A Review of the Most Popular Social Media Management Systems for Small Businesses

It’s ironic that, in the beginning, social media was thought to be just another passing teen fad, but, instead, it became an essential marketing and customer relations tool for big and small businesses, helping them in regards to branding, networking, outreach, and development of B2C relationships and new customer gains plus regular customer support. There are as many “Top 5” and “Top 10” lists of the “best” social media management systems (SMMS) as there are existing SMMSs; literally dozens of different SMMS software programs are now on the market, and the number keeps growing as social media usage skyrockets and rises exponentially for businesses large and small. So, to make it a Top 5 list practicable and usable, we have taken from four of the more reputable sources and combined, compared, and contrasted what they said to come up with our own Top 5 SMMSs for small business owners (See PCWorld.com, G2 Crowd, Jeffbullas.com, and Commsaxis.com for their reviews). For example, the G2 Croud comes up with their list after crunching the numbers from over 600 reviews from business professionals in the field using SMMS tools on a daily basis. In their report Sprout Social received the top customer satisfaction score — 96 out of 100 — among the 14 tools listed in the report. HootSuite’s customer satisfaction score was 93. AgoraPulse had a customer satisfaction score of 94, second only to Sprout Social overall. Sendible’s satisfaction score was 76. Hootsuite usually wins out overall because of the price point—it is basically free. That is, it’s free version probably offers more functions, etc. but that is not to say that their layout is the most customer-friendly, or that the various functions are intuitive and therefore easy to use.
We followed G2 Croud and other experts by using certain criteria for our list. One is affordability—we wanted to choose systems that are affordable for small businesses. Next is Scalability—we wanted to choose systems that have the capacity to expand on their functionalities, so as your business grows your SMMS will grow along with it. And, finally, functionality, broken down into three different categories: Connectivity, Tracking, and Scheduling. If a SMMS does not connect to at least Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and allows you to post and monitor all three from a single dashboard, it isn’t on the list. All of the chosen SMMSs are equipped with tracking functions to keep a tab, both on what your competitors are doing as well as keeping tabs on how you are doing on your various social media sites. Finally, any good SMMS allows you to schedule your posts and lets you send them at the time you want them sent. It could be a day, a week, or every month, but your system needs to be able to have that post-time flexibility. We spoke about Hootsuite in last month’s editorial. Almost every listing of the “best” SMMS includes Hootsuite at the top. So it obviously takes first place, followed by Sprout Social, AgoraPulse, Sendible, and VerticalResponse Social. We spoke about Hootsuite in last month’s issue.

Sprout Social
On most lists, Sprout Social usually comes in second in the ratings after Hootsuite and so it might be helpful to explain the unique benefits that Sprout Social offers by comparing it to Hootsuite. For the experts, Sprout Social has a better, easier, friendlier interface and homepage organization than Hootsuite. It is easier to navigate, especially for the novice. Sprout Social also has a built-in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) function that lets you manage and links to all of your customer profiles and synchronizes all of your sales, marketing, customer service, promotions, emails lists of customers, etc. Sprout Social also makes it easier to publish and schedule all of your posts through an auto-scheduling feature called “Queue” which allows you to schedule your content for automated, future delivery. The analytics of Sprout Social is also more user friendly because of the ease with which you can produce any kind of report you need. If you are a novice, great customer service is essential to help you learn how to navigate the site and take full advantage of all the functionalities. Here, Sprout Social is superior to Hootsuite in terms of customer service. Whereas Hootsuite provides automated email responses to customer queries, Sprout Social provides personalized customer service and technical support through phone, Twitter, and email. Right from the start Sprout Social connects you to a personal support technician that guides you through your first time using the site and afterwards is always there to support and help you. Live technical support is invaluable to a novice. The main difference is in the price. Hootsuite basic is free whereas Sprout Social basic is only free for the first month. Monthly fees for Sprout Social are $39.

AgoraPulse
One top reviewer refers to the AgorgaPulse homepage as an “inbox for your social media.” However, it is much more than an inbox because it comes with a host of features none of the other SMMSs offer. Here is a list of AgroraPulse’s unique features:

• Competitor benchmarking (the ability to benchmark your Facebook page against those of selected competitors).
• A unique ROI vision, which measures audience engagement levels rather than clicks and conversions – a much less tedious and much more modern approach.
• Background synchronisation, which makes sure all of your social media accounts are being monitored even when you’re not actually using the tool.
• A unique “inbox zero” feature that helps you monitor and respond to all your tweets, comments, private messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and save a lot of your previous time.
• And more than 15 different apps to run contests and promotions on Facebook (courtesy of www.comsaxis.com).

AgoraPulse advertises its platform as a complete toolbox for Facebook and Twitter. They have all the standard tools for managing your accounts and composing and scheduling updates, plus in-depth analytics, reporting, and competitor comparisons. AgoraPulse also includes a suite of applications for running contests, quizzes, and promotions on Facebook and Twitter. If run a lot of contests and promotions, it’s worth having a tool that specializes in it because of the ever-changing rules of Facebook and Twitter promotions.
AgoraPulse includes plenty of in-depth, time-saving tools for managing your Facebook and Twitter accounts, such as automatic moderation based on keywords, influencer identification, and follower and fan data export to your CRM software.

Sendible
In 2013, Sendible announced on their homepage that their SMMS was ranked “Best in Class” in three categories according to CEB TowerGroup’s Social Networking Technology Analysis analyst report. CEB TowerGroup is a leading research group focused on the financial services industry and its relationship to social media platforms. Sendible’s three top features are: Customer Interaction tools, Monitoring Tools and Enterprise Operations categories. We will not discuss the Enterprise Option features because, although mostly all of the SMMSs in existence offer their top of the line Enterprise System, which is usually very costly and mostly geared toward big companies and corporations that have a huge network of social media conections and workers designated just to managing the company’s social media systems. .
Let’s look at the other two award-winning features. One unique feature of Sendible is that it links to your Yelp page and connects it to your other social media accounts. It supports over 30 networks and you can schedule ads to run at specific high traffic times during the day. Sendible also lets you categorize all of your postings into one forum that can easily be checked. For exhibiting brand awareness the experts say Sendible is the best because of its customer interaction tools. Sendible’s monitoring tools lets you easily create and download easy to read statistical and reports on how you are computing your social media ROI versus how your competitors are doing. For example, even if individuals don’t specifically tag you in Twitter posts, you can know they’re talking about the company, allowing you to bring in new users. In the old days finding out about your competitors was considered “corporate espionage” but now all things have changed because monitoring competitors is now simply part of the social media management program functionality.

VerticalResponse Social
This SMMS is the newest product of the VerticalResponse portfolio of the award-winning company known for their email marketing, event marketing, postcard marketing, and online survey services. Now they have a social media management system. VerticalResponse Social is especially known for the way is smoothly brings together email messaging and marketing and social media platforms. Some think that email and social media are like night and day but VerticalResponse’s social media platform makes their email connections a central and unique feature of their program. If you have experience and like email marketing techniques, then this SMMS is the one for you.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

RESOURCES:
pcworld.com
G2crowd.com,
Jeffbullas.com
Commsaxis.com
Sproutsocial.com
Agorapulse.com
Sendible.com
Verticalresponsesocial.com

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