Let’s face it. Social media marketing is hard work. Sometimes you feel like a one legged man in a kickboxing competition.
Over the last few years it has become an integral part of your business and marketing.
You use social media to source leads, keep in touch with your old clients and even serve your current customers.
The only problem?
The Internet never sleeps.
But you can’t be online 24/7.
On top of it, there are multiple social media platforms fighting for your attention at any give time. (I can think of at least ten from the top off my head!)
If you’re a blogger or a small business, you cannot imagine hiring dedicated staff for social media management. Even if you can afford it, you may still not want to.
Where 40% of small business owners are most likely to outsource TV/radio ads and 35% are likely to do the same with SEO only a measly 5% want to outsource social media marketing and email newsletters.
So how on earth are you supposed to manage staying on top of things; interact and engage with your followers while scheduling all those posts on each of these accounts?
Before you decide to go on a digital sabbatical, here’s some good news.
Enter social media dashboards.
If you’re an avid social media marketer, you’ve probably heard of a social media dashboard before. These online tools help you combat the time-sucking vortex that social media can sometimes be.
What is a social media dashboard?
Simply put, a social media dashboard makes social media management super-easy. It syncs all your social media accounts in one convenient place.
In its truest sense, a dashboard also allows you to see all your social media analytics at one place, thus eliminating the need to manually go into each account and check what happened in the past week.
A robust dashboard will let you connect with all major social media platforms out there. At the bareminimum, most good tools will sync Facebook, Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn.
5 benefits of using a social media dashboard
Let’s be honest. How many times have you logged in on Facebook to schedule posts on your business page only to find yourself lost in the sea of posts after 30 minutes? And suddenly, you realise you haven’t retweeted something you were meaning to. You rush to Twitter and the same story repeats. A dashboard will save you ton of time. Because on its own, each social media platform can be a time-suck. With a dashboard, you are keeping things in perspective.
You want to keep a tab on what your competitors are upto. Who’s talking about them? Who’s following them? How’s their engagement? All tracking-related questions that you can answer with simple search inside the tool.
Only a few social networks allow you to schedule your content. It’s a headache to go inside each account and schedule every post manually. Granted, networks like Twitter operate in “real-time” but you can’t be online all day long. Plus, no one likes being bombarded with string of posts within a given span of time, so scheduling is a smarter way to be present without really being there. A dashboard comes to rescue!
You’ve probably wondered: What type of posts are a “hit” with my audience? Which ones get the most shares and engagement? How do I get more leads through social channels? Thankfully, with a dashboard, you can stop the guesswork. By seeing what your audience clicked on, you can fine-tune into what your followers enjoy. Dashboards make it easy to analyze everything at once.
Most dashboard tools will allow you and your team members to collaborate. You can also divide roles and duties and allocate social media tasks to each member so you know who’s accountable. Works like a charm especially when you’re remotely-based.
With that, let’s look at the pros and cons of five popular social media dashboard tools.
5 social media dashboard tools
Here are 5 top dashboard tools that can help you manage your social media marketing.
Cyfe is a full-blown business analytics tool that connects all your online activities, not just social media.
Signing up with their Forever Free plan is easy. Just enter your name, email and password and you’re all set.
The tool has a myriad of widgets for different purposes, such as:
- Sales and Finance
- Social Media
- Web analytics
Each widget supports many different services that you can sync. For example, the Sales and Finance widget lets you add Freshbooks, Paypal, Xero, Salesforce etc.
The Social Media widget allows you to add different profiles as shown below:
You can also add a Competitor Dashboard in Cyfe where you can monitor their SEO and social media growth using widgets.
Cyfe is not just limited to social media – think of it as an integrated dashboard.
For example, if you use multiple Gmail inboxes – one for personal emails, another for client work and still another for guest blogging – keeping a tab on each one could be a pain. In Cyfe, you can easily create a Gmail dashboard for ease of management and boost your productivity.
Of course, not everyone needs all these features, so you can only use what applies to you. When compared to other tools out there, you’ll notice Cyfe comes in free and premium plans that aren’t all that expensive.
Pricing: Forever free plan.
$19/mo for unlimited everything (includes unlimited team members, dashboards and widgets) or $14/mo if paid annually.
Hoosuite is one of the more popular tools out there that has grown to over 6 million users. The dashboard is available in 13 languages.
You can create a new account for free or sign in using your Facebook, Twitter or Google account.
Once you sync your networks within Hootsuite, you can add “streams” in the form of columns.
Streams can be Sent tweets, Retweets, Mentions, Home, Wall Posts etc. A stream is nothing but your activity on a social network.
You can also add tabs to group streams under relevant columns so you can keep streams from different social media separate.
So your tabs can be for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, with each containing streams from the respective platform.
Hootsuite also makes scheduling super simple.
There is also an app directory, a library of third-party free and premium apps that you can use.
At this time, Hootsuite allows the following social networks to be added (for more, you’ll have to try their third-party apps):
Pricing: Free for up to three social profiles with no collaboration.
From $9.99/mo for 50 profiles and +1 team members. Larger plans also available.
Sendible can schedule future social network posts and bring all your social media interaction under one roof along with emails and SMS marketing integration (CRM).
They also include brand monitoring for Yelp which could be useful for local businesses.
Inside though, it looks more like using an email client than a dashboard.
You can compose and publish blog posts to WordPress, Tumblr and Blogspot also.
You can do a 30-day free trial because Sendible doesn’t provide you with any free accounts after the period lapses. So you have to provide your credit card details although you can cancel, upgrade or downgrade anytime.
Pricing: $39.99/mo for their Start up plan that includes up to 40 services, two team members and two branded reports. Larger plans also available.
4. Social Sprout
I’ve never used Social Sprout before, but I’ve been hearing about it recently. So I decided to give it a try.
Signing up with Social Sprout is a breeze. And they don’t ask you for any credit card details either. On the flip side, the free trial is limited to 30 days.
Personally I don’t like the fact that once you sign up, you’re asked to attach with your Twitter account. Without authorizing, you can’t proceed.
Social Sprout asks for my business name and timezone upfront. Timezones can be tricky especially when dealing with social media, so I like how it is taken care of in the beginning.
Then, I am asked to do one of three things: Add social profiles, invite my team or jump into my inbox.
Sprout Social allows you to sync your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Feedly accounts.
Unlike Hootsuite, Sprout Social doesn’t use columns.
Another neat feature is easy setup for brand keywords (for social media monitoring). When you set up these keywords for your brand name, you’ll receive inbox messages from Twitter and Facebook even when someone mentions you without the @ tag.
Once you link your Twitter, you can search for people who follow you but you’re not following them under their Discover tab or “Clean up” any silent, irregular or “do not follow back” accounts. Cool!
The down side is it’s on the expensive end and allows for limited number of profiles that you can connect even with a paid plan.
Pricing: Starts at $59/mo for an individual plan for up to 10 profiles. Larger plans also available.
If you don’t want any fancy features, are starting out or like to keep it simple, try Buffer. Signing up is pretty simple. They give you four options to login – Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or email.
The interface is delightfully clean with lots of whitespace that’s easy on the eyes. The free trial account can sync major social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
Once you sync an account, Buffer gives you four main tabs as below:
I love their “Suggestions” tab that has a list of posts I might like to share with my followers in categories of marketing, inspiration, lifehack etc.
Another plus is I don’t have to attach my personal profiles – I can choose to attach a Group on Facebook or a Page on LinkedIn, for example.
Pricing: $10/mo or $102/yr.
Business plans starting at $50/mo for 25 accounts, 5 team members and 15 RSS feeds pulled into your profile. Check their website for larget business plans.
When it comes to social media tools, there is no right or wrong pick, only what is right for you.
- Are you going to use the dashboard only for social media or something more than that?
- Do you have a team that will be posting?
- Is the number of profiles connected important to you?
- Perhaps you have a budget of less than $25/mo?
Such criteria will help you make a choice and eliminate anything that’s not a fit. J
Each of the above tools has a different look and feel, features and pricing. Choosing the right type depends on your business needs.
Your turn! Is social media slowly becoming a time-suck for you? Are you staying on top of things? If not, give one of the above tools a try and let us know how you go!
Another great dashboard is oktopost. It is really great at content posting and distribution. Has great analytics and a listening component as well (can track and engage LI groups).
Just FYI – the platform is called Sprout Social, not Social Sprout. It’s a pretty nice platform, but I was looking for alternatives.
I find Sprout Social to be pretty limited in analytics. Can’t tweak anything (such as changing search terms, boolean queries or even changing sentiment if it’s wrong). If you have the money, I’d check out Sysomos Heartbeat or Simply Measured.
Just FYI, the “Buffer” link address you provided leads to a floor buffing site: http://www.buffer.com/
Thanks for pointing out, Hank.
This post originally appeared on JeffBullas so the changes were made there. Hope the editors here take note and make appropriate edits.
Thanks for sharing your experience with Sprout Social, Pooja!
Great list of really good apps. Scheduling and managing all your social accounts from one place is a must for any serious social manager nowadays. May I add there’s one more tool you could check and add to the list though? It’s called Mass Planner and it’s pretty good.
“Great list you got in there!
Here is one I work for http://socialdraft.com what makes us different is we Appify Social Media. So if you need Twitter + Facebook we app that.”
Those tools are all great in their own different functions! Nice!
Let me share my favorite app that I find really useful, it’s called Socialdraft. My favorite function so far is CreatePro. It is the Social Calendar that allows you to drag and drop all your posts, schedule them and visualize what your month looks like. It’s perfect for the social media maven who wants to schedule 10, 20, 100 posts over the course of next few weeks.
To know more, check it out here at http://socialdraft.com
Hi – really useful post, but your Buffer link is wrong. Should be bufferapp.com. Niall
I have been using Knotlink and it works perfectly for me.
I currently use Cyfe, Hootsuit and I just recently starting using Buffer. I checked out the others.
To me #1 Cyfe is about the back end of your social media, the analytics. Where as the rest are more about content, though a few offer some analytic’s is not nearly as comprehensive as I believe Cyfe can be.
I would love to see more examples of comprehensive analytic dashboards.
I’m using capzool.com and they cover all aspects in social media marketing for me plus SMS campaigns, emails, web tools and more. The best thing to know what’s best for you is to just try it out.
Hi, thank u so much. I’m using Spidly (spidly.com) and I find it interesting for option “Smart Spidly”, that allow me to find contents right for my pages and publish directly.
Should also try Blog2Social as it is user friendly.
So far i have faced no issues. Not only you have a single dashboard which will help you post across platforms but also it requires no cron job done. You just have to simply install and activate it.
Hey this is very enlightening! I have no idea how beneficial are the social media sites to your business until I have read this! I have underestimated the use of social media and which now I have realized that it will be an integral part of business and marketing in today’s generation.
There are more excellent social media marketing tools here: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/44-social-media-tools-recommended-pros/
Great post, Pooja! These are some great tools you’ve mentioned. Another app you might want to look into is DrumUp-social media management, content discovery, promotion and curation. It’s great for finding and scheduling fresh and relevant content from reputable sources onto multiple social media platforms. You can also track content from your favorite blogs by adding their RSS feeds, and store interesting content in your content library. It’s fairly new (released Jan 2015) and not too expensive (pricing goes from $19-$199). Check it out here: https://drumup.io/, and please consider adding it to your list (or future lists) if you find it interesting