Social media may be a recent development in the world of marketing and customer relations, but it is also quickly becoming a powerful driver in the world of business.
Just about every type of business from big brands to independent professionals have found a way to utilize social media as part of a larger marketing effort. If you can put the work in, it has proven to bring one of the best dollar-for-dollar values out there.
The problem many brands face when approaching social media comes in the form of measuring the return on investment (ROI) for the time spent tweeting, managing their Facebook profile, and even scaling their one-on-one interaction with consumers through these platforms.
Handling multiple social media accounts can be time consuming, and measuring traffic and/or growth through these platforms has proven difficult. How do you measure word-of-mouth influence, or track the financial return of a tweet?
This is where tools and services such as HootSuite, Rignite, and Buffer come in handy. There are dozens of services like these available, but these three have been utilized here at RocketTheme to manage and analyze the effectiveness of our efforts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
We covered social media tools in a previous article focusing on TweetDeck, HootSuite, and Buffer. The focus on this article is in how well the three listed services deliver in terms of analytics and overall management options.
We will start with the simplest of these three services. Buffer is intended to make it easier to queue up outgoing messages through multiple accounts.
If, for example, you stumble across a blog post that you believe your audience will appreciate, Buffer has apps and even browser extensions available that can make it easy to queue up a quick message with the link to send out. You can have messages go out in real time, or buffer them so they don't come out on top of one-another.
You can also customize the buffer times so you can choose posting times that are best matched with your audience.
Buffer has an analytics component to it that makes it easy to track the performance of your posts. It's not nearly as advanced as the services available through HootSuite or Rignite, but it will give you an at-a-glance view of individual link and message performance.
You can tell how many people have clicked a link, liked the post, or even how many people might have seen it.
Buffer has two account types available. You can go with its Awesome Plan at $10 per month and receive basic per-post analysis that includes comments, likes, clicks, reach, shares, etc.
You can also opt for a Business account which ranges in price starting at $50/month which gives you a more detailed breakdown (including graphs and charts) of your account's performance over time.
HootSuite is undoubtedly the single most recognizable brand in the world of social media utilities. It has grown considerably over the past several years and offers some of the most detailed and professional reporting systems you can find.
HootSuite's interface is clean and intuitive, allowing you to present all of your social accounts activity at once via a series of vertical panels. You can post directly from HootSuite to Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ pages. You also have the ability to auto-schedule or set a specified schedule for each post.
One of HootSuite's most beneficial features to large-scale social media managers is its ability to accept bulk scheduling by way of a single CSV file. This makes planning outgoing posts for days, weeks, or months at a time a breeze. Just don't forget about this if something happens that makes prescheduled post unexpectedly ill-timed.
With a few clicks, you can also generate a printable report containing just about any bit of information you might need regarding your company's social media accounts.
The downside of this is that these reports aren't cheap. One or two reports probably won't cost you more than the $14.99/month pro account, but if you are generating reports for a number of clients, or a large company, these costs can add up considerably.
A Pro account allows the user to generate one enhanced report and up to three basic reports at no additional charge. HootSuite offers a free version of its service allowing users to experience basic reporting and management for up to five social accounts.
Rignite is a newcomer to this market, but it doesn't look like one from a user perspective. It is packed with features, which can be somewhat jarring to a newcomer to the world of social media management.
Rignite allowed me to experience an extended free trial of its service for the purposes of this review. During my trial period, I set up a dozen social accounts and found its analytics feature to be remarkably intuitive.
Unlike HootSuite, which compiles reports and presents them to you, Rignite has an impressive dashboard where you can quickly see and filter stats from your various accounts, break down their performance in several different ways, and generate PDF files that act as professional reports.
Rignite's generated PDFs could use some work in terms of their formatting. It looks like a printout of the reporting page with the Rignite logo at the bottom of each page break, rather than a professionally created document.
The info presented on the Dashboard isn't real-time, either. On September 4th, I was largely seeing information pulled on September 1st. This is normal, however, given the amount of data and the limitations of information a social network will allow a third-party service to pull at any given time.
Rignite is designed with teams in mind, enabling you to assign team members to specific posts and/or messages for responses. You can assign cases to team members, and discuss strategy with your team in an internal chat hosted within the Rignite site.
There is even a forum for team collaboration and discussion.
If HootSutie is a one-stop shop for posting content and analyzing results, Rignite is a virtual office for a team to coordinate a detailed effort centered around a company's social media accounts.
Rignite exceeds at providing a platform that teams can use to coordinate efforts and manage response to the needs of the community. It's an excellent choice for media management companies and other organizations that specialize in managing social accounts for a number of clients.
HootSuite's power is in its elegant reporting and well-rounded capabilities. It's a content machine gun, capable of taking in and putting out content at an incredible pace, and with extraordinary precision.
Buffer is a minimalist's dream. It simplifies virtually every aspect of social media management and takes a lot of the headache out of the process. What it lacks in two-way communication between the social media manager and the audience it makes up for in its streamlined approach to content creation.