It's official! Businesses must reserve a major portion of their internet marketing resources and strategies for social media. Word of mouth marketing cannot be faked nor can it be manipulated as it involves real people. Businesses have to take responsibility to promote their brand on social media platforms. While large corporations can afford to hire special social media managers or train an in-house team to do it, small businesses may struggle to keep up with the trend due to limited budgets or time. This is where a social media management tool comes in handy.

There are many tools out there that will help you manage your time with social media marketing strategies, but what do you hope to achieve from the use of these tools is the real question. Keeping this focus in mind will help you choose the best tool from the myriad of choices available.

First let us list the function of social media management tools. They will:

  • Send scheduled updates.
  • Connect all your social media profiles.
  • Provide a unified platform to manage multiple networks.
  • Improve audience engagement.
  • Measure audience engagement.
  • Provide suggestions to improve engagement metrics.

Plan your social media goals, form a budget in terms of both time and money and get a social media management tool that meets your needs and allows for smooth, easy management of all your profiles.

Here are 4 such tools that will help you handle your social media profiles and also help you manage your time as a small business owner. The common features of these tools are affordability, friendly interfaces and the inclusion of a free trial, thus giving you room to decide which one you will be most comfortable working with.

1. Hootsuite:

Hootsuite is one of the oldest social media management tools. It boasts many awards and is preferred over other social media management tools in its calibre. The best part is that you can get a free plan (among other paid plans) for this incredible tool.

Unique selling points of the tool:

  • Free basic version.
  • Schedule post updates.
  • Includes Google+ integration.
  • With the new Hootsuite interactions feature you can connect with real-time users of the tool.
  • Custom reports with Facebook Insights and Google Analytics.
  • Is used by big brands like McDonalds, Pepsico, WWF and many more.

Hootsuite dashboard for monitoring streams

2. SproutSocial:

A Twitter Certified Products Program partner and a Preferred Marketing Developer for Facebook page management and insights, SproutSocial integrates an easy-to-use, all-in-one platform to monitor and manage your brand on social media.

Unique selling points of the tool:

  • Savvy dashboard that pulls activity from all your social media profiles into one stream.
  • Schedule post updates.
  • Follow, respond and retweet from within the dashboard.
  • Provides recommendations on who you should and should not follow.
  • Export reports as .csv or .pdf files.
  • Free mobile apps.
  • Google Analytics integration.
  • Unlimited reporting on all plans.
  • Keyword monitoring.
  • 30-day free trial.

SproutSocial Social Media Management Tool

SproutSocial Social Media Management Tool

3. Buffer

Buffer is a unanimous choice for most agencies. It is simple, effective and will definitely save you time when it comes to managing your social media networks.
Unique selling points of the tool:

  • Simple user interface.
  • Incredibly easy to use.
  • Allows you to schedule posts across multiple times and dates.
  • Three different account levels for individuals and businesses.
  • Track engagement metrics such as clicks, likes, shares.
  • Includes a free image creation tool.

Buffer Dashboard, Scheduling Feature

With Buffer’s scheduler you can post to multiple time and date variants.

4. CrowdBooster:

Great for small businesses, Crowdbooster is a real-time social media monitoring tool that keeps you abreast of what is being discussed about your brand on the web. However, it only works for Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Unique selling points of the tool:

  • Schedule post updates.
  • Integrates and aids with shortening URLs.
  • Measures engagement across multiple networks.
  • Provides suggestions to improve engagement.
  • Email summary of weekly updates on all your social media accounts.
  • Allows sharing and collaboration.
  • Basic plan at a low cost of $9 per month.

CrowdBooster Analytics Dashboard

There are other independent tools on the market, such as Oktopost and Percolate that include similar tool features. There are also some free tools that help you manage your social media campaigns but are limited to one or two social networking platforms. If your social media marketing efforts are concentrated on Twitter, you could use Twitter social management tools such as Tweetdeck, Tweepi, FollowerWonk, ManageFlitter, and TweetReach. SocialBaker is a tool dedicated to bench marketing your brand’s social media performance against your competitors.

As a small business owner you can greatly benefit from the use of these tools as they allow you to manage your social campaigns perfectly and easily. For additional tips on how to generate engagement with your fans, read our post on 7 Social Media Tips to Improve Fan Engagement.