Type the headline of this article into Google and you will get a lot of lists. “10 must have…”, “17 best…” and so on. These listicles will give you opinions on the growing list of social media tools available. They will all present alternate viewpoints, and you may even find an article that looks and feels like your business. However, start reading more than two or three of these articles and it’s easy to fall prey to “analysis by paralysis”. I know, because it’s exactly what I did!
There are now hundreds of social media apps, tools and plug-ins, which can make social media execution pretty overwhelming. The answer to our question – which is right for your business – depends largely on the type of business you run, or where you want your business to be in 12 months.
The list of options is endless (and growing)
Whether you are the social media manager of your business, or the owner determining what tools to use, there are a few ways to approach the research task. You could research an exhaustive list, and either read reviews and comparison articles, or trial the ones that appeal to you. This could take a few months.
A quicker way is to look at what social media actions you will need, and narrow down the field.
Let’s take a look at the different hats a social media manager wears.
- Creating, curating or repurposing content
- Scheduling posts, including re-posting
- Engaging with followers, employees or partners to create amplification and sense of community
- Measuring success against goals
- Monitoring and sentiment analysis – tracking your brand, other brands (competitors or influencers)
The right tools are ones that help you automate these tasks as effectively as possible.
From this perspective, the best social media tool for you is one that lets you create, share, engage, watch and measure your social efforts as quickly as possible, allowing you to spend more time on your core business.
How do you work out which actions you need? This is all about matching your business goals to what you actions you’ll need to take on social media.
Focus on the metrics that matter
There are a few ways to approach the research. Many social media comparison articles will focus on:
As with any marketing strategy, it’s best to take a top-down approach. Starting with the business goals is the key first step. The second step is to match your business goals to a social media metric that makes sense.
The options of social media tools that you need to support these goals will flow naturally from there.
Building a Brand Presence
If you are either a new business or new to social media, where do you start?
The first thing to do is identify where your customers are, and what ways they use social media. A good place to start is looking at the different channels and how most users interact with each other.
Each platform has their relative merits. You will need to determine where your customers are most likely to be, and whether they are looking for engagement, education, entertainment, research or profile enhancement.
A useful way to research platforms is looking at the most popular industry search terms are on each channel. Search terms are more popularly called hashtags on social media, and are an effective way to quickly find out which topics that resonate most with the audience. Here is a good place to start when researching Hashtags for your industry.
Your next step is to create content matching this keyword research. You can also use Google Adwords to research longer phrases that will help increase SEO efforts on your website. You will need to register an account, but you won’t need to provide your credit card details unless you plan to create a campaign.
Next, you’ll need to start publishing posts to your chosen social media platforms. There are tools that will allow you to schedule posts in advance (highly recommended). You can opt for dedicated scheduling tools with all the bells and whistles, or an all-in-one social media platform. This is a great article to help you decide which to use.
Finally, if you’re building a brand based on thought leadership, advice, or positioning yourselves as expert you will need to create and repurpose content. The best way to do this is through content creation tools. These can include blogging, research, design, presentation and video tools. Here’s a great summary of the types of content creation tools you can use.
Innovate Faster Than Your Competitors
If you are a company whose value proposition is disrupting your industry or staying ahead of competitors, you will need social media tools that allow you to be agile.
Sentiment monitoring tools such as Brandwatch, Mention, Talkwalker and Agora Pulse can help you understand how your brand (or others’) are being viewed by your customers. You can also use some of the all-in-one platform tools, such as Hootsuite to set up keyword-based listening posts.
Research tools such as Evernote can help you easily systemize your research-to-social posting efforts, and it can also integrate with publishing tools. I love this article on how to automate your social calendar with Evernote and Hootsuite.
Increase Website Traffic
If you are driving eyeballs to your website (for example if you are building an online hub, community or publishing site), you will want maximum traffic.
The most important considerations for your business include integrating your social media tools seamlessly to your website.
You will need to invest more heavily in social tools that provide metrics and monitoring all the way through to your inbound website campaigns and marketing automation platforms. Pay close attention to which plugins are available with your existing website and marketing platforms, as this will dictate your options.
While Google Analytics, Google Adwords and SEO tactics aren’t strictly considered social media tools, you will need to consider them as part of your overall social media strategy. It’s also a good idea to focus on a content creation approach that matches your website content and amplification strategy.
The fact is that you’re already winning or losing the sales race on social media, whether you know it or not. Accenture’s State of B2B Procurement Study found that 94% of B2B buyers do online research before making a business purchase, with social media forming a major part of that research.
Matching your potential customers to the right social media network is the first step (see Building a Brand Presence). You’ll then need to target the right customers on all channels and provide content that is relevant and useful to them.
The question then becomes how to uncover your hidden sales funnel via social media, and what tools best support your sales efforts.
The following tools are good places to start:
- Search social networking website or use a brand listening tool like SocialMention.com to find people who are talking about you or your industry;
- Build a network on Twitter with Followerwonk;
- Growing a Facebook page by using Facebook ads to target the right customers; or
- Use LinkedIn’s Saved Search feature to connect with the right people and companies.
Evaluating the Social Media tools
Now that you have narrowed the tools that will support your specific business goals, it’s time to evaluate.
I drew up a spreadsheet with a list of factors for each tool, listed below. I included information (such as price) or ranked the feature between 1-5, or a YES/NO for things like integrations with my website and marketing platforms.
Using this list, you can easily see which social media tools will be right for your business.
- Easy to use – may need to trial the tool, but most will have free trials between 10 to 30 days.
- Analytics and reporting – does the tool support the metrics you will need?
- Team tools – will these allow you to manage a team easily? What security are included? Can you review posts before publishing?
- Customer support – is it based in your country, if at all? Is there chat support or forums?
- Training – does the tool provide training? How will you train your team?
- Security – how will you manage passwords and access? Does it offer 2-factor authentication? This may seem like an overreaction, but a poorly timed or worded post can do irreparable brand damage.
- Integrations – are you going to use integrations to automation tools like Zapier, IFFT, Anders Pink, link shortening tools like bit.ly or other third party extensions?
- Price – some free features will give you everything you need. Others, such as advanced reporting, may cost more. You will need to work out the price point that works for you.
As with anything else in life, you will reap the rewards by looking before you leap. Social media seems like the easiest aspect of marketing, because we all have Facebook profiles! But running social media marketing for your business is a very different prospect. Make sure you’re not spending money needlessly on the wrong tools.
How did you evaluate your favourite tools? And did you need a couple of trials to get it right?
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