How do you know you are fully engaged with all of your social networks? This turns out to be a difficult question to answer. And as we try to resolve complaints from customers on Twiter and Facebook, we also need to track mentions across other networks and develop consistent workflows and processes to respond and measure these involvements.
Luckily, there are tools available for these tasks that go under various names such as social intelligence, social media engagement, or social networking management. Sadly, there are almost 100 different ones, ranging from the free ones such as Bufferapp, Seesmic's Ping,Hootsuite, Tweetreach and Tweetstats to ones that go for six figures annually, and lots more in between. We looked at eight different ones for a review posted on Network World, and have tried several others too. From that work, we have eight different issues that you should consider before you buy one of these services.
How do you use these tools? You start out by monitoring a wide variety of things: particular Twitter accounts and hashtags, Facebook business pages and particular influential individuals in your market niche. Then you start engaging people in conversations, either because they have something to say about your brand or competitor's or because you find them interesting. You might want to assign particular posts for follow up by someone within your corporation who can satisfy an unhappy customer or respond to a specific situation, and then track whether your own posts got retweeted or followed or liked extensively.
To help you shop around, we suggest you start with a list of many vendors here on Twitter.
Eight issues to consider before buying a social media management service:
1. How does the service schedule a post in the future? The first element of any of these services is how they get your content online. Ideally, you want to schedule your posts to appear multiple times across different social networks. Some of the services are very clever about how they schedule a post in the future. For example, Ubervu offers what it calls a "smart scheduler" which figures out the best time to post your messages based on readership patterns for each network. Another good place to start is with Gremln, which has a free trial account and a nice scheduling feature.
Yes, many of the free services mentioned above can schedule posts, but the advantage that the more advanced and pricier services offer is that they can see the impact of these posts: who retweeted them, what cross-network effects did they have, and so forth. Use this feature properly, and you can figure out the best time of day and week to schedule your posts.
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