A Guide to Social Media: What Tools are Worth Paying For?

Article ImageSo, you want to get social? You realize your business cannot live without it. Kudos to you for having a strategy and a plan and for not just putting up Facebook and Twitter pages. But now you realize how time-consuming it will be to drive real measurable success. So let me tell you how we determined the right tools to help us drive our social media practice.

First, think about your core operations. We determined that we had three prime objectives: disseminating content (both owned and curated media); identifying influencers (to yield earned media); and capturing performance metrics.

Content Dissemination

It makes sense to start with a communications strategy and to address content tools. Content is core to your social endeavors. It is the vehicle to get your story out and to engage with your target audience. Consider having a blog—a place to seed your owned media so that you can use other social channels to direct people to your story. I use WordPress. It is intuitive, and it starts out at no cost. I recommend this content management system for its simplicity and versatility. Another good one is Blogger.

Blogs aren’t the only platforms for disseminating content. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, SlideShare, Pinterest, and Twitter are all leading platforms for content sharing. With all these free options, it’s not likely you’ll choose to pay for another option—though ONEsite, Jive, and Lithium allow you to own all functionality and data, unlike Facebook and Google+.

And once you have your content platforms determined, I suggest you use a social media publishing tool. Examples are Awareness, Shoutlet, and HootSuite, just to name a few. These publishing tools allow you to schedule posts across many social channels, manage responses, and view metrics on impressions and reach. They are extremely helpful; not only do they manage the workflow of posting and responding, but they also fine-tune your communications to optimize sharing and engagement.

Social Media Monitoring

Next, you will need a social media monitoring tool. There is no perfect monitoring tool, but I highly recommend you use one. When deciding which one is best for you, it is important to understand how each tool collects data. Does it collect everything out there or just a representative sample? Also, determine how you are going to use the data. Are you merely recording measurable results to assess your success and judge your social implementations over time, or are you looking to monitor conversations to drive actionable interaction?

Success in social media means optimizing the sharing of your brand. So when you think about getting your brand and content shared, where do you get the biggest bang? This is an old marketing question; it’s one that caused powerful PR agencies to emerge a while back. But in the digital world, things are a bit different. A noncelebrity, nonpower journalist can actually have much influence. You need a tool to identify power users. The most popular ones are Klout and PeerIndex. But I think these are not as great as their hype. Here’s why. Take a most influential social media personality—Robert Scoble. His Klout, PeerIndex, and Kred scores are 84, 75, and 954, respectively. All are extremely high relative to the scale for each platform. But what if you are a brand in the fashion, healthy eating, or consumer packaged goods categories? Scoble has little influence in these verticals. In order to address influence that looks at influence as a topical query, I suggest looking into Appinions and Kred.

Social Media Metrics

There is one other bit of information that I often need to know: What is the number of unique visitors to a specific site? Both Quantcast and Compete give you a good bit of free information in this regard. Granted, it is not as accurate and detailed as comScore, but it is free.

And last but not least is the tool I need but do not have. That would be an open social media dashboard. It will come, but it is not available yet. It is important to be able to tell executives how things are performing in one report, one screen shot. Today, we do this by gluing together data from a number of sources—many of them were mentioned earlier. This requires a decent amount of manual effort. As social media matures, I expect to see a platform that can take disparate data, correlate it, and produce one meaningful report.

Social Media Monitoring and Metrics Tools

Collective Intellect
Crowd Factory
Social Radar

Content Dissemination Tools

Buddy Media
North Social

Other Social Tools

Bitly Enterprise
Facebook Reach Generator

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