Social media tools help social media activities monitoring and management

There’s something ironic about using more technology to address issues of technology overload (but not unprecedented).  And social media is no exception.  There are many tools to help you eliminate your slavish addiction to multiple social networks…by replacing it with a slavish addiction to a single tool.  OK, all irony aside, they do help by reducing the overall effort needed and time spent.

Searching for Social Media Management will spew forth a huge variety of tools and services, from free to monthly pricing of several hundred dollars. And with the level of innovation reaching a fever pitch in this particular area, there are new tools emerging every day.  A VC friend of mine claims that they receive 4-5 pitches for social media tools every day.

So, here is a way to break down the features they offer into meaningful categories that are more relevant to helping you tame the beast and avoid burnout. Note that most tools offer features in more than one category but have strengths or focus in one particular area.

Monitoring

Just between the “big-3” – Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus – it can be a challenge to stay on top of activity and conversations. Aggregation features capture this activity and deliver it to you in one convenient, well-organized feed.  Most tools also provide some limited ability to respond, comment etc. Search-filtering features allow you to set up keywords to search for (especially useful for Twitter) and track activity related to those easily. This is especially useful for tracking mentions of your business, or even better the juicy gossip on your competitors. Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In are the most commonly supported networks with some also adding in FourSquare or GoWalla. Google Plus integration is likely on most roadmaps pending API availability.

Organization

This is a relatively broad category of features that are more applicable for advanced users or businesses. Workflow Management allows individual posts and tweets to be treated as tasks, assigned to different users and tracked to completion – very useful if your daily grind includes reviewing and responding to a lot of customer issues over the social web. Unified Contact Management allows you to track all your connections across all networks in a single unified database – followers on Twitter, fans on facebook and visitors on FourSquare – forming the basis for really sophisticated Social-CRM (which is a whole ‘nother topic entirely).

Syndication

If your social presence extends across Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn, you know how hard it can be post an update or a photo to each network individually. Syndication features allow you to post once to any/all networks you are associated with, amplifying your message.  Message Scheduling even allow you to queue up messages to be broadcasted at different times so you can unplug and let the tool do the work for you. Especially as there’s increasing focus on timing of content posts (supposedly Monday morning is the best time for new content), this becomes indispensable.

Visualization

This is an entirely new and creative category of tools that traditionally aren’t even considered social media management tools. They access all your social networks, mine the content and then render it for you in creative and compelling ways.  For example, FlipBoard recreates all social activity within your network as a highly readable, high-fidelity online magazine, with embedded photos, videos and links. And in some cases, they also maintain the content offline which makes it ideal for catching up on the plane.

Other Features

While the categories above are most relevant across the board for all kinds of users, consumers or small businesses, there are other things to consider if your needs are more specific. These are too expansive to cover here in detail, but worth a brief mention.

1. Marketing tools are oriented towards broadcasting marketing messages across your networks and then tracking responses. They also enable you to run contests, daily-deals and other marketing programs. The list of tools here are numerous, but include InvolverNorth SocialWildfire etc. Most also allow you to build and maintain a custom Facebook page which can then be used to host promotions.

2. Analytics is another area that is too deep and broad to cover in this post. Suffice it to say, most of the tools mentioned support basic analytics on activity and engagement across networks, which is really enough to start with.


By Navin Ganeshan. Article © Network Solutions, Inc. All Rights Reserved. First published in the Network Solutions’ Small Business Blog and reproduced with permission.