Columnist Eric Enge brings you the highlights from a session at the SocialPro conference focusing on the best social media management tools.
The world of social is becoming amazingly complex. We’ve got more platforms available than ever, with both paid and unpaid options.
Managing content creation, publishing, relationship building and measurement of results can be a nightmare. Having the right social media management tools available can make a huge difference in helping you get your workflow under control.
On November 19, I got to see a social tools super session at Marketing Land’s SocialPro conference that illustrated just how complicated the social media tools space really is. Here are my notes and some key takeaways from that session.
Kevin Mullet’s Massive Deck Of 170 Tools
The presentation by MarketSnare’s Kevin Mullet contained more than 170 tools.
The title of his session was “Being Useful to Your Audience Doesn’t Require a Big Budget or Fancy Tools.” As Mullet emphasized, picking the right tools can be a big deal. First of all, you should be looking to your tools to help you with:
- Creating efficiencies.
- Improving workflow.
- Enhancing capabilities.
- Achieving your goals.
It’s also important to note that there is no such thing as a best tool. Each person is different and should be looking for things that work really well for them. For example, developers might be interested in Github, a software collaboration and code repository, and writing code to help extract and connect data between different social platforms.
But less technical people might still want to accomplish these very same tasks, and they may not have the ability to write programs to do that. For them, IFTTT might be the perfect solution. IFTTT let’s you create recipes to make connections between products and apps.
Mullet’s presentation touched on many different categories of tools, including:
- File Conversion Utilities
- IYP, NAP, and Citation Consistency
- Audience Development and Audience Management
- Data Enrichment
- Video Streaming
- Data Conversion (e.g., Speech to Text)
- Video Creation and Management
- Stock Photography
- Plagiarism Detection
- Content and Influencer Discovery
- Content Organization and Optimization
- Animated GIF Creation
You can see Mullet’s entire presentation here:
Devon Gardner’s 10 Favorite Tools
Internet Marketing Inc.’s Devon Gardner presented next, with a presentation called “Social Media Tools for Insight, Content Creation, Audience & Time Management,” in which she reviewed her 10 favorite tools.
For insight analytics and reporting, one of her favorite tools is NetBase, as it offers in-depth capabilities for social listening. You can use this to better understand your brand and sentiment about your company and learn more about influencers and competition.
For example, you can extract word clouds like this one to get a quick visual on related topics:
Word cloud tools can be hard to glean value from, but the trick is to look for the interesting stuff and ask the right questions. Why are there so many conversations about Walmart? What about the negative things being said?
Look for the positives, too, and what words are getting associated with each other. These insights can help you tune your content marketing.
You can also dig deeper and learn more about where the conversations are happening, as shown here:
You can dig in and learn more about how common such conversations are and your total mentions or share of voice, and you can get a read on the overall sentiment about your brand.
Another great tool Gardner covered was Canva. This is one that I use personally when I need to create images for content. It has premade templates for social posts, marketing materials and email headers.
I also use it to mark up screenshots or stock photography images when I want to add text or highlights of one type or another. It’s fast, elegant and simple, and if you want to get more sophisticated, you can do that, too.
The basic model is freemium. I find that I can do nearly everything I need for free, but if I want something a bit fancier, I can purchase what I need for very few dollars.
Other tools reviewed by Gardner included:
- Google Analytics URL Builder
You can see her entire deck here:
Benjamin Spiegel’s Super Tool
MMI Agency’s Benjamin Spiegel started out by pointing out just how large social ad spending is becoming; it’s targeted to hit nearly $36 billion by 2017. His presentation also included a cool visual of the overall tools market:
My favorite slide in his deck was this one:
His reason behind his “I Hate Tools” deck was a good one: There are many issues when you use third-party tools, including:
- Cross-platform integration is difficult.
- Granularity you want may not be available.
- Data ownership.
- Facebook = Facebook.
- Reporting limitations.
- Real-time insights may not be possible.
- Lots of data analysis opportunities are simply missed.
For that reason, his company focuses on just one tool, KNIME. It’s an innovative platform that allows you to pull in data from many sources and combine it. The platform provides predictive analytics capabilities and great visualization. It allows you to jump between datasets and data sources easily.
For example, MMI used KNIME to manage promotional activities for the Shell Houston Open. This included multiple real-time platforms, as well as PR, social media, social analytics and radio. With KNIME, they were easily able to manage these diverse activities and simultaneously deliver real-time content across all platforms.
This example illustrates the benefit of not being held back by the limitations of a platform. Since it allows custom design to be done and provides tools for rapidly building those designs, you can easily create different systems for various events and activities.
This does take some effort to learn, of course, but it’s reasonably easy to pick up, and once you do, it’s far easier to build out these custom scenarios than to try to do the same thing with other tools. In summary, you can:
- Get the details you want.
- Output the way you want.
- Output as often as you want.
- Harvest the data.
- Build profiles — understand your consumers and build profiles into your CRM.
- Derive a competitive advantage — use custom tools to bring extra value to the client.
- Invest smarter.
You can see Spiegel’s entire presentation here:
The tools space is very, very crowded. Finding the right tools for your needs is unfortunately going to be a fair amount of work.
Different tools meet different needs and must be tailored to your technical level of expertise and the amount of information you’re looking for. You can build your own, with tools such as KNIME or IFTTT, or even write your own programs. Or you can start with really simple visual tools that spoon-feed you the basic info.
The best thing to do is to start by figuring out these few items:
- What information you would like to obtain.
- Your level of tech tolerance, ranging from the tech ignorant to the programmer.
- How much effort you can afford to put in to find the right tools.
All of these factor into where you will end up. Don’t let point three be a fundamental limitation, though. You may need some quick info now, but if you can afford more time at a later date to get set up with a better tool, it can be well worth it to do that.
It often makes sense to try a few basic tools first, learn what it is that you don’t like about them (including what information you want that they’re not providing), and then evolve into more sophisticated tools over time.