Quite frankly, it's amazing to me how many social dashboard companies out there have products that seem to be the equivalent of a toy rather than a tool. Are they marketing to real businesses, or just the occasional wannabe social media "guru" who has read a few articles and started their own Facebook page? Whoopee, you're big time now.
Social media is more than Facebook and Twitter, and managing the social presence for a business requires quite a bit more than posting something cute a few times each week. Business is serious stuff, and it requires serious tools. Otherwise it's just a really expensive hobby that will eventually cause employees to not be able to feed their families.
What's Your Reach?
You don't have to cater to every single social network on the web to be 'comprehensive'. Plurk and Bebo aren't a necessity, but certain things are. You already know that Facebook and Twitter are core standards, but so are Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn. Telling a client who handles retail items for women that you don't manage for Pinterest is like saying you have no idea what you are doing. And never, never forget: Google+ is Google. Everything there is logged and searchable on the big G.
There are other elements that you need to be able to handle as well, such as email, blogs, and sms. A good social media management dashboard will even break down things like Facebook posts, status updates, images, events, milestones, and more into separate items. Not only will it be able to post to a wide variety of platforms, but it will also be able to do so simultaneously, automatically by a schedule, and have the ability to easily switch between networks without logging out of one and into another. Time is money.
Mobility, Reliability, and Being on the Same Page
It should go without saying that your SMM tool needs mobile access. Social media never sleeps, but you have to. You also have to take time to eat, shower, see a movie once in a while, and occasionally just hang out in the park. Murphy's Law says these are the precise moments when one of your clients will receive either a scathing post of anger or an inquiry which hints at a large sale. Both need to have a response post-haste. Since any good SMM tool will have 24/7, 360 degree monitoring with alerts, you should be able to handle that response within a few minutes at best and a few hours at worst.
Even more obvious is the need for reliable service. It's one thing if one of your 80% curated posts doesn't hit in a timely manner, or at all, but it's another entirely if that crucial response I just mentioned never goes through - and you aren't aware of it. Make sure that your service has a track record for reliability and great customer support, preferably with a live chat option.
With so many options in such a new field, you want to also give your clients assurances that you are handling things well and that you don't post anything they wouldn't approve of. One way to earn this trust on the front end is to have a tool with workflow approval built in. You create or curate content, and the client can approve or disapprove that content before it gets sent out into the place where nothing ever dies - the internet. Once it gets posted, it's too late, so letting the client have the last word - at least in the beginning - builds trust and makes sure that you are on the same page as them.
Be Yourself and Stay Analytical
If you are handling clients that are bigger than your cousin's lawn mowing service, then you want to look as professional as possible to them, so choose a SMM tool which is customizable and able to be branded.
If your client sees a tag of "posted by Buffer" (no slam on Buffer, just an example), they'll start to wonder why they don't just use that tool themselves instead of paying you. It's just good business to have a branding strategy for your company, and top-notch dashboards have the ability to re-brand or to use white label branding and remove all labels.
Customization goes deeper than branding, however, and the most important aspect is being able to customize your reports and analytics. A dashboard without analytics and strong reporting features is only doing half the job. You need to know optimal post times, which types of posts garner the most attention, click-through rates, and a variety of other data. Every client will have their own specific needs, so the ability to customize your reports to fit those needs is a huge advantage.
Always Be Listening
If not having analytics and reports leaves half of the equation blank, then not having comprehensive monitoring tools takes it down half again. All you're left with is posting, which is the equivalent of handing out fliers on the street.
Tracking Twitter mentions is great, but it's a miniscule piece of the puzzle. Software worth using will track any mention of your company and whatever other keywords you choose, across the web and in depth. Good monitoring will also include sentiment analysis and allow you to see the negative and positive separately so that you can respond in a logical manner instead of being all over the board. Better efficiency means more time, and more time means more money.
All of this can be done with a variety of tools, and many are free, but that would require a small army of workers and more time and effort than is worth it. You can also separately carry a knife, a pair of scissors, pliers, a nail file, a can opener, a screwdriver, and a bottle opener with you in your pockets, but doesn't it make more sense to carry a Swiss Army knife?