Back in 2008, a Canadian college drop-out named Ryan Holmes founded a digital media agency called Invoke Media. Surprised at the lack of a tool to help him and his colleagues manage their multiple social media channels, Holmes set to work developing one.
Hootsuite was born shortly after, and it turns out Invoke wasn’t the only brand that needed help with its social media management. Just six years later the Vancouver-based company had reached 10 million users.
Yep, social media management has made huge strides since Holmes hit upon his brainwave. There are now dozens of similar tools available – with varying degrees of sophistication.
What is social media management?
Managing multiple social media networks can be a challenge even for the uber-organised digital marketer. Social media management tools give users the platform to manage all their networks in one place. Here a few tasks a good tool should be able to help you carry out:
- Publish/schedule social media posts
- Manage multiple accounts
- Respond to customer queries
- Engage with influencers
- Store content and archive posts
- Boost posts
- Analyse activity
But with so many options, which tool do you go for? That largely depends on the needs of your company, of course. There are free options that will give you the very basic suite of tools to manage your social media channels. Then there are the enterprise packages which will include a range of powerful management and analytic features.
It’s the latter we’re focusing on in this post.
It’s the world’s most widely used social media management tool. Not just by those 10 million users mentioned above, but also by 79 per cent of Fortune 100 companies. Therefore it deserves your consideration.
There’s a free plan if you want to try it out first, but you’ll need to upgrade to one of their premium packages if you want to really move up through the Hootsuite gears. What will be of particular appeal to large-scale brands is the ability to add unlimited users to an account. You can effectively map your social media workflows to your company’s org chart, helping you to avoid the too-many-cooks scenario that can be a problem with managing multiple accounts.
Hootsuite also has more than 150 integrated apps to make it easier for companies to build their social ecosystem from within Hootuite. Apps like YouTube and Zendesk were recently joined by a suite of social adverting apps that should make it easier to manage paid campaigns from one place.
Cost: Paid plans start at £7.99 for SMEs right up to custom plans for enterprise.
Another giant of social media management, Sprout Social offers a powerful range of features with some nifty analytics tools into the bargain.
Brands that pride themselves on social customer service (and that should be everyone these days), will love Sprout’s Smart Inbox. Cross-channel support becomes much easier when you can view and respond to Twitter mentions, DMs, Instagram and Facebook comments, private messages and so on. Sprout will also build up customer profiles for you, giving you a complete picture of your consumers to enable you to tailor your responses.
But Sprout isn’t just a customer service tool. It also has some powerful analytics options, such as the ability to view in-depth message-level insights and better understand the performance of your social teams. Sprout’s analytics tools are some of the most user-friendly and easy-on-the-eye around.
Teams will also find it easy to collaborate with a shared content calendar and a workflow approval process that should ensure no posts go out that haven’t been green-lit by the relevant individual.
Cost: The Deluxe plan starts at $59 per user per month, Premium is $99 and Team is $500. Enterprise and agency plans are available on request.
Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2010, Falcon Social has expanded worldwide and they say offers ‘the most unified customer experience around’. The enterprise-level packages are certainly comprehensive.
Perhaps the most eye-catching feature is a content calendar that not only looks great but is also effortlessly simple to use. Called ‘Publish’, the calendar takes a visual approach to content planning – enabling users to see at-a-glance what content is going out and when. This is far more effective than text-based calendars, which can be visually tricky and difficult to follow.
Another really nice feature is the ability to cross-reference social posts with your brand’s offline activities – so you need never miss another important event or anniversary again. There’s also a Quick Publish app to ensure your teams are fully mobile (though their activity still has to go through the normal approval process if required).
Users can also manage paid amplification campaigns to extend the reach of their most popular posts; the Publish tool makes it easy to convert organic posts into Facebook and Instagram ads.
The company prides itself on its relationship with fellow Danish brand Carlsberg. The beer giant has 358 active users in its Falcon account working across 106 social channels in 49 countries.
Cost: Falcon don’t detail pricing on their website; instead interested users are invited to submit their details for a bespoke quote.
A genuine social media management big-hitter, Sprinklr is for serious enterprise use only.
Once described by research firm Forrester as “the most powerful technology in the market”, Sprinklr’s client base includes the likes of Virgin, Cisco, Nasdaq, HP, NASA and Nike.
On the face of it, Sprinklr is just a regular social media management tool. It enables brands to manage their channels on one integrated platform. But it’s so much more than that. When a brand comes on board, they get a proprietary implementation process that provides a complete audit of their social and business presence. Sprinklr have been known to fly in entire teams of developers to firefight a problem when a client picks up the phone.
But what’s available? The usual content marketing solutions – essentially a content calendar but an extremely powerful one that helps companies to source and leverage on-brand content. There’s also the option to build 360⁰ profile views of customers across hundreds of social channels and over time.
McDonald’s uses Sprinklr to build profiles of social accounts so it can identify fans and turn them into brand champions. They can also spot disgruntled users, fencing them off before their discontent spreads. Nasdaq, meanwhile, favours Sprinklr because it keeps an audit trail of each post for securities regulators – vital in their industry.
Cost: The bespoke nature of Sprinklr’s packages means that pricing is only available on request.
Another enterprise tool aimed at brands with big budgets, Spredfast can count Bank of America, General Mills, Target and Pepsi among its clients.
Founded in 2008 – the same year as Hootsuite – Spredfast says it defined what it calls ‘smart social’. It enables brands, so it says, to infuse their social strategy with the science of data – taking calculated risks not risky guesses.
It’s therefore not a surprise that Spredfast features an impressive suite of insights and reporting tools. One agency boss – Peter Corbett of iStrategy Labs – calls it a “jaw-dropping experience for our clients”, and it’s certainly the case that few of its rivals can match it in this area. Advanced analytics reports are presented in formatted graphics that can be easily exported. Not only that, but customised report dashboards can be scheduled to be sent to clients on a timescale of your choosing.
But this isn’t just a reporting tool. Spredfast also features a content publishing platform and provides enhanced levels of collaboration for large teams across multiple locations.
Cost: As with Sprinklr, costs aren’t advertised but it’s easy to request a demo.