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How to Choose a Social Media Marketing Suite

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram… and the list goes on. The use and popularity of social media today is steady on the rise and businesses have been scrambling to keep up with the number of new platforms launched each year. Social media has become such a staple part of everyday activity that businesses have modified their business plans to include a social media strategy across multiple departments – community, support/service, marketing, public relations, sales, etc.

The need to stay up-to-date with social networks has created a niche opportunity in the technology field – social media management tools. The number of popular networks that businesses are required to keep up with can be extremely time consuming for social media and community managers. They must constantly log in and out of a handful of platforms to manage their accounts, monitor the web, engage their audiences, and analyze their social media success – in addition to keeping company stakeholders informed of social media activity.

The startup world saw many companies jump at the chance to fill the need for social media marketing tools. A Google search for these keywords will bring back a variety of options for marketers looking to streamline their social media strategy, with prices ranging from free plans to enterprise plans that can cost several thousands of dollars per month. Some companies focus on one aspect of social media like publishing or management. Others offer different packages within their tool that focus on aspects such as analytics or monitoring. The best of the social media marketing suites offer an all-in-one solution at an affordable price for businesses of all sizes that are easy-to-use and learn.

So what should marketers look for when shopping around for a tool? Let’s take a look at the top 3 aspects that comprise a best of breed social media marketing suite.

Top 3 Aspects

Usability – Because social media marketing tools are supposed to take the pain out of managing multiple social media accounts, the ideal tool is easy-to-use. How simple is it to get started, set up your accounts, and use the functions you need most? Is the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) easy to navigate and understand? Social media marketing tools become more of a hassle than help when marketers have to spend more time with customer support than they do using the tool. Most companies offer demos or free trials for their plans. It’s worth the time and effort to attend the demos or sign up for the trials to ensure that you’re choosing the right product for your company in the long run. In doing so, be sure to reach out to the customer service or tech team if you have questions about how to use the product. Remember, while there are no dumb questions, questions that aren’t asked don’t get answered. Also, some vendors even offer a social media strategist who can not only help you get started if you have questions, but provide on-going health checks to ensure you’re meeting your social media goals even after you’ve purchased the product.

Accessibility – How easy is it to access your tool? Can you access it from anywhere? Because social media never sleeps, managing accounts is a 24-hour job, making the need to access your tool at any time an integral part of choosing the right one. Does the company offer on-premise solutions that only allow you to access them via your desktop? Or is it web-based, where you can access your account anywhere with an Internet connection? Is there a mobile app that you can download to your smartphone to ensure you’re able to access your accounts even when you’re away from the office? All of these are questions marketers should consider when looking for a social media marketing tool as these tools are supposed to make social media managers more effective.

Features – Does the tool offer the features you need to meet your social media goals? Many social media marketing vendors only offer one or two capabilities – they may only provide publishing, but not monitoring, etc. This leaves social media managers needing to piece together tools from multiple vendors to manage their social media effectively. Not only is this challenging as each vendor will have their own particular terminology and methodology, but expensive as well. Best-of-breed social media marketing suites will offer:

  • Management – Do you manage multiple accounts for your company? If so, make sure you choose a tool that supports the platforms you manage. If you can connect all your accounts to one place, you can forget about the hassle of signing in and out of multiple sites.
  • Monitoring – Conversations about your company, brand, or product are happening all over the social web that may even be unrelated to the content you are publishing. The best social media tools allow you to monitor conversations across multiple platforms so you can measure the conversation as they happen in real-time or over longer periods of time.
  • Analytics – In order to determine your level of social media success, you need to be able to analyze the performance of your effort and campaigns. The ideal tool will give you analytics across different social media platforms that go deeper than likes and follows.
  • Engagement – One of the main factors of social media success is engagement with your audience. Great tools let users see the streams of posts and comments for your accounts and give you the chance to directly reply to them from within the tool. This allows you to keep engagement consistent and reply to time sensitive content.
  • Publishing – Sharing relevant and interesting content with your audiences is an integral part of a successful online relationship. Timeliness is a huge factor in sharing content so the ability to share content at anytime is a major benefit. Social media tools that allow you to schedule posts or publish immediately are helpful in increasing engagement.
  • Audience Identification – Knowing your audience is a major part of any social media plan. You need to know whom you’re talking to in order to choose the right content to share, the manner in which you reply, and more. Advanced tools offer things such as sentiment analysis (so you can reply to the negative comments accordingly), influencer identification (so you can reach out to those who can potentially be strong brand ambassadors), and lead identification (so you can identify users who are looking to make a purchase).
  • Reports – After implementing social media tactics, marketers need to be able to show data of how successful the campaigns were. The best of the all-in-one tools provide reports so that you can include them in presentations and emails.

Now that you know the top three things to look for when looking for a social media marketing suite, take the time to assess what your company’s social media goals are. Once you’ve gotten a roadmap of the goals you want to reach, you can use this to guide you in making the right choice for your company.

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