It is no longer a question of whether your organization or company should be active on social media. That’s a given. What you need to ask yourself now is how you can make the most of your social media efforts, align them with your overall marketing plan and track return on investment (ROI)? Various tools exist today to centralize management of social media profiles, track web analytics, allow scheduling of posts, and facilitate planning. Whether your organization is large or small, just starting to play in the social media space or a pioneer, there is a tool for you. From low budget to top dollar, you’ll be able to find something that fits your needs.
Here are some questions to keep in mind when evaluating tools:
- Who is my target audience and where do they hang out online? Some tools are better at helping you manage multiple accounts (e.g. your organization’s CEO and a subject matter expert both have Twitter profiles) and connect with various platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, Ning, etc.), while others are better at analyzing data.
- Why do I want to use a tool to manage my social media outreach? Perhaps you need a way to start scheduling posts or you want to know exactly what your outreach efforts mean for your organization.
- What specific information do I want to learn about my constituents? You may want to track conversation or article topic trends, or determine the social network that a majority of your constituents use and advertise on that website. Think about the answers you want to learn and make sure that you’re choosing a tool that can help you reach those goals.
As reported in a recent article on eMarketer, InformationWeekAnalytics released a survey showing that most companies are relying on relatively low-tech solutions to monitor social media.
But, the game is changing and marketers need to change with it.
eMarketer also reported that while site traffic was the top metric for social marketing success in 2010, the number two spot will shift from just tallying fans, followers and positive buzz to tracking conversions.
As technology improves and professionals recognize the need to track their social media outreach to a bottom line, these monitoring and analysis tools will be in high demand.
Ask yourself, what does your organization need? Most tools on the market have a set of common features: they allow users to register profiles across multiple platforms (i.e. Facebook and Twitter), provide a way to help with planning and scheduling posts, report analytics and offer ways to shorten URLs to maximize trackability.
In addition, each product may have its own set of special features or a unique focus. For example, products like Small Act and Spredfast offer personalized setup service and ongoing support with a live person versus an online help desk. Explore other cool features like social profiling from Small Act to help you identify how many of your current constituents are already using social media and where they spend their time. Or connect with Spredfast to acquire sentiment analytics to easily measure overall online brand awareness and activity.
Tools like HootSuite allow you to track the online activities of your influential social media constituents, and Radian6 offers sophisticated analysis of how people are talking about a topic (i.e. tag clouds of related words). Plus, the selection of tools is growing, offering a variety of options to fit every budget.
Both HootSuite and Small Act offer free versions to start, allowing users the option to upgrade ($149-$1,500 a month, depending on the tool) to receive extended customer support, additional data storage and more. Furthermore, packages for high-end products like Spredfast and Radian6 may start at a few hundred dollars a month, but offer features like in-depth training for your staff, dedicated account managers and the ability to monitor and analyze unlimited social media accounts.
Remember, when you’re selecting a tool for your organization, think about future growth and what other opportunities you may want to pursue. Even if you’re just starting to use social media, you should consider selecting a tool that will help you expand your marketing efforts. Don’t be afraid to try tools, request demos and talk to other tool users to see what will best fit your organization’s needs.
For additional information about other social media monitoring and analysis tools, check out this article “5 Superior Social Media Management Tools” from Mashable.