Social media can be overwhelming to the small business owner, especially one who has not really used these tools (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) before. Questions abound: When do I post? How much do I post? Which networks do I use? With so much uncertainty, the social media novice might feel overwhelmed to the point of quitting the race before it even begins. After all, who has time to spend all day on Facebook, right?
So, should the small business owner throw in the towel or are there options for reining in the seemingly overwhelming task of managing their social media presence?
Short of hiring a social media manager, there are several tools available to the business owner that will help them overcome the “social media tsunami” that they can feel caught up in.
The first tool I would recommend looking into is called Buffer. This free tool allows you to schedule posts and tweets right from within your internet browser of choice, whether they are to be posted to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. I had previously done a review of Buffer (“Why Not “Buffer” Your Social Posts – A Review”), and am still a very big advocate of their program. This constant flow of information that has caused people to approach me and let me know how valuable they find my posts and shares. It also ensures that I always have a stable of posts ready to go, and they are released according to the schedule that I set.
One of my favorite social media “dashboard” programs is HootSuite, which allows you to monitor and manage multiple social profiles. You set up columns for any social network (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and soon GooglePlus), search term, or hashtag that you want to follow, and it organizes your social life. Want to schedule posts for later in the day? Hootsuite can do that. Want to run an analytics report on your progress? Hootsuite has analytics built in. It also has a built-in URL shortener, and pulls in the necessary pictures to attach to Facebook links. There also free applications for you to use on your iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry devices. In addition, since the information is actually hosted in the cloud, whatever search columns you set up are available on all devices. They offer both a free and paid service, but I believe it is worth the $5.99 for the Pro plan, which integrates Google Analytics and Facebook Insights. Want to sign up? Here is my HootSuite affiliate link (thanks, in advance).
TweetDeck, now owned by Twitter, was one of the first social dashboards. It allows you to organize your Twitter accounts, and to set-up columns for searches that you conduct on a routine basis (hashtags, users, topics). TweetDeck also has a built in URL shortener, and enables you to schedule your tweets in advance, however, TweetDeck does not offer the same flexibility as HootSuite, since it is meant to only monitor Twitter. TweetDeck offers both desktop and mobile applications, and will work well for someone looking for basic Twitter management.
Gremlin is a newer social media dashboard, that I’ve just started to experiment with. Gremlin allows you to accomplish all the same tasks as HootSuite, and offers both free and paid versions, although Gremlin’s plans run all the way to $500 per month. I will admit that Gremlin offers some very compelling features, which HootSuite and TweetDeck don’t, including goal tracking, a LinkedIn Groups, and the ability to post
longer messages (with the comparable $6 per month plan).
But will it overtake HootSuite? That remains to be seen (although I do prefer their mascot to HootSuite’s OWL).
Managing the social media tsunami takes time, effort, and work, but these tools can help you better use social media to promote your business. And, since all of the mentioned programs are free or have free plans available, make sure to try them all, and find the one that works well for you. And remember to share how you are using them.
Have you found another hidden gem? A tool too good to be true? Make sure to share it.
Other social media tool resources:
Article originally appeared at Digital Brand Marketing Education.