Social media has become a must-have component of virtually any freelancer or small business owner's arsenal. Services like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ offer something that Online businesses could only dream of having just a handful of years ago. They offer a very real chance for businesses to have a direct, two-way conversation with their customers, at scale.
Finding a good service or utility to help you manage the time required to maintain this two-way conversation is vital, especially if your business interacts on more than one of these platforms.
Here at RocketTheme, we encourage conversation through our accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. We are actively seeking out new opportunities to connect with our customers, and grow our community. More importantly, we are working towards building our community to the point where they not only have the ability to engage with us, but to find each other and create new business opportunities from those connections.
The modern Web gives businesses the opportunity to do some amazing things, but keeping up with all of these various channels and methods of communication can be time consuming. This is where social media management tools can come in handy. These tools should make it easier to create content, schedule it to appear on your social feeds at a time that is optimal for your follower base, track activity and performance, and interact with your community from one centralized location.
In this article, we will take a look at three of these services and how they can help you to better connect with your community. Since not everyone needs pro-level support, these options also have a free version of their services available.
Buffer is the solution we use most at RocketTheme. It's a clean, simple way to create and schedule posts. It doesn't have a lot of two-way communication features like you might find on TweetDeck or Hootsuite, but it does make creating content exceedingly easy.
For free users, you can link a ton of different social media profiles with little issue. Facebook profiles and pages, Twitter accounts, and even Google+ pages can be linked to Buffer, giving you the ability to post to several accounts at once.
Buffer is, as the name implies, a platform that works best with users that have a lot of things to post about, but don't have time to periodically visit the social profile and post them manually. Each linked account has a buffer that you can fill with content, including some that comes recommended by Buffer based on your page's history and community interests.
Once you have scheduled posts (either automatically or at set times), you can sit back and let Buffer take over. The service will email you when everything in the buffer has been sent out, letting you know it's time to add more content.
Analytics are also available. Basic statistics such as click rates, reach, and retweets can be accessed easily. If you upgrade to a business account, this analysis gets more detailed.
Like HootSuite, you can bring in team members that can help you to manage your social channels from their own Buffer account, without ever having to actually access the login credentials for the social profiles. This offers some peace of mind, and makes staff management easy.
If you come across something while you're browsing that you want to share on one or more social networks, you can download a browser extension for Chrome and/or Firefox that allows you to share this with a click of the mouse. It's great for accounts that act as news aggregates, sharing interesting links throughout the day.
HootSuite is a one-stop shop for all things social. It's widely considered to be perhaps the biggest and best name out there for social media management as it supports multiple platforms including:
There is a free version of HootSuite available that has a ton of great features, including an auto-schedule feature which schedules posts for you based on when your followers are most likely to see them. Pro members get the option to do bulk scheduling via a single file upload which can be a massive timesaver on accounts with many different social profiles linked.
You can track just about anything on the dashboard, including mentions, direct messages, the general social feed, and search term results. Basic analytical data is also available, making it possible to track how well specific posts perform and gather vital information to help you in the future.
Reports are where HootSuite really shines. The reports you can generate can cover just about anything you could imagine. They're clean, professional, and can be customized with your company logo for presentation and board room meetings. The downside here is that if you want to utilize this feature, you will need to cough up a lot of cash.
Prices for premium memberships range from less than $10 USD to more than $1,000 per month. This depends on how large your team is, how many people work for your business, and what your social media needs are. If you are an individual user that just wants to keep track of your social media activity, you will likely get by just fine without spending a penny.
TweetDeck was one of the first major players in the all-in-one social media management space. When it came along, Twitter was still fairly new and companies were just starting to really figure out just how powerful the platform could be. Shortly after adding Facebook integration, Twitter bought TweetDeck and made it a free product alongside its own site and software solutions.
You can schedule tweets for a later time, add photos and have them appear natively, and watch multiple feeds and/or search strings at one time in a very HootSuite-like layout.
TweetDeck is free, and it works pretty well. It has a lot of the same features you might find with Hootsuite, but support for Facebook has been off and on since the buyout. In 2013, TweetDeck dropped support for Facebook entirely.
Whatever tool you decide to use, just remember that not every social network has the same community. Something you post on Twitter that might bring a lot of retweets and discussion might fall flat on Facebook or Google+. These three tools all make it possible to separate your output and track performance of your posts. You can use the information they provide to better plan your output and learn more about the tastes of your users.
Buffer is a great solution for scheduling posts and provoking conversation among members of your community. HootSuite and TweetDeck are great at giving you the ability to keep that conversation going long after the post has gone out.
There is also an important argument to be made about third-party apps. Using these apps may or may not have an affect on the post's reach. If Facebook, Twitter, or Google wanted to give priority to posts made on the native client, that is certainly within their capabilities. Twitter has made huge shifts in its policies in the past which all but killed many third party tools.
Some people are also very wary of posts made using a platform that allows for automatic scheduling. This may be a minority of the users out there, but it is a trend worth paying close attention to.
These tools are useful ways to keep track of multiple social accounts at once. Their advanced posting features make it very easy to schedule content and put in the work on your time. They may not be perfect replacements for the service's native platforms, but they can come in handy.