7 must-have features for social media management tools (blog.hootsuite.com)

By: Olsy Sorokina

Source: http://www.blog.hootsuite.com

Thinking about jumping into the world of small business ownership? You’re not alone. According to the Small Business Administration, an average of 583,500 Americans have decided to do so each year since 1999. Kicking off a venture of your own is a bold move. If you’re holding onto your day job, it’s a great way to make money in your spare time — and if you play your cards right, it can even replace your current career.

The best way to start your small business is to do so with thorough research, a well thought-out plan and deep-seated passion. Here are seven practical tips for helping get your startup off the ground:

  1. Monitoring

Whether your social media strategy’s emphasis falls on promotion or customer service, it’s still necessary for your business to be aware of what goes on in your social media feeds. Ideally, the software you use should allow you to keep tabs on several different channels, including the Big 4: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. This allows you to stay updated on your channels without having to switch and refresh several browser windows.

It might be the case that your brand doesn’t have an account on all those social networks, instead directing all social media efforts to the official Twitter account. Luckily, there are plenty of free resources to monitor Twitter feeds, in virtue of it being the most challenging network to track in real-time. If you are looking for advanced social listening, which includes sentiment analysis, reach, and influence measurements, tools such as SocialBro, Social Mention, and Tweet Reach can be helpful

  1. Analytics

It’s important to get tangible results from your social media performance for regular evaluation of your social media strategy. Metrics such as clickthrough rate, retweets, Likes and favorites help you get a feel for social media content that performs well, and content that needs to be re-evaluated. Major social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have their own analytics tools to aid your social messaging strategy; when it comes to content, Google Analytics and Chartbeat can provide insight into content that works. In order to track link performances, use a URL shortener in your social media messaging—it saves you both time and characters.

  1. Collaboration

If more than one person is responsible for your organization’s social media channels, it’s important to work out a streamlined process of assigning tasks. The ability to do this directly inside your social media management tool—such as Hootsuite Assignments in the Hootsuite dashboard—is a huge time saver, as well as a good way to track progress on each assignment. If your assignment workflow is separate from your social media channels, you can use free tools such as Google Docs with links to social messages your team needs to address.

While social listening is important, it’s only half of a successful strategy. In order to be fully engaged on social media, your business needs to be able to join the conversation effortlessly. When you are monitoring several channels, it helps to be able to post messages to all of them at once, or easily reply to a customer’s message without constant switching between browsers.

  1. Integration

Does the tool allow you to manage all of your business’ the social media platforms? In addition to the Big 4, there are many networks with a huge potential for brand promotion and customer relationship management—growing networks such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. If you can monitor and publish to several of those networks within the same platform, you are clearing more time in your schedule to devote to customer engagement. Favour free tools that provide you data on more than one social network: use Google Alerts or Social Mention, for example, if you are looking for new posts about your company in different search queries or social media channels.

  1. Location services

Knowing where your social media audience is located is helpful to both small businesses and international corporations. This helps you determine when to tweet, how to find customers, and what regional factors to consider in a customer request. The optimal location service should let you send geo-targeted messages, as well as filter messages by location and language. On Twitter and Facebook, you can manually filter posts by location, for those users who opted to have the location services turned on. You can also use tools such as Foursquare or Swarm to find users in your area.

  1. Scheduling

There are numerous benefits offered by a social media content schedule: it helps you balance your social messaging, carefully curate third-party content you share, and anticipate seasonal and release-specific messaging. You don’t need any tools to keep a schedule, as long as you are armed with spreadsheet software (OpenOffice or Google Doc Spreadsheet work just fine) and a calendar. However, if your social media management tool allows you to schedule messaging in advance, it can free up a lot of time to focus on other aspects of your strategy.

  1. Content library

While interactions with customers should be your priority on social, your engagement shouldn’t end with problem-solving. To stand out among the competition, your social media presence needs to demonstrate your brand’s awareness of current events in your field; in order to do that, it helps to keep track of the latest news in real time. This can be done by setting up an RSS feed.