Evaluating Social Media Tools for Your Business
If you are like most small business owners you have at least some sort of social media presence. Perhaps you tweet about your sales or use Instagram to showcase your restaurant’s signature dishes. Pretty much all of you have a Facebook business page and some of you explore other social platforms as well. But how do you keep all your social media efforts from overwhelming your other business activities? That is where social media tools come in!
There are many great social media tools out there, ranging from very simple apps that handle only specific social platforms to full social media management suites that can handle everything from helping you develop an editorial calendar and curate social media content to tracking your post’s engagement. So how do you go about finding a social media tool that works for your business?
Selecting Social Media Tools
The first thing you need to do is to determine what exactly you expect from your social media tools. That will require answers to the following three questions:
1 – What are you looking to accomplish with your social media marketing efforts?
Are you looking to build brand awareness or drive traffic to your business website? Or generate leads directly from your social media posts? You also need to determine the results you expect from the time you spend on your social media efforts.
Most social media tools are really great for some things, but fail at others. So before you select any social media tool you need to make sure it will actually help you achieve your social media goals instead of quickly becoming another headache.
2 – Why are you looking for new social media tools?
The two most common reasons small businesses are looking for social media tools is that either they don’t have a social media tool at all, or that their social media tool is not working for them. Both are valid reasons.
By taking a look at the reasons why you want a new social media tool in the first place you can focus on your priorities. Are you looking for a tool that allows you to do new things with social media? Do you need more content curation or distribution options? Was your existing social media tool difficult to use?
Regardless of which social media tool you end up selecting it needs to allow you to do all the things you want or need to do.
3 – What experience should your new social media tool provide?
No matter which of the many social media tools out there you end up getting you, or someone in your business, will actually have to use it. So what kind of experience does your new tool need to provide? Over the many years that our team has run social media campaigns for clients around the world we found that tools that are both fun and easy-to-use work the best.
If you or your team can use your new social media tool pretty much right out of the box instead of facing a long learning curve you can start creating and distributing engaging social media content right away. The longer it will take you to learn how to use your social media tools the less likely you will use them at all!
What Features Do You Require from Your Social Media Tools?
The next step in selecting social media tools is to determine what features you really need, and which ones are going to be the icing on the cake. Let’s start with the essential features first.
Make a list of essential features your social media tools need to offer. Be sure to discuss this with everyone that will handle your social media efforts for your business. A great way to do this is to have a brainstorming session with your team and make a list of 10 to 20 essential features.
Here are some important considerations to help you brainstorm:
- What caused you to start searching for a new tool? As we mentioned already, there was likely something you wanted to do but weren’t able to. What was that?
- Social platforms— Which social platforms do you need to be able to share to?
- Scheduling posts— Do you need to be able to schedule your posts in advance?
- Custom posting times— How should scheduling work? Do you need to choose your own custom posting times?
- Scheduling tool vs. “all-in-one” platform— Are you looking for an awesome scheduling tool, or are you looking for an “all-in-one” social media management platform?
- Analytics— Do you need analytics? Which metrics do you need to track? How in-depth do your reports need to be?
- Paid social campaigns— Do you need the ability to manage paid social campaigns? (FB ads, Twitter ads, etc.)
- Engagement— Do you need to be able to pull in, interact with and respond to incoming social conversations?
- Social listening— Do you need social listening/brand monitoring capabilities?
- Team collaboration tools— Will you need to be able to add team members, review posts and manage your team’s workflow?
- Integrations— Are there any other tools you’d need to integrate with?
Nice to Have Features
Once you decided on your must-have features you may want to consider some additional options for your social media tools. Are you planning on diversifying your social media marketing strategy in the coming months? Is there something that would help you reach a new audience or increase brand awareness?
Make a list of things you don’t absolutely need, but that would be cool to have anyway. This is the less serious part of selecting social media tools, so feel free to leave yourself some room to be creative.
Narrowing Down Your Social Media Tools Selection
By now you should have two lists, one with must-have features for your new social media tools, and one with the cool “wishlist items.” The first list is most likely more extensive, but we have seen some pretty amazing wishlists as well! In order to help you select your social media tools you will need to narrow down your selection a bit.
So take your lists, and narrow them down to around 5 items each. That is a little arbitrary; maybe you end up with only three items, or perhaps you decide to keep a dozen or more. That is entirely up to you, of course. But if you keep too many items on your list you will have a much harder time selecting your social media tools.
Start Evaluating Social Media Tools
Once you have your narrowed-down list you can start selecting from a long list of available social media tools. Since there are so many available tools and options this part can quickly become totally overwhelming. So let’s make this a bit easier for you.
Things to Consider as You Evaluate Social Media Tools
Here are some essential considerations to keep in mind as you narrow down your list of potential social media tools:
- User experience – You’re likely to be using this tool regularly, maybe even daily. So it is important to find a tool that gives you or your team a great experience.
- Analytics and reporting – When you think about your team’s overall social media goals, what are the key metrics you’ll need to track and report on? Will this tool help you measure those?
- Platform – Is there a social platform that works best for your business or that is a favorite of your team? Make sure your social media tool has plenty of available options for that platform instead of ones you are less active on.
- Team collaboration tools – Will you be inviting team members to collaborate with this tool? Some tools make it super easy to manage your team.
- Customer support – At some point you or someone on your team is likely going to have a question or need help. When that time comes, will you have access to customer support? And if so, how good is it — both in terms of speed and quality?
- Training – On top of customer support, it might also be worth exploring what other options the company provides you — in terms of training, education, customer success managers, etc. For instance, are there training video or webinars? Will you have dedicated support?
- Security – Another thing to consider is: How secure is the tool? What security features does it provide?
- Integrations – Sometimes you need to pass data between tools, or you might want to automate some of your social media activities. Do you need to integrate your social media tool with any other products? And does this tool have the integrations you need?
- Pricing – There are a few things to consider when it comes to pricing. Be sure to check the availability of free features, and at what price the more advanced features become “pay-only.” Is the difference worth it for your business?
- Scale – Your social media presence is likely going to grow over time — how does adding more team members, accounts or social media updates affect pricing?
6 Places to Research Social Media Tools
If you want to find the best social media tools, here are a few resources we recommend using, and some of the keywords that are likely to give you the most relevant answers:
- Google— here are some keywords to check out: best social media tools, best social media marketing tools and best social media management tools
- YouTube— a search for these keywords will turn up some great video reviews: best social media marketing tools, best social media management tools and social media tools for business
- Product Hunt— try a keyword search for ‘social media‘ and check out their social media tools collection
- AlternativeTo— you’ll find a nice selection of options by checking out alternative’s to Buffer, Hootsuite and Sprout Social
- Capterra— you can find reviews for a ton of social media marketing products
- Quora— read through Q&A’s in the ‘social media marketing tools’ section of Quora
Some of Our Favorite Social Media Tools
Since we have been active in the social media sphere for a while we have come up with our own favorite social media tools. These are the tools we use on a daily basis to run our own social media campaigns, as well as those of our clients.
- Buffer— Great for scheduling, publishing and analyzing your content with ease
- Hootsuite— Fantastic as an “all-in-one” social media solution, and they offer great training as well
- Sprout Social— Great for monitoring all of your social media efforts, both content and engagement
- Commun.It – A great tool for managing your brand’s activity on Twitter, engage with users, and share trending content with ease
- AddThis – A great suite of social media tools that allow you to promote and share your content, engage with your social audience and recommend additional social media content, and track your post’s performance
Final Thoughts on Social Media Tools
Switching to a new social media tool is a huge investment in your social media marketing strategy. That is why we strongly suggest that you do not rush into making your decision.
If you choose a tool that works really well for you and your team, it can save you a ton of time and energy — and help you make meaningful progress towards your goals. Social media tools that are easy and intuitive to use for your team will provide much better results than tools that are too complex.
That’s why it’s so important to take the time to get clarity on what’s your goals are and why you’re looking for a new tool, before you start doing research and comparing feature lists. So you can make the best, most informed decision for your team!
Two last takeaways:
Don’t select social media tools simply because they are highly rated. It is less important what other users have to say than what actually works for you and your business in real life!
Don’t select a social media tool that is over your head. Even the most awesome and amazing features are useless if you will never use them!
We Can Help
And if you are still not sure if small business social media marketing can help you generate leads, don’t worry! Simply reach out and contact us. Our expert team of social marketers and community managers will listen to you, answer your questions, and help you determine your social media needs and requirements and select the perfect social media tool based on your input.
Do you have anything to add to our tips for selecting the best social media tools for your small business? Feel free to add your comments below so our audience can benefit as well, and grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! And feel free to share our small business social media marketing tips with your audience!