Social media is a wasteland of productivity.
Marketers use social media to grow their businesses. Most, however, are wasting their time.
I’m not saying social media is a bad marketing channel. In fact, as you’ve seen in the nutrition site case study, I use platforms such as Facebook to drive tons of quality traffic to my websites.
Clearly, I’m not the only one.
In 2014, 92% of marketers stated that they put a high value on social media as a marketing platform.
What’s really great is that it works, at least to a small degree, for most businesses.
According to one of the latest industry reports compiled by Social Media Examiner, 80% of marketers report that social media has increased website traffic for their businesses. As expected, there are other benefits. For example, 72% of marketers say social media helps them develop loyal fans.
So when I’m talking about waste, I mean that although almost everyone uses social media for their businesses, very few do it efficiently.
They spend a lot of time and resources and get back minimal results.
You need to spend time optimizing your social media efforts. Once you do, you will save time and get better results in terms of engagement, traffic, and conversions.
One of the fundamental ways to do tasks more efficiently is to use tools.
There are hundreds of social media tools specifically designed to make the lives of social media marketers easier.
I’ve put together a list of 17 of the best social media marketing tools. I’ve also highlighted the most important features and will show you how you can use them to improve your social media marketing.
Share better content, and make it easier for yourself
All social media platforms are unique, but a successful strategy often looks similar across most platforms.
One component of that strategy is sharing content, which comprises both of your own content (to drive traffic to your website) and other great content in your niche (that’s interesting to followers).
In order to be successful, you must have a consistent sharing strategy. These tools will help you do that.
Buffer is fairly well-known by now by social media marketers, but it still needs to be included in this list. If you have not tried it yet, you’re going to be blown away by how easy it makes posting regular content to your social media accounts.
The idea behind Buffer is this: create a posting schedule for each of your social media accounts, all in one place. You can connect your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts, and your Google+ pages.
Then, you can add posts to your “queue” inside Buffer. Based on your settings, Buffer will automatically share posts from your queue to the social accounts you’ve chosen.
Set up a free account, and connect a social media account. Once you’ve done so, click “Schedule.”
You’ll be able to choose when you post and what days you post on. You can do this once and then never think about scheduling social posts again—a huge time saver.
Now you need to add some content to your queue, which will be shared automatically at the times you just selected.
If you click on the main “Content” tab, you can pick a social profile on the left menu, and then type in a message you want to share.
When you click the blue button at the bottom, your post will be added to your queue.
When you click on your main content area, you’ll see your current queue as well as the times when your posts are scheduled to go out. You can drag around messages to change their order or edit them whenever you like.
The real power of Buffer is that you can add content to your queue anywhere on the web.
Let’s say you read a Quick Sprout post and think your followers would love it as well.
If you click on any social sharing button, you’ll notice that an option to add it to Buffer now appears in addition to the regular options.
You can add a post to your queue without ever going to your actual account.
Finally, Buffer also offers useful information on the performance of your posts. You can use this information to tell whether you should alter your sharing strategy or whether growth is going well.
1a. Bonus tool – Bulk Buffer: In some situations, you’ll have a list of great URLs or a whole bunch of posts that you would like to add to your Buffer queue all at once.
Bulk Buffer allows you to upload a text or csv file with all these shares to your Buffer account all at once.
Usually, with social bulk posting tools, you need to follow a complicated format with dates and other information, but since you already took care of that in Buffer, it’s much easier.
All you need for this tool is a simple list. Put one message you want to share on each line, and wrap each line in quotation marks.
For example, I could save the following three messages in a text file before uploading the file:
“How to Write an Author Bio That Doesn’t Suck http://bit.ly/1JU6eoR My latest from @hubspot”
“The Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing Any Google Penalty http://www.quicksprout.com/2015/08/05/the-step-by-step-guide-to-fixing-any-google-penalty/”
“27 travel tips that even frequent fliers may not know http://ow.ly/QsS8i”
Inside of Bulk Buffer, import your file where it gives you the option, then select the social account connected to Buffer where you would like to share the posts (you can select multiple).
IFTTT is a fantastic Swiss army knife tool for all types of marketers. Best of all, you can use all of its functionality free.
While this tool has gained some popularity, the reason it has not been adopted by more marketers and SEOs is because there’s a bit of a learning curve.
IFTTT stands for:
- IF This…
- Then That
You get to define the “this” and “that.”
For example, you could say IF a new post is published on Quick Sprout (the “this” event), THEN send me an email (the “that” event).
Each series of events that you define is called a “recipe.” You can create as many recipes as you like.
They’ll look something like this:
IFTTT is especially great for social media marketers because the tool can post, read, and do all sorts of things with almost all major social networks:
One other neat thing about IFTTT is that you can add recipes created by other people. While it’s good to think about how to customize a recipe for your specific business, sometimes you’ll find that the perfect one is already made.
There are thousands of great social media recipes, but I’ll walk you through two so that you get the hang of it. It gets really repetitive and simple once you get used to it.
Recommended recipe #1 – Create an automatic social media calendar: I’m a big fan of editorial and social calendars.
They are great for keeping you on track and can also show you useful performance trends so that you know if your work is actually resulting in growth.
This particular recipe requires you to be a Buffer user (Tool #1).
When you add a post to Buffer, it is automatically scheduled according to the times you’ve set. When you activate this recipe, it will automatically take that scheduled post time and add it to your Google Calendar.
This way, you can quickly see a visual representation of what and how often you’re posting on all of your networks.
When you find a recipe page, while logged-in, you’ll often see bright blue buttons that tell you that you need to do something.
In this case, you’ll need to connect both your Buffer and Google accounts before adding the recipe:
Once you connect those accounts, those buttons will disappear, and the “Add” button will become active:
Click that button, and you’re done!
Recommended recipe #2 – Save Tweets in a spreadsheet: Depending on how you track your Tweets, it can be useful to have a list of them in a spreadsheet. This recipe does that for you automatically.
You could then rewrite or re-use the Tweets.
Again, you’ll have to connect your Twitter and Google Drive accounts if you haven’t already.
It’s not as complicated as an “automation tool” label makes it sound.
Here are a ton of other great recipes you can look at now:
This WordPress plugin is one of a few that allow you to A/B test (split test) headlines against each other.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, you’ll notice that there are multiple spaces for titles on any post you create:
Those titles will randomly be served to visitors whenever possible. As those titles get more impressions, you’ll notice the percentages beside each title change. These tell you which headlines are most effective, and you can select a “winner” when you’re satisfied.
Note that this plugin only works on sites with a good level of traffic. Otherwise, you’ll never have a statistically significant sample size for each headline.
Now, what does this have to do with social media?
By finding the best performing headline for your post, you can often increase traffic to the post (from social media and other sources) by over 50%. Not bad for typing a few extra headlines.
According to tests by Upworthy, the headline can be the difference between 1,000 and 1,000,000 people seeing a story. Typically, the difference isn’t that large, but it is somewhere between 50-500%.
Social media has become more and more visual over time, and that trend isn’t going to stop. Posts that contain pictures get more engagement on almost every network.
If you have a huge audience and need top-notch images, I do recommend hiring a quality designer.
But, not everyone needs amazing images. You might just need good or great images. Also remember that you can use the same pictures for both blog posts and social media posts, so the cost isn’t as high as if you were creating unique images for each channel.
When you’re on a tight budget or need a picture in a rush, you can create one using Canva even if you’re not great at design.
Create a free account and log in. When you return to the homepage, you’ll see many different template options—many are specifically for social networks.
Click on an appropriate template depending on the network you use, and a canvas will be created for you. It will also be the perfect size for your social network.
Under the “LAYOUTS” tab in the left sidebar, you can see all the different template options at your disposal:
Click a template that looks good, and it will appear on the right.
You can then click on any of the elements on your canvas (background, text, symbols, etc.) and edit them as you like:
Once you’re done, click “Download” from the top menu bar.
If you get proficient with Canvas, you can create a picture in a minute or two that will get your social shares extra attention.
One issue with many social sharing scheduling tools is that it’s very difficult to reuse old content. Edgar is the best solution to this problem that I’ve seen.
A major problem with social media, from a marketing standpoint, is that your followers are overwhelmed with new content. When you post an update, no matter how good it is, only a small fraction of your followers will ever see it:
Unlike reposting content on a blog, reposting content on social media is actually a good thing. Followers who missed it the first time can see it the second or third time you post it.
Edgar is a tool that allows you to schedule your social media shares. The difference between it and a tool such as Buffer is that you add your posts to different categories:
You can then customize your settings so that some categories are shared more than others.
There’s one more feature in Edgar that prolongs the lifespan of your social shares. Say you’ve scheduled posts in your “My Content” category to be shared once per day.
Eventually, you will run out of posts in that category to share. What Edgar does then is it starts from the beginning again. It will automatically re-share old content that hasn’t been seen in a long time.
Currently, it works with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It’s a great tool to save you time from having to remember and manually re-share old posts.
6. Post Planner
This tool is an app that integrates directly into Facebook. It is designed to make scheduling Facebook posts easier and more effective.
The main limitation and strength is that it is limited to Facebook. If you only focus on Facebook, it might be the best tool for you. But if you focus on other networks instead—or as well—you’re probably better off with a tool such as Buffer or Edgar.
This is a really robust tool, so I can’t go through all its features. Here are the most important ones:
- Post scheduling – You can schedule posts on your Facebook page ahead of time and do it in bulk.
- Target your audience – One really useful feature is the ability to target specific countries while scheduling a post. You can segment posts by time zone or run a promotion for certain users.
- Automate posting – You can tell the tool to automatically post new content from an RSS feed. Not usually the best option, but it can be handy.
- Trending content – You can quickly find trending content on Facebook based on a chosen keyword. You can share this content knowing that it will be popular with your followers as well.
Since you use the app right in Facebook, it looks and works very similarly to every other Facebook function:
Facebook has always been pretty good with analytics, but Post Planner allows you to get a little more advanced and really dig through the performance of past posts in its analytics:
Social media marketing requires research
The tools in this section will help you share content that resonates better with your followers, which will lead to short-term and long-term account growth.
They will also help you to save time while driving more traffic back to your website.
This tool includes the ability to schedule posts on all major social networks but has a few great features that will save you even more time.
I will say, though, that Bundlepost isn’t quite as intuitive as most other tools, so while it is useful, it will take some time to learn the ins and outs of it.
One thing I’m really bad at is including hashtags in posts even though I know they are a great way to improve your engagement.
One of the main features of Bundlepost is the ability to automatically replace common niche keywords with hashtags.
For example, you can add the phrase “social media” to a hashtag folder in the tool and tell it to replace any mentions of that phrase with #SocialMedia.
Not only will it save you time, but it will also eliminate the chance of you forgetting to add the hashtags.
The second useful feature of the tool is the ability to create Bundle Feeds. You enter as many keywords as you like, and the tool will automatically find relevant social media content to share on your channels.
There is a chance you could share some low-quality or off-topic content, so it’s a good idea to review the generated suggestions.
Buzzsumo is one of the best tools on the web when it comes to finding the most popular content.
While it’s typically used from a content marketing perspective, it can also be very useful from a social media standpoint.
You can use Buzzsumo in two main ways.
The first is to “spy” on competitors and see what has worked for them. When you enter their domain name into the search box, you will get a list of their most popular social content, sorted by total shares.
If you look at 5-10 competitors, you can get a really good idea of which content resonates best with your target audience.
You can even share some of the most popular content you discover, which will resonate with your existing followers.
Alternatively, you can look for popular content to share by keyword.
In the text box, enter some main keywords from your niche:
When you’re looking for content to share to a particular network, you should always click on the header of that network to sort by those shares.
When it comes to staying on top of content in your niche, nothing beats an RSS feed containing the latest posts from all the top blogs in your industry.
After Google Reader closed its doors, Feedly emerged as one of the best alternatives.
Feedly can be used to help your social media marketing efforts in two ways:
- Content curation – since you only add the highest quality sites to your RSS feed, it’s the fastest way to find the latest and greatest content to share with your followers.
- Share from inside Feedly – as you can see in the screenshot below, when you hover over an article (like the second from the top), you get sharing options for Twitter and Facebook. You can share directly to them or add them to your Buffer queue once you click a sharing button.
The most important part of using Feedly effectively is to add high quality sites to your feed. If you start mixing in lower quality sites, you’ll have to dig around through the bad content to find good content to share.
To add a site to your feed, you have two options. Either use the search bar in the top right-hand corner, or click “Add Content”, which is the third option from the top on the left sidebar:
If you pick the latter option, you’ll load a search bar.
Enter a topic here (or in the original top right bar):
Alternatively, pick one of the “starter kits” listed below the search bar, which contain the most popular blogs from certain broad niches.
When you find a site that you want to follow, click the plus button beside its name:
Influencers are a big part of most social media marketing strategies. The goal is usually to connect with them, establish a relationship, and get them to share your stuff.
Finding the right influencers, however, can be tricky. That’s where tools such as Inkybee come in.
Inkybee lets you search for top bloggers in your niche on all major social networks.
Once you log in, search for a keyword in the bar on the “search” page:
It will quickly find a large list of related blogs. It also ranks them based on relevance, visibility, and engagement, all of which are positive traits for an influencer to have here:
Notice that you can click a button in the bottom right corner of each result so that it says “selected”. If you look back up at the top of the results (in the outlined area), you can see that you can save all selected blogs to a list. This would help you come up with a plan later to strategically target each influencer.
Since you can get many results for broad keywords, consider using the filter options on the left.
You can limit the influencers to a certain area or profile authority:
Keep track of your social media activity without wasting time
I told you upfront that I thought many marketers wasted too much time on social media.
About 59% of marketers use social media for at least 6 hours per week. Other than in rare situations, most marketers should be spending less time.
Part of the reason marketers waste time is because they start using the platform for reasons other than executing their strategy.
The tools in this section will help you keep on track.
One of the reasons that marketers want to be on social media so much is to monitor any brand mentions or opportunities to interact with followers. Tagboard is one way to eliminate the worry over missing one of these chances.
To use this tool, simply search for a hash tag in the main search bar (once you’re logged in).
Once you do so, you’ll get a page of results of all the most recent posts that have included that hashtag on multiple networks (mainly Instagram/Twitter).
You can certainly use it to monitor non-brand keywords like the ones above to look for people interested in a certain hashtag. You could then follow them or reply to them.
A better way to use Tagboard is to monitor brand keywords instead. These typically include your name and your website name (and its variations, e.g., Quick Sprout and QuickSprout).
As long as you check once a day, you won’t miss anything.
Most of the tools on this list were made primarily for Facebook and Twitter. Circloscope, though, is the ultimate tool for Google+.
If you’re not familiar with Google+, the main concept behind it is “circles”. You group your connections into different circles so you can keep your professional content separate from your personal content.
Circloscope has a ton of different features, almost all of which are focused on helping you connect with the right people for your marketing efforts and make it dead simple.
Here are the highlights:
- Find only the most active members of a community (i.e., the power users)
- Easily add people who have interacted with a specific Google+ post to a circle
- Find out which of your followers are least and most active on Google+
Another thing you can do is find people who are invited to an event that have a particular status.
For example, if you were going to a conference, you could connect with other attendees beforehand so that you’re not total strangers when you meet them.
If you need a simple complete, all-in-one, social media management tool, SproutSocial is a strong candidate.
It was designed to be a full solution for small- and medium-sized businesses.
You can monitor all mentions across all major networks and reply to them in your messages panel:
In addition, you can create tasks based on messages. Or you can create helpdesk tickets and assign them to a member of your team. This is particularly useful if your customers often contact you on social media for support:
While there are many more features, the last one I’ll highlight is the “reports” tab, which gives you an interview of important marketing metrics at a glance.
For long-term growth, keep track of what works (social media analytics)
The final section of this post is dedicated to the tools that help you improve your marketing mainly through analytics.
It’s important to track your work to see what does and doesn’t produce results. Don’t waste your time on things that produce no value for your customer or your business.
Viralheat offers the standard publishing options for all major social networks, but it also offers some fairly in-depth analytics. It’s used by many global companies, which is why it was able to raise $4.25 million in funding back in 2011.
The tool uses its own algorithm to rank followers and other users on a network (particularly Twitter) in order to give you more information about the value of your social profile (e.g., total potential reach).
You can also use this information to engage more with your top followers who act as brand advocates. The last thing you would want to do is not appreciate their efforts and lose their support.
While there’re some complex things going on in the background, the interface and reports are pretty simple to understand and use:
In addition to detailed statistics, you can also take a quick peek at how your social media activity translates into actual website activity and, possibly, sales.
This is yet another solid tool focused solely on Twitter. It’s main use is to analyze your Twitter followers to give you insights about how you can engage with them better.
In addition, you can use FollowerWonk to find people to follow.
Go to “Aearch bios” on the top menu, and type in keywords from your niche.
You can sort by any of the standard metrics such as “followers” and “social authority”:
When you go to the “Analyze” tab in the tool, you can enter your Twitter username. The tool will then scan your followers’ user profiles to figure out data such as when most of them are active on Twitter:
You can use this information to optimize your posting schedule.
This tool is another one that focuses on finding the right people to follow, but it takes a unique and interesting approach.
Instead of just searching for a keyword, you upload a file with a blog post or add a link to a published blog post. The tool then scans your content, determines its theme, and returns influencers that might enjoy your content.
This is more of a promotional tool than anything.
Pick either of the options to get started.
Below, I clicked “add a link” and then entered a URL of a Quick Sprout blog post:
And within a minute, I had a large list of (hopefully) relevant influencers to connect with and promote my content to.
You can follow any or all of the influencers listed there by clicking the button in the top right of each result card.
17. Quill Engage
I’ve heard just about every opinion out there on using analytics. Most complaints are that they are too complicated, or there’re too many options.
Quill Engage is a smart little tool that can scan your Google Analytics account and produce a report in plain English.
Instead of reporting everything, it makes notes of big changes that warrant your attention.
Now, obviously, this has to do with marketing in general, not just social media, but it can let you know when there’s an unexpected change (good or bad) with your social media referral traffic.
There’s not much you have to do: just create an account, and connect it to your Google Analytics account. Soon, you’ll get a report like this:
Depending on your business, this could save you hours per month.
I’ve given you 17 great social media tools that you can use to:
- gain more followers
- engage with social media users better
- drive more traffic to your website (that converts)
- do it all in a reasonable amount of time
My goal with this article is to have you, at this point, pick just a few tools and incorporate them into your social media strategy.
However, as you do start to use tools more, remember that they should not be used as a crutch.
Don’t automate everything just because you can. If automation lowers the quality of the content you share, don’t use it. Pick the tools and the features of those tools carefully.
Also, there are many other great social media tools, so if there’s a specific problem you’re having, look for a solution.
If I forgot any of your favorite social media tools, please leave them in a comment below so that other readers can learn about them as well.