I imagine you are all on social media in some capacity. Whether it be personal Facebook or Instagram accounts or running a company Facebook page.
In both our personal and professional worlds, Social Media is taking off, it is diversifying, expanding, and the technology is evolving, it is certainly not showing signs of slowing down.
From a business perspective, Social media equals content, conversation, relationships and branding – often across multiple social media channels.
As small business owners, we know we need to embrace social media in order to reach our existing and potential customers with a consistent brand message and experience. But managing social media accounts – on top of everything else we have to do – can be a confusing, timely, and an overwhelming frustration.
The good news is that by automating some tasks, you can minimize the stress and get on with the day to day running of your business. Social Media Management tools enable you to monitor what people are saying about your brand and help you respond instantly. You can view streams from multiple networks, post updates or reply directly and measure the success.
You just need to find the right tools to help you.
That’s why I am here today: to talk about some of the social media management platforms that can help you automate your day to day posts, respond to comments and specific marketing campaigns.
There are so many different platforms to choose from and it is a good idea to research what is available but I am only going to focus on 3 today. And they are Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Sprinklr. I chose these due to my experience with them and I will give more detail a little later on.
First things first, if you need your social media management tool to meet your demands, you need to know what those demands are! So, ask yourself these key questions:
What are your goals and objectives?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Do you have a strategy in place? Including guidelines
- Are your social media posts aligned with your Marketing Campaigns?
- What is the timeline around the social/marketing campaign?
- What are you measuring? Reach, engagement, on sharing etc.
- What do you need to listen for? Keywords, competitors, campaigns?
- Do you need to create reports each month?
What is your budget?
- Do you have a set budget in mind for a platform?
- Can you afford to pay a monthly fee or only use a free platform?
Who will manage your social media activity?
- Are you doing it yourself or will you outsource (how will this impact your budget)?
- Who is planning/creating the campaigns?
- Who will monitor social conversation around your campaigns?
- Respond to comments and Publish posts
Depending on your social media goals and objectives, budget and who is driving the campaign/activity, it’s time to determine which social media management platform will suit your needs. Take the time to research a few different platforms that will benefit you.
Ask yourself what you need from your platform – what are your ‘must haves’ vs. your ‘nice to haves’? For examples:
- Functionality: does it do what you need it to do
- Automation: does it have the ability to automate posts?
- Does it have a calendar? Or a planner?
- Reporting: how are the reports created, are they detailed enough, can the data go back before the launch of the platform. Some platforms will not go back so the data will only log when you hit go.
- The Look and feel, is the look important to you?
- Ease of use: can you use it, can you find your way around
- Customer service, are you being looked after in a timely manner
- Are there training manuals, videos, a knowledge base to reference help.
Take the time to get familiar with each of them. I can’t recommend this enough. The more expensive platforms don’t allow you to try before you buy, so ask a representative to walk you through a demonstration. You may need to do this more than once.
You have to sign a 12-month contract so you want to make sure the platform and the company are the right fit for your company. Make sure you have a list of requirements at hand to ask the sales person. There may not be a platform that covers everything you want unless you pay a substantial monthly fee. This is what happened to us. We have changed platforms 4 times in the past 3 years.
For me the platform has to look good and function without too much phafing about. When I started the business with my husband, I was only working a few days a week, looking after a newborn, my daughter started kindergarten and we were dealing with a major stress on top of all of this. So I needed a system that didn’t take up too much brain power, as quite frankly I was drained.
We started with Social Studio from Salesforce. I had been to a Salesforce conference, I knew they were leaders in CRM functionality, I had been aware of their Radian 6 (Social Media analytics tool) for quite a few years and they were just launching Social Studio (a simplified version). I loved the look, the simplicity, I loved the sales pitch and quite frankly I was sold. Through Social Studio you could publish, and plan (it had a fabulous calendar that I could load campaigns on see where they were placed in the year’s activities).
However as with many expensive social media platforms you just can’t run a trial until you pay and sign up for 12 months. I was sure this was the tool for us. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. We took on a huge corporate client, their needs for analytics and reports did not match the functionality of Social Studio, it wasn’t detailed enough. It was constantly falling over, and the buildup of problems caused quite a bit of stress. Social Studio did come with the analytics tool Radian 6 but it is so complex. You need time to learn the program, there are hundreds of videos to watch, the customer service was slow, we went through 3 different managers in Australia and the US and after 12 months we turned it off.
You can now sign up to a company called “Walk Me” who will literally walk you through Saleforce to eliminate confusion.
I set off to look again, trialing both big and small platforms. In the process I happened to be contacted by NUVI. Again it looked very cool, it has these bubble graphics highlighting engagement, it had a calendar which was my priority, it’s analytics looked easy to use and it was simple. They advertise the platform as easy, and attainable. We agreed on this platform, the sales guy was very pushy, we had to sign before such and such date to get a discount! He did give us a trial and the customer service from the account manager was very good. Our main reason for going with NUVI was that it had Facebook data. No other platform that I found could give us Facebook data at this point in time.
However, a few weeks later, Facebook changed its API and NUVI no longer could give us the Facebook data we wanted. It wasn’t NUVI’s fault, it was a direct change from Facebook. NUVI was no longer attractive. We couldn’t get out of the contract as it came from Facebook not NUVI. NUVI made changes to adapt that required additional charges. They did incorporate posting to Instagram which very few platforms did at the time, but it was only available in the states. After 3 months we noticed the data didn’t add up. We couldn’t give the reports to the clients as it wasn’t correct information. There are some positives, the listening side of the platform is very good. It picked up my chosen keywords and sent me a daily email. I love this functionality as it means I am not having to visit the platform on a daily basis, it is all directed to my inbox.
After more research, and trialing, I made sure I spent longer on each platform. I asked for extensions on trials which were granted. For each platform I published post, created reports, turned on their listening tools, and made these trial platforms my day to day social tool. In the end we chose Sprinklr which I will talk about a bit later.
So, what social media management platforms are available to you? Platforms range from free sign ups to over $100K + annual fees depending on the their technology. So you need to be clear on your budget, goals and objectives. All companies selling social media platforms will ask you what they are so they can help guide you in the right direction.
I love Hootsuite. I love the customer service, the simplicity of the platform, the listening tools, the security, I love that it can grow with your company and I love the logo (being from a graphic design background).
I use Hootsuite to manage Scoop Social’s social media, schedule posts and chat to my network. I am a Hootsuite Ambassador and gain many benefits from being so.
• Free 30-day trial option for paid versions
• Free option
• Prices from a Pro account $9.99 US / month to an Enterprise account (price will vary depending on requirements)
• Ease of use, accessible via the Hootsuite app
• Auto Schedule Posts / Schedule Post / Suggested Post
• Multiple Streams in columns, including inbound, mentions, direct messages, keyword search
• Multiple accounts can be run
• Single or multiple team access. Assign tasks to team members to respond to comments.
• University learning centre
• Analytics is very basic, across the board. Even on the enterprise system it was detailed enough for our clients.
• Third party apps. There are many apps you can install to increase your Hootsuite experience such as YouTube, Storify, and Dropbox. This is great but you have to create separate accounts for these, some you have to pay for on top of the Platform costs and I personally find it confusing.
• Hidden fees
• Bulk composer
o Upload a csv file of posts
o Choose a network to share to
o Upload images
• Auto Schedule Posts for optimal impact. Hootsuite will automatically choose the best times to publish your post. Option to set the rules.
• Suggested Posts
o Select 3 suggested topics
o Suggest networks the content will be sent
o Select the posts you would like to share
o Auto Schedules posts
• RSS/Atom Feeds
o Feed your RSS (blog posts) to your social network profiles
o Easy to see who is following you on Twitter and Google Plus
• Create campaigns, contents, galleries, sweepstakes
o To publish all except the sweepstakes you need to upgrade to campaigns pro
o Publishing an email registration page to your website and/or Facebook tab
o Creates a contest/Gallery page on your website without the need for coding
2) Sprout Social
I trialed Sprout Social extensively. It is easy to use, and find your way around. It is adapting quickly to every changing social environment and the customer service was brilliant. They extended my trail on numerous occasions. I actually trialed the platform a few times on separate occasions.
• 30-day trial
• The platform is constantly evolving
• Has an in built Customer Relationship Management system (CRM)
• Support for teams (drafts, calendar, tasks etc)
• Support for multiple profiles, departments, and companies
• Security and ability to set specific permission levels and roles
• Analytics & Reports are pleasing to the eye, and easy to understand
• Help desk facility (on Premium and above plans) to use social media for customer support
• Mobile apps
• Integrates with Feedly (for your RSS feeds)
• The entry cost is $59 US per user/month
• The inbound messages, mentions, keywords etc all come under one unified stream called “Smart Inbox”. I found this confusing. I prefer the separate columns in Hootsuite. You do get the option to filter the messages.
• The reporting for us wasn’t detailed enough
• No integration with YouTube or Pinterest, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, or Google + Profiles.
• Can’t post to Instagram
• Pushy sales staff is a major turn off. Whilst trialing the software, I was constantly emailed about when I was likely to start Sprout Social.
• Get a Free report on how your brand is faring https://mustbepresent.com/
• Publish posts with the Sprout Queue for future delivery
• Viral Post is an automated post scheduler based on your audience most engaged times.
• Calendar: Manage multiple profile posts in one central location
• You can apply organic targeting on the post to publish to your desired audience
As I mentioned before, we are currently using this Platform. It is the best platform for our clients with detailed reporting intensive listening functionality and workflow processes. It is quite complex and there are quite a few different solutions to choose from.
• Detailed reporting system
• Column streams
• Multiple dashboards
• Manage Multiple accounts
• Post to Instagram. Sends the post to the Sprinklr App then it published to Instagram
• Email alerts when you respond to a comment
• Excellent customer service, we deal with the Australian company Kinship who are resellers of Sprinklr. They are a phone call or email away. Personalised service.
• Sprinklr University
• The price
• It is a lengthy set up process. It is a beast that needs to be tamed. You want to use it to its full advantage. It is quite time consuming working out how to use it.
• Separate solutions that are all good but come with a price tag
• Trigger automation through rules connected across the Sprinklr platform to automate processes, workflows, and policies
• Share calendar with your team
• Automatically tag inbound and outbound messages to simplify reporting or workflows
• Trigger alerts and notifications based specific action taken
• Load images and post templates into the asset management area for future use
In addition to the above 3 platforms, there are 3 automated tools you might want to consider to help you.
IFTTT – If this then That
A simple automation tool that lets you create recipes that trigger an action.
For example, Automatically add Tweets with a conference hashtag to a Google spreadsheet
Build a Twitter list from a specific hashtag
Post your YouTube uploads to a Facebook Page
A FREE Real time keyword search and analysis
• Searches blogs, Bookmarks, Images, Video and Questions
• Type your keyword into the search field and let the results flow in.
• Automates keyword search
• Set an alert to be emailed to you when it is mentioned
As small business owners, we know we need to embrace social media in order to reach our existing and our potential customers with a consistent brand message and experience. But managing social media accounts – on top of everything else we have to do – can be a confusing, timely, and an overwhelming frustration.
Automating some of your social media activity can save you a lot of time, minimize the stress and allow you to get on with the day to day running of your business. Take the time now to:
1) Establish your goals, budget and personnel resources
2) Do your research, try the appropriate platforms so see if they suit you and make sure you are happy with the results
3) And, develop a social media strategy that works for you and your brand.
I have listed platform links for your reference on our website: