Are All Social Media Automation Tools the Same?
Social media management isn’t a strategy to take lightly if you’re serious about getting results. It demands an investment of time (and, most likely, money), and careful attention to a number of independent components, from responding to messages to measuring engagements as a key performance indicator (KPI).
Automation is one of the best ways to address the complexities of the strategy; social media automation tools are relatively inexpensive (compared to human laborers attempting to accomplish the same goals), they offer more transparency, and they offer reliability that you can’t always get from a human being.
The problem is, there are hundreds of different social media automation tools out there, so it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. Are all social media automation tools the same, and if not, how can you find the best one?
Researching Your Decision
First, you need to commit to researching your decision. Going with the first tool you come across probably won’t work out in your favor, since there’s little correlation between the brand that advertises the most and the brand that offers the best services for the money.
So where can you learn about new tools? For starters, you can use Siftery, which provides an aggregated list of different social media marketing tools, along with descriptions of each platform, awards, and customer reviews. You can also run Google searches for things like “best marketing automation software” and discover top lists for the current year, or simply talk to other business owners in your niche or your area to find out what they use.
What You Really “Need”
Once you have a basic running list of various options, you should make a list of what you actually need from a social media automation platform. At the very least, you should have the following features:
- A way to schedule posts. Your brand will need to post new updates on a regular basis, multiple times throughout the day. It’s hard to track that posting frequency by yourself, and even harder to stick to your schedule. At a minimum, your platform should have a way for you to schedule posts reliably in advance. Most social media automation tools offer this by default, and for some, like Hootsuite, it’s the main selling point. Just make sure it’s on your list of requirements.
- Metric tracking and reporting. You’ll also need an automated way to track your progress over time, factoring in variables like follower counts, likes, and other follower engagements. This is vital to determine the effectiveness of your campaign and make improvements over time. If you’re reporting to someone (such as a supervisor, investor, or clients), you’ll also need control over the reporting—so a tool that offers custom reporting like Sprout Social could be what you need.
- Social discovery and research. Creating new content on a daily basis is a bit of a burden, even if you’re genuinely passionate about your line of work. That’s why your automation tools should also have some element of social discovery and research, which will give you greater insight into what your customers are thinking and what your competitors are posting about. Apps like Buffer offer this functionality, though some manual user input is required.
You’ll also want to consider:
- Platform coverage. Not every business needs to be on every social media platform. In fact, most businesses do fine with two or three main focal points. For the most part, software that’s specialized for individual platforms outperforms “general” apps, but a general app is more convenient if you’re on all those platforms. Consider platform coverage carefully.
- User management. If you have multiple employees working on the same accounts, you’ll need to consider your user management as well. Can you establish different levels of user, such as “read only” users or admin users? This may be important, especially if those users have different levels of interaction with your clients.
- User experience. Don’t underestimate the importance of an app’s user experience. The intuitiveness of an app, and its associated learning curve will affect how long it takes to train your employees, how effectively they’re able to use the app, and even their ongoing stress levels.
- Price. Of course, you’ll also need to consider the price of the app(s) you choose. More expensive tools often offer more features, but this isn’t always the case—and those features aren’t always necessary.
Covering all your bases may mean finding one tool that offers all these features at once, or a host of different tools that specialize in different areas. It all depends on what you’re trying to get out of your selection.
Trying Things Out
Before you finalize your decision, it’s wise to take advantage of the “free trial” that most social media automation platforms offer. All platforms sound amazing when described by their creators, but you won’t know if it’s a good fit until you get your hands on them for yourself. Get your employees and coworkers to try each app along with you, and go with the decision that gives you all your necessary functions for the smallest total cost.