Over the last few years social media fever seems to have gripped the world, with more than 1.06 billion monthly active Facebook users, 200 million active Twitter users and 200 million LinkedIn users. Among the small business community there seems to be a growing affiliation towards social media as a tool for increasing brand visibility and customer reach.
A 2012 survey of 600 small business owners conducted in 2012 by Manta across the U.S revealed that 90 percent were using social networking sites to promote their business. A 2013 survey by the Wall Street Journal of 835 small businesses shows that LinkedIn (with 41%), You Tube (16%) and Facebook (14%) were considered to be the most effective social media tools.
Social media tools offer a cost-effective means of promoting a business, yet many small businesses still don’t use social media simply because they either don’t have the time or the knowledge to use them . Incidentally, the same Manta survey confirmed that 58% of the businesses using Facebook, struggled with using it effectively.
Fortunately there are social media management applications that can help small businesses manage their social media efforts effectively. In essence a social media management application offers a single platform for updating and managing different social media accounts at the same time.
Here is a roundup of some popular social media management tools for small businesses.
Hootsuite , popular with many social media professionals, offers a free plan which allows you to manage up to 5 profiles and includes services such as message scheduling, basic reports and team collaboration. Their paid packages start at $9.99/month and offer additional features like unlimited profiles, Google analytics integration, unlimited RSS feed and much more. The pro version comes with a 30 days trial period. For bigger enterprises with multiple users, check out their Enterprise plan.
VerticalResponse Social Media Marketing offers the unique feature of integrating email and social media campaigns. The application designed specifically for small businesses includes content suggestions which can be a blessing for small business owners who either don’t have the time or are simply perplexed about choosing relevant information updates for their customers. From single posts to multi-week campaigns, the application allows posts to be scheduled up to 30 days in advance. The package costs $18 a month and is an economical choice for businesses that may be using a separate email newsletter service.
In March this year, Pagemodo launched its social media management tool, PageModo Post, with the aim making information search a whole lot easier for small businesses. As per Haroon Mokhtarzada, Vistaprint’s vice president of global digital product and co-founder of Webs , “Pagemodo Posts is the easiest way to post quality, relevant content to your top social networks at the best possible times throughout the day”. It enables search for content basis keywords and its +Post content allows content to be posted from any website to the social media page at the click of a button. The free package allows one fan page, one tab, one post suggestion, and one post a day. Its paid plans vary from $6.25 to $33.25 per month.
Offering the convenience of ‘set it and forget it’, social media management applications are a boon for small businesses foraying into multiple social media. Depending on your budget and nature of business, choose an application that is right for you. But before you do, ensure that the application is easily scalable, supports popular networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and allows posts to be scheduled well in advance