There are countless tools on the market that claim to be an all-in-one resource for social media marketing. Unfortunately, when several key features get bundled together, important functions get left out or overlooked.
Have you heard the familiar saying, "Jack of all trades, master of none?" Well, those all-in-one social media tools happen to fall victim to this reality far too often.
That's why I've always been a fan of putting together my own social media engagement suite, using five specific tools.
In this article, I will show you exactly how to do that, and how to keep your costs down as much as possible along the way.
Let's start by defining the categories of social media marketing tools that we'll want to cover: To run a solid social media marketing campaign, we're going to need tools that are focused on Brand Monitoring, Social Engagement, Content Scheduling, Social Promotions, and Social Analytics.
For Brand Monitoring, you should start by setting up Google Alerts, which are free. If you're not familiar with Google Alerts, they allow you to monitor specific search terms or phrases that get indexed by Google. It's a great way to stay updated on news related to your brand or industry, or keep tabs on the competition.
After you have your alerts set up, you're going to want to also set up a social media engagement station. For this, I use Hootsuite. You simply sign up, connect your social media pages and profiles, and organize what you want to see into "streams."
For instance, if I want to stay updated on the #SocialMediaMarketing hashtag on Twitter, I can set up a stream to monitor just that keyword.
Now, while Hootsuite does a lot of other things, I use it primarily for listening and responding. In my opinion, there are better options out there for scheduling content and generating social reports, which we will get to later.
Next up we have content scheduling. Any decent social media marketer will tell you that in order to build top-of-mind awareness with your target audience, you need to post regularly and at different times of the day. It's pretty tough to do this without scheduling some (but not all) of your social media content.
The best tool I've found for content scheduling is Buffer. I highly recommend that you install their browser extension. With it, you can simply drop content into your "queue" and it will be posted automatically at specific intervals. Buffer currently works with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and App.net.
Another aspect of social media marketing pertains to deals, contests, and promotions. These can work wonders for your brand if done right.
While there are a bunch of tools out there for this kind of thing, my favorite is Woobox. You can use it to create contests, sweepstakes, coupons, and more, primarily on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. It's a great way to add a little something extra to your social campaign.
Last but not least, you're going to want to track and analyze all of this social media work you've been doing, so that you can see what is working.
Unfortunately, many of the best social media analytics tools are very expensive. Frankly, I am surprised there isn't a better option available for social media marketers on a tight budget looking to run automated reports for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube.
If you know of one that I missed, please mention it in the comments section below. For now however, I'm using Crowdbooster, which starts at just $9 per month, but only covers Facebook and Twitter analytics. It is a solid product and gets the job done. I just wish it would encompass other social networks.
Putting It All Together
Well, that's the list. If you set up all of these tools, you'll have an impressive social media command center at your disposal, that I believe is even better than many of the high priced all-in-one solutions.
In fact, you can essentially get all of this up and running for free. Every tool I covered either has a free plan or a free trial available, so that's great news if you want to test the waters.
At the end of the day however, these are just tools. To succeed with a social media marketing campaign, you still need to put in the time and effort and use the correct approach. At the core, social media is still all about being "social," and there's no tool for that.