Managing your company’s social media presence is becoming an increasingly complex task. Small-business owners who used to rely on Twitter to post updates to LinkedIn, for instance, no longer have that option.
Fortunately, other tools allow you to manage your business’s assorted social media accounts from a single dashboard. We've selected the top five that are specifically geared toward small business. To make our list, each tool had to meet several criteria.
- Affordability: The tool is either free or priced low enough to meet the budget of a one- or two-person business.
- Scalability: The tool grows with your company's needs, even if you start with just one or two accounts.
- Support for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter: If a social media management tool doesn’t post to all three networks, it’s dead to most small businesses.
- Update posting assistance: The tool allows you to schedule posts in advance.
If you've been around social media for any period of time, you've probably used HootSuite, the tool of choice for many social media professionals and small businesses. But the limitations of the free version (it supports only one user and five social profiles, for instance) mean that most businesses will grow to the point where the free version is no longer acceptable. Although HootSuite seems to have dealt with this problem by providing the option to upgrade to HootSuite Pro for unlimited profiles and more features, it's worthwhile to look around at other alternatives once your business starts demanding too much of HootSuite.
The free version does the job for microbusinesses with the standard Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts to update, and HootSuite Pro will work for small businesses that don't need to support more than two users. If you find yourself needing more-robust analytics and other features, it's time to upgrade to another tool.
Cost: HootSuite is free for one user and up to five social profiles. HootSuite Pro, priced at $10 per month, includes two user accounts, unlimited social profiles, and other premium features. Larger businesses should check out HootSuite Enterprise.
VerticalResponse launched VerticalResponse Social as a complete service for the small-business professional. It marries email and social media campaigns in a way that other tools aimed at small businesses do not. Usually people regard email and social media as separate islands, but bringing them together under the umbrella of one online marketing campaign makes much more sense. VerticalResponse tailors its products to the harried small-business person who knows how to run a company but is far from being a social media expert.
VerticalResponse Social schedules everything from single updates to entire campaigns up to 30 days in advance. It allows clients to set up their own custom content library of common websites for their industry, and it offers suggestions for content based on the nature of their business. The latter feature makes VerticalResponse attractive to people who could otherwise lose themselves in a bottomless time sink while searching out content on the Internet that’s relevant to their industry.
I spoke to Alex Chang, VerticalResponse’s VP of Social Platform. According to Chang, the chief advantage of VerticalResponse is that it was created for small-business professionals who think that they don't have the time for social media and are not tech-savvy. Regardless of your tech knowledge, the service's marriage of email and social media campaigns and its content-library creation feature are both huge timesavers, although the tool does feel pared down to users who are more technically inclined. Despite that minor quibble, VerticalResponse packs the most features in for the best price among the five services here, especially since it permits you to ditch any separate email newsletter service you've been using.
Cost: VerticalResponse Social is $18 per month.
Next Page: Sprout Social, Sendible, and Postling