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Social Media Marketing:Tools That Help You Manage and Leverage Your Social Space

Time is limited for small business owners, with many looking for any possible way to squeeze extra minutes from each day. One of those time-consuming tasks is social media marketing. In fact, a recent survey of business owners by VerticalResponse found that more than 43 percent of business owners spend six hours or more per week on social media efforts. One-third of business owners responding in the survey said they wanted to spend less time on those efforts. Many small businesses lack the resources to devote hours each day to social media efforts, but those efforts are crucial to growing a business.

Almost overnight, it seems dozens of social media tools have popped up to help small business owners save time on marketing efforts. These tools can help you schedule posts, view multiple accounts on one dashboard, and add various team members for collaboration. While traditional favorites like HootSuite provide a great solution, a few small business owners have discovered new social media tools that give these popular services competition.

VerticalResponse Social

Businesses all over the world are familiar with VerticalResponse’s e-mail marketing platform. The company’s social media marketing module allows businesses to schedule posts up to 30 days in advance, create and share coupons, and receive reporting. For businesses that have VerticalResponse for e-mail, social media can be added for only $9 per month. New customers can access only the social media features for $18 per month per user.

VerticalResponse cites several customers who have significantly reduced the amount of time they spend managing social media campaigns. Third Coast Training’s Johnny Shelby was able to cut his social media work down from an entire day to only a couple of hours, freeing up time to work on other tasks. Over time, Shelby realized he’d saved the equivalent of $450 or more each week by having more time to devote to working with customers.

“I can now crank out a campaign in minutes,” Shelby says. “It makes me look like one of the big dogs and helps me stay ahead of the curve.”

SproutSocial

SproutSocial pulls out the most important conversations from various social media sites, displaying them front and center in each member’s dashboard. Digital Intent’s Sean Johnson uses it to manage the social networks for his business, stating, “It makes it really easy to monitor and publish various social networks, and have some great reporting tools to track effectiveness.”

Analytics and multiple site monitoring are features offered by other popular social media dashboard services. What sets SproutSocial apart is its easy-to-use interface and advanced marketing tools. The site allows users to target specific audiences and track interaction with customers, making it a better blend of social media and CRM. Prices start at only $39 per user per month.

Buffer

For social media marketers interested primarily in scheduling posts, Buffer provides a simple, straightforward interface. Buffer supports Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, allowing members to set up text, photo, and even video posts. One of the best features of Buffer is that it helps marketers pinpoint peak times on various social media sites throughout the day and schedule posts to deploy at those times. So the busy business owner can set up Tweets, status updates, and LinkedIn posts at six a.m. in the morning, when no one is online, with the confidence those posts will show up during high visibility times.

“Buffer is absolutely the best at time-saving because I am a part-time entrepreneur with a full-time career,” Montina Portis of Organic Life Products says. “It gives me the opportunity to spend 30 minutes every morning scheduling my day on Twitter and Facebook. I then spend five to seven minutes per hour engaging with my audience and have in effect continued my marketing efforts during the day while cutting back on my time online.”

Business owners can’t go wrong with HootSuite, but it’s important to give other services a look to determine whether another product my suit your individual business needs. Using the tools available today, small business owners can free up time to put toward other pursuits without sacrificing the strength of their social media marketing efforts.

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About Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who worked in information systems for more than a decade. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.

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