There are many reasons why people use social media. For businesses and individuals that maintain multiple accounts across multiple social networks, however, visiting each of the individual websites and logging in multiple times can be quite the troublesome burden. To better manage these social media accounts, a range of online tools and dashboards have been developed.
Online Tools for Managing Social Media
Many social media dashboards offer the ability to combine multiple accounts into one convenient interface. They also bring a number of additional features that can improve workflow and productivity for business users.
Calling itself a "social relationship platform," Hootsuite offers a browser-based interface where each internal tab can be assigned to an individual social profile from networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr and Tumblr. In each of these tabs, multiple columns can be created. A column can be dedicated to tracking mentions, another for direct messages, another for a Twitter list, and yet another for monitoring a particular hashtag. Both iOS and Android smartphone apps are also available for Hootsuite.
Key Features: Hootsuite offers a robust set of additional features for managing multiple social profiles. There is a built-in URL shortener with analytics tracking, the ability to schedule status updates, automatic RSS syndication and more. The basic plan includes support for up to three social profiles, while the Pro plan starts at up to 50 social profiles with the option to add more.
Ideal Use Case: The basic personal account is perfect for the everyday user who may want to maintain more than one social profile or who desires the ability to schedule tweets ahead of time. The Pro plan is great for small to medium-sized businesses that require more advanced features and support for more than three profiles.
Price: The personal account is free, while the Pro account starts at $14.99/month (or $119.88/year) with a 30-day free trial.
TweetDeck started exclusively as a desktop program that had to be installed locally on the user's computer. Since then, TweetDeck has expanded to include a web app, a Chrome app, and a mobile app for further flexibility. The core layout of TweetDeck is similar in appearance to that of Hootsuite, organizing the information into columns for the timeline, mentions, direct messages, trends, search results and so on. TweetDeck supports the ability to manage multiple accounts.
Key Features: While TweetDeck once supported other social networks, since its acquisition by Twitter in 2011, the social media dashboard is now used only for Twitter. A URL shortening function is integrated into TweetDeck and tweets can be scheduled for later delivery as well. All of the columns used within the TweetDeck interface can be filtered to include or exclude certain content.
Ideal Use Case: TweetDeck is best suited for Twitter users who want to have a more robust experience than what the Twitter website or Twitter mobile app can provide. Since it is free to use, it may be a good option for businesses who do not want to pay for a Hootsuite Pro plan. It may not be as useful to users who need to manage accounts on other social networks.
Geared much more heavily toward social media managers and business use, Sprout Social focuses more heavily on analyzing engagement for those working within a team environment. Sprout Social works with multiple platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Zendesk, LinkedIn and UserVoice. Like other social dashboards, Sprout Social supports the ability to schedule posts on these platforms.
Key Features: Sprout Social offers robust analytical data for social media managers, breaking down audience demographics and group trends, as well as the response and engagement rate that brand managers are able to achieve. The unified inbox makes it easy to read all messages across all channels and managers can quickly assign tasks to team members or departments to address inbound communications.
Ideal Use Case: Businesses that require more robust social analytics and team management will find a great deal of value in Sprout Social, especially with its integration with Google Analytics, as well as more enterprise-geared tools like UserVoice and Zendesk.
Price: The Deluxe plan is $59/month per user with support for up to 10 profiles. Pricing goes up to $99/month per user for the Premium plan with advanced reporting features and support for 20 profiles. The Team plan is $500 per month for three users with the ability to manage up to 30 profiles.
Like Sprout Social, Engagor is targeted at business users who wish to monitor "social customer service and engagement marketing." One key difference is that in addition to monitoring social networks like Twitter and Facebook, Engagor is also set up to monitor all social mentions on blogs, forums and news sites. This is particularly useful for brand management.
Key Features: Engagor is designed to work best within a team environment. Managers can easily assign tasks to particular team members to address. They can also identify 'influencers' who may be useful in furthering their brand messaging and tag conversations for later follow-up by members of the social media team. As with other social media dashboards, Engagor allows for publishing across multiple profiles. It also features built-in social customer relationship management (CRM) tools and "sentiment analysis."
Ideal Use Case: Social media teams within medium-sized to large businesses will benefit most from using Engagor, not only for the team assignment utilities, but also from the added trend analysis and analytical data available. The ability to monitor "millions of new sites, blogs and forums" sets Engagor apart from much of its competition.
Price: Engagor starts at $500/month for the Basic account with up to 100,000 mentions per month, 5 topics, 10 social profiles and one user. The Professional and Enterprise plans are $1,500 and $3,000/month for up to 250,000 and 500,000 mentions per month.
A big part of the social media strategy for any company is to maintain a consistent level of engagement with fans and followers online. Buffer addresses a significant element of that overall strategy by helping users schedule multiple posts. These posts can be prewritten ahead of time and Buffer will spread them out throughout the day or week. It is also possible to add a post to Buffer via e-mail.
Key Features: For companies that want to maintain a consistent brand image, Buffer supports the use of vanity custom short URLs. It is also possible to have an RSS feed syndicated through Buffer with support for up to 15 RSS feeds per connected profile with the Awesome Plan. The free Individual plan supports one connected profile per social account (one Twitter, one Facebook, and so on), while the Awesome Plan includes up to ten social profiles and up to 100 posts in the Buffer queue.
Ideal Use Case: Buffer is ideal for users who want to keep their social media accounts consistently updated throughout certain hours of certain days, but you can't schedule posts for exact times. The added feature of automatic scheduling to space out the updates is useful.
Price: The Individual Plan is free, while the Awesome Plan is $10/month. Business plans - including support for multiple accounts, multiple team members, and deeper analytics -start at $50/month.
The Business of Staying Social
Social networking may have started out as a way for individuals to connect with other individuals, but social media has quickly grown to become an integral part of any company's customer relations and marketing efforts. Manually updating social profiles on Facebook and Twitter can be time-consuming and the websites simply cannot provide the same level of features and data that robust social media dashboards and online tools can provide.