We have a complicated relationship with social media. On one hand, it connects us in entirely new ways, exposes us to content that we might otherwise overlook, and injects some fun into mundane tasks. All things to celebrate, right? On the other, sometimes it feels like social media has pretty much swallowed the internet whole, invaded our privacy, and imposed an additional component of business that can actually overshadow the very endeavors we are trying to champion. All things that can make us want to throw our laptops out the window and unplug forever. Social media, however, is here to stay, and, if you are promoting a product, service, or project, it is a crucial component of your success. Fortunately, there are several social media tools that can transform the cumbersome aspects into something much more manageable.
Rather than just supply a list of programs and applications no person should be without, I think it is far more productive to identify the exact needs you want to address and present a few options that might be the solution for you. After all, it is an overcrowded market space, and every tool has its proponents and its detractors. A lot of this will come down to personal preference and goals specific to your business. It may also require some trial and error before you finish building your social media toolkit. Unfortunately, there is no perfect all-in-one solution, but there are strong contenders that address the two primary areas of concern.
Before we delve into those, however, there is an important distinction between social media sites and social media tools. I have read plenty of articles that list sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like as social media tools, and, in one sense, I guess they are. In this article, however, social media tools refer to applications and programs that help you manage your social media activity. None of them mentioned below are site specific, but there are plenty available that are focused entirely on a particular social networking site. All of them could potentially free up some time and energy that you can reallocate to the running of your business.
Content management is probably the most time consuming and overwhelming task when it comes to social networking. You must not only post content but also reply to it. Sometimes it will be a simple thank you, but other times you may need to answer a question or participate in an ongoing conversation. The ability to preschedule certain tweets and updates is immensely valuable. Some people will grumble about automation and lack of authenticity, but please note the use of the word “certain.” The majority of your online interactions should occur in real time. It will foster a better sense of community, be more relevant to your readers, reflect the current climate, and provide a clear sense of your voice. There is no reason not to auto-post particular items, however, usually ones that relate to announcements and promotions. For example, if you are writing an article that is going live a week from now, compose your 140-characters or less announcement while you are in the moment and schedule it to post when you article goes live. Similarly, if you are launching a seasonal sale and have already sorted out the details, create your proclamation while it is fresh in your mind and distractions are at a minimum, and set it up for the first day of the sale. It is simply one less thing to keep track of that you are not scrambling to complete during a stressful and busy time. If for some reason something changes, you can always edit or delete your pre-scheduled tweet or update.
Likewise, you cannot spend all day checking to see if someone has commented upon, liked, or retweeted your content. Having a notification system in place means that these interactions will not escape your notice and you will not undermine user engagement by neglecting your followers. Furthermore, the time spent wasted compulsively checking all your social media sites can be used more productively. There are ton of tools out there that will notify you about activity, send you reminders to respond, and more. If you are looking for a pre-scheduling and activity notification solution, some favorites are HootSuite, Crowdbooster, and Buffer. They have analytics built in as well, which brings me to tracking content.
No matter how wonderful your content is, unless you have a large and enthusiastic following, posting can often feel like you are shouting into a void and the only thing that resonates is your own echo. While it is possible to analyze and track your content manually on a site-by-site, post-by-post basis, it is aggravating, unnecessarily drains two of your most precious resources, time and energy, and will inevitably be inaccurate without the help of some analytic tools. Many of these programs can help identify your most engaged followers, highlight which content has been shared the most, and even provide tips about when and how to post in order to have the most impact. HootSuite and Crowdbooster both have the capability to help you monitor traffic and influence, but Klout, PostRank Analytics, and Postling are other options when it comes to measuring your results. Do not be afraid to try different platforms out or even use a couple in tandem. Just keep in mind, you may be temporarily deluged with information, and the one you are able to devote the most attention to will be the one to emerge from the pack simply because that is where you invested your time.
Beyond tools that will help you manage your social media content and analyze its impact, there are plenty that address other issues as well such as integrating multimedia components like audio, videos, and photographs. There are applications that track hash tags, curate content, facilitate blogging, and so on. If you have a need, you can probably find a social media tool that will address it and make your life that much easier. Social media should bolster your business, not detract from it; it should be more of a pleasure than a chore. With the right components in place, we can happily embrace this interactive technological age and our precious computers will be safe once more from an untimely demise born of unnecessary frustration.