Social media done right: Managing all channels with a single tool
- By Joe Dysart
- Nov 16, 2015
When President Obama launched his own Facebook page on Nov. 9, it became the latest addition to well over 100 third-party social media accounts the White House manages. And while most agencies employ only a fraction of those social networking channels to get their message out and communicate with the public, they still need tools to help them effectively manage outreach and analyze incoming communications across many users and accounts.
Social media dashboards make it easier to manage dozens of social media accounts and the work of employees that run them, said Nate Elliot, lead author of a Forrester report on social media dashboards, Social Relationship Platforms, Q2 2015, that surveyed la crème de la crème of social media dashboards earlier this year to deliver a list of what it considers the strongest services.
No one tool does everything under the sun. But agencies looking for a single solution that will handle virtually every aspect of their social media needs should consider packages Forrester rates as the top three: Percolate, Sprinklr and Spredfast.
Of course, the rub with all three software packages is that they run much more than $3,000 -- a price tag that often makes purchase a non-starter for many government agencies. Even so, it's important for agencies to be acquainted with what's available in these top three market leaders so they can benchmark those features against more comfortably priced alternatives.
And while Forrester stresses that none of the dashboards on its top-three list can be considered perfect, most go a long way towards pulling together and managing virtually all the elements of a highly effective and highly interactive social media presence.
Specifically, most of the products Forrester puts at the front of the pack automate the scheduling and posting of text and multimedia across a wide array of social media networks. Most also allow users to monitor how the agency’s image is faring on social media – both among casual users of Facebook and other networks, as well as more engaged influencers, like bloggers.
Moreover, the top three packages are also best at helping government agencies automate the processing of social media – including reading, analyzing and sorting out who at the government organization should respond to a specific post found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like.
In addition, these ‘social relationship platforms’ -- or SRPs as Forrester refers to them – can help government agencies manage all their social accounts, as well as all the employees permitted to post to those accounts. And most of the solutions can assign different permission levels to different employees and offer workflow tools for routing inbound posts to the right teams. These top dashboards can also ensure that select -- or even all -- outbound posts are reviewed by appropriate staff at the agency. The in-house counsel, for example, may want to see some posts before they go live, while a department director may want to fine-tune others.
All told, Forrester evaluated social media dashboards using a 41-point checklist. Here’s how the top three programs stack up:
Percolate. This package is a best bet for government users looking to integrate their social marketing into much broader public outreach strategies, Elliot said. The drive behind Percolate was to "build a marketing system of record that lets clients centralize their operations across all marketing channels, streamline their workflows and governance, analyze their results and optimize their marketing programs," he said.
Spreadfast. This package is best at offering users insights and advice as they work on a public outreach campaign, according to Elliot. Specifically, it tracks comments and questions that pop-up from influencers and others the agency is trying to engage on social media.
Sprinkler. “Consider Sprinkler if you have broad social needs and global ambitions,” Elliot said. “Sprinklr endeavors to offer clients every imaginable social tool, not just a full range of SRP features but also social command center displays, social ad buying functionality and more. And anything its standard SRP can’t do, Sprinklr’s team can custom build using the product’s impressive rules engine."
For the economy minded
As you move down the food chain to the less-robust social media management tools, there are still plenty of good social media dashboards -- but they don't do nearly as much.
One of the best of this ilk is Hootsuite, which does not offer all the features of a top-tier dashboard, but is great at generating, managing and monitoring social media content for government agencies, according to Elliot. Currently, Hootsuite is integrated to work on 25+ social media networks. Pricing for limited use begins at $9.99/month.
Another second-tier product, Sprout Social, is described by Elliot as a competitive tool at a great price that outperforms market leaders for ease of use and scheduling. Pricing starts at $59/user per month.
Ian Anderson Gray, a social media consultant at Select Performers Internet Solutions, said other good social media dashboards that can get much of the job done -- albeit with fewer bells and whistles -- are Sendible, with pricing starting at $59/month, and MusterPoint, whose pricing starts $91/month.
Still other services can be had for a song for those looking to do very basic work or who only want to monitor a bit of social media, according to Gray. Commun.it, for example, is an excellent, free tool for a government agency looking to manage its presence on Twitter only, Gray said.
“Commun.it is a social media relationship management tool - it helps you find out who is in your Twitter community – those who support you and your content -- by retweeting, favoriting and mentioning -- and those who influence you,” he said.
And Feedly is a perfect tool for government agencies simply looking to monitor what’s being posted on websites and blogs they follow, Gray said. Essentially, Feedly can be programmed to monitor an individual blog, or a number of individual blogs, for example, with a single mouse click. Headlines from the monitored blog or website show up in Feedly’s inbox, which looks a lot like the inbox of a typical email reader. Feedly basic is free, with more advanced versions available starting at $5.41/month.
On the other hand, those looking to do extremely granular monitoring about what is being said about a specific government agency in all forms of media should check out Brandwatch. The listening tool, which essentially lets users monitor every discussion about an government agency in virtual all corners of social media, came in tops in a study of social media monitoring tools by G2 Crowd.
Still other popular tools to check out: Tweetdeck (free), Oktopost for Twitter only (starting at $55/month) and CoSchedule (starting at $15/month).
A handy resource for checking out the full spectrum of social media tools currently on the market, G2 Crowd is a clearing house of business software reviews and currently offers 42,000 users reviews -- and counting -- of all sorts of business software, including social media tools.
A similar guide offering numerous reviews of software media tools -- Buyers Guide to Enterprise Social Media Management Software -- is available free from TrustRadius.