What's in Your Exploding Social Media Toolbox?
If you are fan of the dozens of home improvement shows on television today, you've seen there is virtually a tool for everything. When I watch these shows I think to myself, "Wow, that is pretty cool. Look how easy that was." Tackling the most complicated jobs looks doable for the average Joe or Jane do-it-yourselfer after watching an episode of these shows. "I could do that if I only had the right tool!"
Similarly, as social media has exploded and become more sophisticated we've seen the development of hundreds of tools for communications professionals to tackle any and all types of social media programs and tactics. For the vast majority of us, keeping up to date on these tools, apps and plug-ins is impossible. It would be great if there were a single Swiss Army Knife social media tool that could fulfill all our needs, but the speed of innovation and change in the market makes this impossible.
So, what is the best way to stay on top of all this and work with a manageable set of tools? First, talk with your peers and ask them what they find most valuable. You'll be surprised at what you learn. Second, do some quick searches for "best social media tools" and you'll find some good articles like this one from Cindy King of Social Media Examiner and this one courtesy of David Strom and CIO.com. Taking cues from experts who are focused on this is always a great frame of reference.
But in the end you are still left with a dizzying list of potential tools. It's like walking into a Home Depot for the first time. Where do you begin? I recommend you organize your social media tool chest along the lines of these four functions:
- Research and monitoring - The first fundamental step. Figuring out who and what matters to you and keeping tabs on the conversation. Thinking this through carefully and choosing the right tool sets the foundation for everything else you do. Tops in this category include Sysomos, Radian6 (now part of SalesforceMarketingCloud) and Listorious/Muckrack.
- Content creation and management - Once you understand who you want to reach and where you need to be, you can focus on what you have to say and making it relevant to those areas and audiences. The most efficient approach for publishing content is to use a single tool to create and then distribute your content across multiple channels. Leaders in this area include Hootsuite, dlvr.it and Buffer.
- Measurement and analytics - The Holy Grail for all communicators is to measure the reach and effectiveness of your social activity. Fortunately, and unlike older forms of marketing measurement, the ability to measure your program is getting easier and more insightful all the time. This area is tightly linked with the first category above, so I won't repeat the same names. Some of the others worth checking out include Google Analytics, SproutSocial, TweetReach and Klout.
- Conversation and conversion - At this point we're talking about engagement and getting people to take action. The ultimate goal for most marketers is to turn this activity into a qualified business opportunity, i.e., LEADS! I met with SimplyMeasured a few months ago and was blown away by its ability to integrate the social media monitoring and measurement into a CRM system and take action.
As I said, there are hundreds of tools you can choose from. In the end most of them won't survive. Inevitably the market consolidates and we will be left with fewer choices. You see an example of this already with SalesforceMarketingCloud, which is offering a one-stop suite of solutions in the cloud. So the question I ask is, which social media tools are you betting will still be in your toolbox a year from now?