Small business owners sometimes get visibly uncomfortable when I bring up the idea of using social media to engage customers. They see the power of social media to reach people, but they claim they don’t have the time, energy or resources to use it effectively.
Enter the social media management system, or SMMS.
Shelby Cunningham, interactive media coordinator at Hudson Fasteners, is a big proponent of using SMMSs, whether it’s for a small business or managing personal accounts.
“If you’re managing not only multiple social media channels [i.e., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+] but also multiple accounts within those channels, it’s a great option,” Cunningham said. “And you can manage more than one business.”
Cunningham’s favorite SMMS is Sprout Social. Sprout Social has easy-to-use tools for customer engagement, and for measuring the success of your social media messages.
Still, one complaint a lot of entrepreneurs have about using social media is time. The general complaint is that there are not enough hours in the day to “do” social media and effectively manage other facets of the business (finances, human resources, traditional marketing, etc.).
And that’s the very reason SMMSs such as Sprout Social were created: to save time. The best part, however, is that they save time while getting results.
“[Sprout Social] makes it easy to stay organized and never miss anything that’s going on with your accounts,” Cunningham said. “It’s very straightforward. I found that other platforms can be overwhelming and cluttered, but the look and design of Sprout [Social] is clean and simple.”
Like other SMMSs (and there are several), Sprout Social can’t be expected to do it all. For example, Cunningham can’t connect a YouTube channel to Sprout Social.
“I also feel a little limited in that I can’t connect a LinkedIn group or company page [only a personal profile], a feature I hope to see them add in the future,” Cunningham said.
And if you’re looking for an SMMS for personal accounts, Sprout Social may not be the answer.
“Sprout Social has awesome scheduling and reporting features that would be beneficial even for your personal accounts,” Cunningham added. “But unless you’re managing 10 or more feeds, there are other options.”
Easy To Learn
The real power behind Sprout Social might be in its simple, but powerful, user interface. You don’t have to be a social media wizard to figure out how to use it.
Cunningham said, “Sprout Social offers plenty of resources, support, videos, webinars.”
“They provide awesome in-depth analytics, and they help you understand and make the most of your efforts.”
This is not to suggest Sprout Social is the only SMMS available. In fact, do a quick search of “social media management” and you’ll lots of great options for managing your feeds and engaging your online audience.
“If blogging is a big part of your social media game, HubSpot is a great tool,” Cunningham said. “They also have a lot of great social media tips and information, even for people who aren’t paying customers.”
~ A version of this column appeared in the "Connected" section of the Sunday, December 14, 2014 issue of The Vindicator.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.