When the stats are telling you that 78% of today’s consumers say a company’s social media posts impact their purchasing decisions, getting your brand into the social media arena is a no-brainer. What do you do, however, when managing those various accounts becomes overwhelming? After all, an account must be active with original posts and engaged responses to be effective. Don’t despair! Scheduling and automating tasks can save you a lot of time, maintain impact and maximize your enjoyment. Tools like HootSuite, Sprout Social, Buffer and TweetDeck are a great place to start.
If you like spreadsheets, you’ll be at home with HootSuite whose dashboard interface has a similar tabbed worksheet look and feel to it. This tool allows you to post, schedule and monitor your social media world including, but not limited to: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ Pages. Your entire social media universe can be stretched out before you in an organized column approach, each ‘account’ you manage on its own tabbed worksheet. In addition to the usual suspects (posts/tweets, mentions, retweets, scheduled posts/tweets), you can create streams to monitor specific hashtags and keywords which eases the process of finding potential followers or re-tweeting worthy bits of wisdom. HootSuite also offers you some measure of analytic reporting, although you may find some limitations depending on the level of detail you seek. Along the sidebar, you’ll find buttons that allow you to further drill down into your report options, the who-is-who of followers, and a host of other nuggets. In terms of pricing plans, you’ve got three flavor options – Free, Pro and Enterprise. You can find HootSuite plan specifics here.
Another one-stop spot on the web for your social media needs, Sprout also puts posting, scheduling, and monitoring the platforms you’re using all under one virtual roof. Similarly, you can also manage multiple accounts (and multiple platforms for each) within Sprout. The menu is fairly intuitive with buttons for messages, tasks, feeds, publishing, discovery and reports. Within the publishing tab, you can push content out immediately or schedule it for a later time. You’ll see the full queue of posts ready to launch – each platform and each account all on the same virtual page. Whether this is a benefit to you or not will likely depend on how many accounts you are juggling and your own personal organization style. Sprout does make it easy to manage your followers and those you follow. With one click you can see all those who have not followed you back on Twitter, for example, or those who have been dormant for a stretch of time. On the message page you’ll find notes announcing new followers, mentions, replies and other helpful social media activity. Reporting is rather robust in its level of detail and a visual feast for those that like charts and graphs to parse their data. Sprout also comes in three pricing flavors: Deluxe, Premium and Enterprise. Each option comes with a monthly cost after your initial 30-day free trial. You can find Sprout Social plan specifics here.
New to automated management? Buffer may be a ‘get your feet wet’ option. Write yourself some tweets via Buffer’s simple interface and then make your choice: send now, select your scheduled time or let Buffer select the time for you during peak times. Not happy with its auto-select? You can shuffle around your scheduled posts with a simple drag and drop. Buffer will let you send now or send later for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ pages (as opposed to HootSuite and Sprout Social which have the ability to manage additional platforms). Need a little inspiration? Buffer will make some suggestions for you: things you can share based on what it thinks will interest you (and your followers). Buffer offers limited analytics. Unless you upgrade to a Business plan, you won’t see much more than you would in the social media applications themselves. The biggest downside is that currently Buffer is a one-way social media street. The only thing you’re going to do is post and schedule. You will not be able to monitor your feeds, see who is mentioning you or respond to posts that need your attention through this tool. Like the others, Buffer offers a few different plan options starting at free and working their way up. You can get more Buffer info here.
If Twitter had its own automation tool, it’d be TweetDeck. Actually, strike that. TweetDeck is Twitter’s application (although it wasn’t always.) You will be able to post, schedule and engage with folks but you’ll only be doing so with Twitter. If you’re looking to incorporate multiple social media platforms, this isn’t the right application for you. TweetDeck’s interface will look familiar to HootSuite users, although there is not the same extent of functionality. You can monitor multiple Twitter accounts from TweetDeck and you can customize the way you view those accounts. You won’t find the analytical reports you’ll find in some other tools, but you also won’t pay for this application.
What’s the best automation tool? In the end, the answer lies in you. What do you need and how do you work? Answer those questions and you’re on your way to finding the right fit. There are free (long term or trial-run) options for all four tools mentioned here. Take them out for a test drive and see what fits your needs best. Regardless of which you pick, don’t forget that automation does not take place of personalization. If you’re scheduling posts, make sure they are timely. Auto-scheduling that yields a tweet about Halloween in February or talking about something superficial while a national tragedy is unfolding, well let’s be honest, neither is going to win you any points with followers that want to feel you’re ‘in the now’ as well as in the know.
And if you want your social media posting and engaging managed for you by social media marketing experts, give us a shout. We’ll look at what you are up to, give you a few strategies, and help you decide if outsourcing is best for you.
Never worry again about your social media posts when you join the Ghost Tweeting social media management program that connects you with influencers, drives traffic to your website, and boosts your SEO.