Entrepreneurs are universally short on time and money. Everyone knows that social media needs to play a role in their marketing efforts, but managing all of the different social networks can seem daunting.
There are numerous tools that make populating your Twitter feed, Facebook page, and other social media outlets relatively painless, and some are completely free. Of course, if you want more versatility (additional profiles, analytics, etc.), some services require premium subscriptions.
You need a simple solution that meets the following criteria:
- Sends scheduled posts, so you can set updates to go out during the day (and night), while you run your business.
- Connects all (or most of) your social media accounts, so you don’t have to visit multiple sites or launch multiple apps to update your feeds.
- Provides analytics for posts, so you can determine what kind of posts draw the best engagement from your audience, and when you should post to achieve the best reach.
- Shortens URLs, so you don’t have to visit bitly, tinyurl or some other site to shorten them yourself.
The pros and cons of the main contenders are covered here, along with when you’ll have to start paying (and how much).
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Price: Free up to five social profiles; $9.99/month for unlimited social profiles, plus additional features
Platforms: Web application; Mobile apps for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry
Use Hootsuite to manage your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. Through third-party apps, businesspeople can connect most of their social media accounts, from Tumblr and Reddit to StumbleUpon and Instagram. Pinterest is not yet integrated, but once the “taste graph” offers an API, that should change.
Hootsuite acquired Seesmic in September, so eventually these two apps may be integrated into one supercharged option. For now, Seesmic users have been folded into the Hootsuite community.
In short, Hootsuite is the hands-down winner for most networks integrated and most options for busy business owners.
If Google+ isn’t a priority for you, and your efforts are focused primarily on Facebook and Twitter, you might consider other options.
Platforms: Web application (Safari, Chrome, Firefox are supported; IE will be soon); Desktop app for Mac or Windows
One of the earliest Twitter clients on the scene, Tweetdeck established a foothold among early adopters and won praise for its versatility.
With Tweetdeck, you can manage multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts at once, monitor your feeds, and display search results continuously so you can respond quickly when anyone mentions your company, brand or product.
Global filters enable you to block content you’re not interested in, to help keep your feed streamlined.
Tweetdeck also makes it easy to post (or schedule) tweets containing text, photos or links, and monitor Twitter interactions and direct messages. Be careful to select the appropriate account before hitting send, or bad things can happen.
After Twitter acquired Tweetdeck, developers improved usability and added features, including the ability adjust font size and column width, and even change the traditional dark background of the app to light.
Drawbacks: Tweetdeck doesn’t integrate Facebook pages, Google+, LinkedIn, or any of your other social media outlets, which means you’ll need more than one management tool.
Platforms: Web application (Chrome, Firefox, and Safari); iPhone app
Buffer enables you to schedules posts and provides analytics on posts so you know which topics and times best engage your audience. The app connects to Twitter and Facebook, as well as LinkedIn, which makes this app another good option for B2B companies.
There’s also an impressive array of free apps, extension and extras that work with Buffer to help you maximize your reach.
Price: Free (with ads); $19.95 (ad-free), but currently offered at introductory price of $9.95
Platforms: Mac OS X Version 10.5 or later
Enables users to populate multiple Twitter and Facebook feeds and Facebook pages, as well as Flickr stream, Google Reader, Digg and RSS subscriptions. There’s even Instapaper integration.
- Exclusive to Mac users.
- No analytics, although there are a number of free social media analytics tools that could bridge the gap.
- No scheduled posts, but developers say the next update will include this feature, as well as Google+ and Instagram integration, if the API is available.
If your social media efforts are focused on Twitter and you have a small, trusted team, Twitter for Business might be your simplest option. You can allow multiple contributors to populate a single Twitter profile (not that this is always the best approach).
There are plenty of other great tools that can help you to get the most out of your social media efforts, as well.
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