SLIDESHOW

How to build a social media command center

These 10 apps are must-haves for any person or small business seeking to master the social media universe.

Your message to the masses

Releasing great content is the best, cheapest way to market a small business and reach customers. You start with a website, a blog, and well-managed accounts on the key social media channels. Next, you must feed your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Pinterest followers a delicious, steady diet of words, images, and videos. Although you can find native apps for each big social media brand, they offer only limited assistance in juggling rich media across multiple content streams.

The following ten apps will help you automate your publishing and then analyze who's paying attention and how. It's up to you to get creative and stand out from the crowd.

Hootsuite: Power tool

Platforms: Free for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Web

Pros: Compatible with most social media networks; manages gobs of accounts in one dashboard

Cons: Extras and team access cost money

What sets it apart: Hootsuite helps you manage forums, including interaction on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The app directory lets you add services such as Instagram, Tumblr, and YouTube. You can manage a WordPress blog through the tool as well, but we prefer the WordPress app.

The free account allows you to schedule posts, enjoy attractive analytics, and manage up to five profiles. The $10-per-month subscription supports unlimited profiles, more detailed reports, and one additional teammate.

WordPress: Blogging for all

Platforms: Free for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, Web

Pros: Provides a simple, inexpensive way to create and maintain a blog; customizable; apps make easy work of posting, editing, and moderating comments

Cons: Initial setup is time-consuming; sheer amount of features and options can be overwhelming

What sets it apart: For power bloggers, WordPress is a ubiquitous tool, with nearly 61 million sites worldwide. No wonder, considering its vast customization options (available through plug-ins) and its simple procedures for posting and managing blogs. The mobile apps let you write and edit, as well as upload photos and videos on the fly. Plus, the comment-moderation function is crucial for managing your brand’s reputation and customer satisfaction on the go. There’s a bit of a learning curve at first, but our tutorial on how to get started with WordPress should help.

Tumblr: The microblog champion

Platforms: Free for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8 (third-party app), Web

Pros: Beautiful visual design; useful for superfast posting; user-friendly back end; promotes content sharing

Cons: Formatting limitations

What sets it apart: Tumblr is ideal for promoting highly visual content with a dollop of text. As a full-fledged platform designed for microblogging, it lets you add more text than Pinterest does. Tumblr makes it a snap to post images, videos, and quotes, one at a time. Just as on Twitter, hashtag keywords allow you to target people seeking specific content. The “reblog” feature helps you share content and attract followers. It’s a cinch to get started with Tumblr, thanks to premade templates and no need for coding.

Flipboard: Easy-to-digest content

Platforms: Free for iOS, Android

Pros: Beautiful layout; compiles all content in one easily accessible app

Cons: Not geared for content creation

What sets it apart: Best for users who benefit more from sharing than from creating original content, Flipboard provides a sleek way to view all of your content in one place. Use it to keep track of news, B-to-B blogs, and industry-insider sources. This modernized RSS reader not only monitors your news but also connects to your social networks. You can browse Flipboard’s Content Guide to add feeds by category, or search for specific media outlets. Then, just flip through the stories until you find one worthy of sharing via social network or email. New features allow you to share the “magazines” you’ve crafted.

TweetCaster: Power through Twitter and Facebook

Platforms: Free for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 8, Web

Pros: Supports multiple Twitter accounts with tons of features

Cons: Works only with Twitter and Facebook; no built-in analytics

What sets it apart: The sheer number of features available via TweetCaster’s apps is impressive. It's best for Twitter power users who manage multiple accounts and want robust features. In addition to the fundamentals, such as cross-posting to Facebook, scheduling tweets, and automatically truncating tweets over 140 characters, it has a few standouts. For instance, the Search Party feature lets you perform target searches for individual tweets. Smart Lists organize your followers, Zip It can hide trends or people without unfollowing them, and Photo Effects adds effects and captions to your posted photos.

Google Analytics: Measure performance

Platforms:Free for iOS, Android, Web

Pros: No-cost, detailed reports and analysis

Cons: Back-end setup requires some tech expertise

What sets it apart: Content managers who need detailed reporting for the company website often turn to Google Analytics, but not just because it's free. You can create custom reports and even track specific customers. Dive in to understand which webpages attract visitors, and get social analytics for insight on how they interact. Finally, measure how much you're selling online and how well your ads are performing.

YouTube Capture: Worth more than thousands of words

Platforms: Free for iPhone, iPad (Android coming soon)

Pros: Quickest way to upload mobile video to social networks; includes basic video-editing functions

Cons: Currently iOS only; no comment management

What sets it apart: Video is all the rage in content marketing, and nothing will help your brand go viral like a hit YouTube video. YouTube Capture, as its name suggests, lets you capture video, make minor edits, and upload it to your YouTube channel. You can trim videos, stabilize shaky shots, and add music. The app connects seamlessly with Facebook, Google+, and Twitter for simultaneous uploading.

TwitVid: 1000 words and 140 characters

Platforms: Free for iOS, Android, BlackBerry

Pros: Quick and easy media capture and upload

Cons: Limited features

What sets it apart: Social media managers who share a lot of visual content on Twitter and Facebook will enjoy TwitVid's simplicity. Either capture a video or photo or select one from your library, and then add a caption and share it on your Twitter and Facebook accounts. It’s efficient.

Quora: Quality Q&A

Platforms: Free for iOS, Android, Web

Pros: Promotes high-quality questions and answers, providing insight into your customers

Cons: No business profiles allowed

What sets it apart: Quora is all about questions and answers, making it a social network to watch if you want to establish yourself as an expert. Although Quora technically doesn’t allow company profiles, it remains a great place to monitor public sentiment and to forge for blog topics related to your business. You can mention your business when providing answers to questions, but make sure that you have a deep knowledge of the topic. The opportunities for engagement with your audience are broad if you play your cards right.

Instagram: Prettify pictures

Platforms: Free for iOS, Android

Pros: Streamlined interface; inspires creative marketing

Cons: No native Web app; imperfect Facebook and Twitter integration

What sets it apart: Instagram has been slow in adding new features, which may explain why it’s a relatively underused tool with social media marketers, but any creative company will still find lots of opportunity here. The app’s beauty is in its lack of features. Simply take a photo, add a filter, and create a caption (ideally with relevant hashtags). You can interact with your followers in the comment section, as well as share on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more.