot of time, enabling you to do your social media scheduling in advance so that you can dedicate greater focus to your business. Typically, you can share or set a date and time to share the post across social channels and RSS feeds in just one click. Bruce Hogan, CEO of SoftwarePundit, a technology research firm, uses Agorapulse for social media management and values the post scheduling feature to push his posts to multiple social platforms in advance and at once. “Using the calendar to schedule posts has allowed us to be more consistent with posting and led to an increase in our followers and engagement. It centralizes these functions across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube, which has saved us considerable time.”

Customer Service Management

Examine the customer service features of the social media manager – can you collect all your direct messages from customers centrally and respond to them? Does it have the capability of using a chatbot for times when you may be offline?

Team Collaboration and Access

Evaluate the sophistication of the team collaboration features offered by the social media management platform, including different levels of access for your team members. This can also help streamline approval workflows for social posts before they go live. Even if you are managing things by yourself now, you may eventually want to delegate the management and you’ll want it to be easy and secure. You’ll also want to evaluate how easy the platform is to use not only on desktop but also on a mobile app so you can make tweaks on the go.

Analytical Horsepower

Look into how the platform collects and displays social media analytics, so that you can best determine engagement across and within social media channels. A great social media management platform will be able to measure and then display a coherent story about the number of likes, visits, tweets, hashtags, mentions, follows, clicks, and shares by influencers that your business is getting on social media. This is important so that you can understand in real-time how your business is performing in aggregate in addition to within just one social media site. Some platforms give you insights they glean from “social listening,” which can reveal the tone of mentions of your business over time and give you a better understanding of your SEO performance. This can complement your existing analytics platforms like Google Analytics. Kaitlyn Ranze, Community Manager for Nav.it, a personal finance app, values the robust analytical capabilities of HubSpot: “We use HubSpot to schedule posts across all of social media platforms, because aside from being a beast in organization, we get timely and quantifiable reports of the success of our campaigns.”

Paid Ad Management

An essential capability for a social media management platform is the ability to centrally create and manage a marketing campaign with paid advertising. Even if you are just posting organic social media content and not running ads right now, you may want to later and it’s important to be able to run them centrally in order to save time and get a better analytical picture of how your ads are performing. Some social media management platforms may even provide smart insights about your best performing geographies and target audiences.

When evaluating cost, be sure the social media management platform can scale with your business.

If your business is growing, you may need more employees to manage your ads and customer interactions on social. If the social media management platform charges “per head,” be sure that the tool you choose can scale and not get too expensive. Think about how you will use the tool as your business grows, not just how you will use it today.

Many social media management platforms will offer a free version or a free trial. This allows you to try out the features and see if you like the interface before committing to spending a monthly sum and connecting all of your platforms. The free version may not have all of the features you need but it can be a good way to determine if the platform is right for your business and if you’d like to upgrade. Matthew Meier, founder of MaxTour, a small group tour company in Las Vegas, uses the platform Buffer and checked out the free version but decided to go with the paid option: “They have a free plan but we pay $15 month for upgraded services. Buffer has saved us a lot of time and worry and helped us post great content more consistently.” Jesse Silkoff, Co-Founder and President of MyRoofingPal, an online marketplace to connect customers with roofers, also uses Buffer’s small business plan for $99/mo. “We chose this option because of how simple it is to use and it works across our accounts. It was easy for employees to train on and helps keep us on track without having to hire this task out. Buffer is less than $100 per month and it has been a great investment for us.”

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