Who doesn’t want their lives to be easier? Almost everyone I ask is looking for that one thing, whatever it is, that will make their business lives that much easier. And, as I work with small businesses, the biggest question I always get is, “Yes, but how do I find the time to do it all?”
How to find more time
The easiest way to find more time in your busy week, is to use tools that will enable you to accomplish several tasks at once. My favorite two applications for this purpose, Hootsuite and BufferApp, allow me to publish to several or all of my social networks with the click of just one button.
This is a product known as a social dashboard. By connecting all of your accounts, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, LinkedIn pages, GooglePlus, Foursquare, and even MySpace, you are able to monitor and engage on whatever social network you need. No need to visit the individual sites to interact with your audience.
And, what makes it even better is the ability to schedule posts from anywhere. Hootsuite is a web application that enables you to have all of your information accessible to you from whatever device you are using, whether it is a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or even another’s computer. Your schedule, your posts, your interactions are all right there, at your fingertips.
This application comes in handy as you are finding information and articles to share with your networks. Just schedule once, and it is published everywhere you need.
What if you could send all of the weblinks you wanted to share directly to one spot, and that they would be distributed on a schedule that you set? That is the beauty of BufferApp. This web application allows you to install a link in your web browser’s tool bar, and when you are interested in sharing a site to your networks, just click the button, a new window appears, and choose where you want the information to be shared. Buffer maintains a listing of all items you want to share, and sends them out according to your schedule, which can be different for each network and each day of the week.
In addition, Buffer provides excellent analytics, providing per post information that includes number of comments, likes, clicks, reach and shares for all Facebook posts sent through Buffer. For Twitter, Buffer shows you the number of retweets, favorites, mentions, clicks, and potential reach (which is your number of followers).
Buffer’s only down side is the lack of connection to GooglePlus and LinkedIn Pages. But, that is something that can be overlooked, due to its convenience.
Although both Buffer and Hootsuite provide some analytics, I find that the analytics provided by Sprout Social to be some of the best. They are clear, colorful, concise, and you can even compare your Twitter account to others within your industry. It is a great tool to gauge interactions, impressions, as well as how many mentions and retweets that you get. For your Facebook pages, although much of the information is similar to Facebook Insights, I find the manner in which the information is presented to be much more user friendly, and all data can be exported as both a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet.
One application to rule them all
But, what makes Sprout Social so much better than all the other applications combined? The fact that they combine all of the functions that you may need. You can schedule messages, discover new people to follow, reply and retweet, like, comment and share, all from your home feed.
In addition, you can enter “brand keywords” to allow Sprout Social to be your “ears” for your social media presence.
Finally, you can add people to your team, allowing them to handle and reply as necessary to your social properties. In addition, you can assign individual members of your team “tasks” so that they know exactly what needs to be done.
The only drawback to Sprout Social is the limited number of accounts that can be connected. You are limited to Facebook (both personal and business pages), Twitter, and LinkedIn (personal, not pages). It is my hope that these will begin to expand to include GooglePlus and LinkedIn Pages in the near future. But even if it doesn’t, it is worth the cost, just for the analytics they provide.
To me, these are the most important tools out there for social media monitoring and engagement. But everyone is different. What tools are you using?What makes your life easier? Please share.
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