Choosing the Right Social Media Marketing Tools
The explosive growth of social media in recent years has created a clutter of conversations surrounding the industry. What are the most popular platforms today? What are the best techniques to grow on social media? Where do we even begin?
Let’s take a step back and clarify the situation. First off, social media can no longer be ignored as a “just a niche” form of communication. There are approximately 280 million internet users in the United States and over 3 billion worldwide. Recent stats show that 74% of Americans use at least one social media network. Hard to argue with those numbers.
So, when discussing whether brands should be using social media or not, the answer is pretty damn clear: Absolutely. The next logical question to follows is, “How do we do that?” While the “how” can be a bit complex, you must break the process down into these simple steps:
1. Research your audience and identify what platforms they use (as well your competition)
2. Craft a strategy to connect with those potential customers
3. Create content that represents your brand and is relatable to your audience
4. Manage your accounts to maintain a consistent presence
5. Track your social data and use it to make data-driven decisions
You can either do all of this in-house, or hire a social media marketing agency. In the case of keeping things in-house, you will need certain tools and resources to effectively do this. So, we’ve compiled a list of some tools that our team uses to manage and grow social media accounts for our clients.
Project & Team Management
Your social media team needs to be organized and well-connected in order to do their jobs well. Things can get pretty spread out with all the different forms of communication available to us. We’re talking email, text, phone calls, instant messaging; it can get overwhelming at times. One way to consolidate all of that and create a central communication hub is by using a project management software.
Glip – We love using Glip because of how user-friendly and organized the platform is. It’s free to use on a limited basis and only $5/month per user for business teams. Glip lets you share files, images, links and other content. You can even setup a video chat from within the platform. Our team uses it to share ideas and brainstorm on projects while on the go.
Evernote – Evernote is another great tool, which happens to integrate with Glip. Essentially it’s a note-taking tool that stores your notes in the cloud, so you’re able to access it from your laptop, smartphone or tablet as long as you’re connected to the internet. For instance, you can create a quick blog post outline on your phone, head to a coffee shop, and complete the rest of it on your laptop seamlessly. All your content will sync automatically.
Dropbox & Google Drive – These two essentially do the same thing. They allow you to store files in the cloud and access them from anywhere. Picking one is just a matter of preference. We actually use both because we sometimes share files with clients that have one and not the other. Let’s say you create a graphic to post on Instagram. You can save it on Dropbox or Google Drive and download the file on your phone. No need to email it to yourself.
Social Media Management
Sprout Social – We use Sprout Social because of it’s robust features, social data collection, and awesome reporting. For the bootstrapped startup it might be tough to afford, since plans start at $99/month. However, it makes sense for agencies that manage multiple social profiles for several clients. It allows you to link Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. It’s missing Instagram integration, but that’s an issue with Instagram restricting access to third-party platforms. Sprout Social is great to schedule content, manage community engagement, discover potential customers, and track your data. For those that can’t afford it, you can go with Hootsuite and Buffer as alternative options.
Social Media Automation
Schedugram – While Instagram still hasn’t made it easy for brands and marketers to manage accounts beyond mobile devices, Schedugram has found a way to upload and schedule posts from your desktop. Plans start at $20/month for accounts with 10,000 followers or less. This allows you to maintain a consistent social presence, especially when you’re on vacation or have a busy week ahead. You’ll still need to manage the engagement aspect separately, but it’s still a useful tool to add to your arsenal.
IFTTT – Short for “If This, Then That”, this platform allows you to set up automatic actions between different apps and software. For instance, we use a recipe that automatically shares Instagram posts on our Twitter account with a native image attached to the tweet (rather than just the link to the Instagram post). There are tons of recipes, as they call them, to setup up these automated actions to simplify your life and streamline certain processes. Check out some useful IFTTT recipes here.
If you’d like to know more about when to automate your social media (and when not), take a look at our post for some tips.
Content Discovery & Social Listening
Feedly – Feedly is great to store and organize content sources for future use. We personally love it because it directly integrates with Sprout Social – allowing us to schedule content from within the Sprout platform. One example on how to use Feedly for your brand is by adding all sites on a given topic – let’s say healthy food – to your profile. Feedly will then aggregate all the latest stories and articles from those sources and show them to you in one feed, which is way better than opening five (or more) website windows to see what stories each one has published.
Mention – This is a pretty neat tool for social listening that allows you to search the entire web for specific keywords and search terms. When we say the entire web, we mean beyond just search engine results. Mention searches social media profiles, blogs, videos, forums, and more. It’s a great way to track what others are saying about your brand and about topics within your industry. Not everyone will tag you in a social media post or publish a link to your site, but you’ll be able to find these mentions regardless of whether they do or not. Plans start at $29/month.
Social Media Analytics
Minter.io – Going back to Instagram, they do not offer any analytics like Facebook and Twitter do – not yet at least. Fortunately, some third-party apps have been able to collect this data and visualize it for us to use. Minter does a solid job of providing clean graphs and charts to show you how your Instagram account is performing. Minter isn’t free but does offer a free trial and plans start at $20/month. If you’d like to know more about how to use Instagram analytics to build your brand, check out this article on Social Media Today.
There’s a free alternative for Instagram stats called Iconosquare. The main downside is that it only updates your data each time you log in and doesn’t provide the beautiful reports that Minter offers.
Instagress – We’ve been experimenting with Instagress as a tool to reach a broader audience on Instagram. The platform allows you to engage other accounts based on things like hashtags, accounts they follow, and even locations they’ve geo-tagged. There are certain features that we don’t personally like because we consider them to be too spammy – like automatically commenting on photos with a pre-selected message. However, we do find that engaging accounts that follow a relevant user (e.g. a competitor or brand partner) results in follow backs and increased engagement. It’s all about setting the right parameters and using the tool properly, as well as ethically.
Followerwonk – This tool is to discover and follow Twitter users. It allows you to find users based on keywords used in their bios, their location, and even how many followers they have. This is crucial for finding influencers and prospective customers. Twitter takes a lot of work and management in order to use it as an effective tool. This will help you target the right audience and avoid speaking to an empty room when you tweet.
As you can see, there are plenty of tools that you can use to promote your business on social media. It’s up to you to select the best mix of tools available based on your goals and budget. The same way that every social media platform isn’t fit for every brand and industry, there are some tools that work better for some and not others. Do your research, test out these tools and make your decision based on the results.
Social media is a 24/7, 365 days a year kind of commitment and it takes active involvement in order to use if effectively. That’s why we stay on top of the latest trends and innovations that happen in the industry. You can stay informed as well by following us on Twitter and checking our blog for new posts each month.