Tag: social media management

Sprout Social – For When You Need More Than “Just” a Dashboard

Continuing the series on incredibly helpful social media tools, we move to my other absolute favorite paid tool, Sprout Social.  Now, this one is by no means cheap compared to other methods.  It is honestly the most expensive tool I pay for, but I feel it’s worth it for the amount of time I save.  That is, ultimately, the best way to decide whether or not a specific tool is appropriate in your situation – is it saving you enough to pay for itself?  If you’re self-employed, like myself, actually assign your time a monetary value.  If you don’t think your time has a monetary value, you’re mistaken, and probably selling yourself short (more on this in a later blog post).

Moving on to Sprout Social – this has replaced Buffer for me, but I also manage many accounts.   It offers a single dashboard for you to view Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Instagram, although you can’t reply or see comments on Linkedin and Google Plus.  You can’t schedule posts for Instagram, and due to a change in the way Facebook pages work, the ability to schedule from a feed directly to a Facebook page is offline as of this writing.  You can still post links to curated content, you just can’t directly post from your news feed, which is slightly less convenient than before.

However, now that we’ve looked at what you can’t do, let’s look at all it can.

The smart inbox is one of the best features – everything for all channels in one place.  If you have multiple clients, like I do, you can sort them into groups and just see the messages that need responding for a single client at a time.  You could never leave the smart inbox and still have the bare minimum of necessary engagement covered.  You can leave notes as you respond to specific messages, or if you’re large enough to have a team, you can assign tasks to team members and leave notes on specific people you reply to.  I use it to keep notes on specific people that I respond to on behalf of clients, or to note where a client wants to personally communicate with certain accounts.  It can function similarly to a CRM, but since the search function doesn’t include your personal notes, there’s no real ability to tag specific users.  You can tag prospects as sales leads, though, which is useful as you go through Twitter prospecting.

The tasks bar allows you to assign tasks for responding, sales leads, or customer support, depending on your needs.  You can use it as an extension of your own CRM, using it for reminders to touch with specific prospects every so often.  You can include names, addresses, the company someone works for, phone numbers, and Sprout Social will often pull all the social networks that particular person has linked up.   In a single place, you can see all the information you’ve added about specific accounts, as well as previous conversations you’ve had on each channel that is synced with that user.  This gets useful as you start juggling hundreds of accounts and trying to remember what you said to who, and when.

The next tab is the feeds tab, which is my best friend for curating content as well as interacting with Twitter feeds. I have Feedly hooked up to Sprout Social, allowing me to see RSS feeds of relevant blogs and sites that I’ve collected together based on topic.  I will also often create collections specific to clients, so that each client has a steady source of curated content I can always draw from.  I check this daily for new or breaking content.

You can also view twitter feeds, letting you see what your stream is currently tweeting about and checking if you can respond.  Your LinkedIn profile can also be hooked up here, letting you view recent posts to LinkedIn, although you can’t reply.

There’s the publishing tab, which lets you see what you currently have queued up, as well as let you change the order of your content and change the viralpost settings.  Viralpost is one of my favorite tools ever – you set the frequency per day of how often you want content out, and Sprout Social takes care of the rest.  It balances when the highest number of your followers are not only online, but most likely to engage with your content, too, making it the flat out easiest way to schedule everything.  Just add content to the queue, and Sprout Social does the rest.  You can see all the scheduled content across all channels in one place, something I find extremely helpful as I can check that I’m following themes or order to the posts as needed.

The discovery tab is yet another great tool – search topics, keywords, and save smart searches in Twitter (prospecting, anyone?).  You can also see various groupings of followers: those who are following you, but you’re not following back, those who’ve mentioned you, those you’ve talked to recently.  You can also do cleanup, which is extremely helpful for myself and every single one of my clients.  Silent accounts, those who don’t follow you back, those who don’t post often.  Since I review new followers each day, I have a general idea of the new followers, and can see which accounts followed a client and then rapidly unfollowed them.  This can sometimes indicate that the brand isn’t attracting the followers that align with the brand message, but more often, it’s a sign of lazy twittering – following large numbers of accounts to get a courtesy follow back, then unfollowing most of the batch and repeating it with a new set of accounts.  I feel this is bad manners and shows lack of interest in the community you build, and will leave a note on the accounts doing this so they do not get a courtesy follow back when they inevitably add the client’s account again (unless it’s a vitally important or influential account, but frankly, that’s never happened).

Sprout Social

Finally, for my fellow social media managers or those who need something to show the boss – the reports tab.  This is your cheat sheet for impressing everyone you work for, along with the fancy PDFs you can generate with Socialbro.  You can print out multiple categories of reports as documentation of your efforts, either as an excel file or a PDF document.  If you’re just showing your boss your progress, PDFs look significantly nicer than the excel tables, but to keep track of data over the long haul, keeping track of data with excel is a must.

Sprout Social also recently overhauled their Twitter profiles reports, creating beautiful reports that give Socialbro a real run for the money for nice documents to show your clients or boss.  If your primary use with Socialbro is a single place to keep track of demographic data and make reports, you could probably scrap it in favor of utilizing Sprout Social’s reports instead.  They also integrate with Google Analytics, letting you compare your social media efforts against actual traffic on the website.  It gives just enough data to let your social media manager get an understanding of how their efforts are working, but if you’re concerned with them knowing too much or being too involved (or if they’re not that familiar with Google Analytics in the first place), it won’t flood them with too much data.  It tends to be too limited for me to do much in the way of analyzing performance (I like to dive deeper into the data to see what’s happening), but for a quick glance at how well things are working, it’s good enough.

I could talk for ages on Sprout Social – this was purely an overview of what it does, which should give you an excellent idea of just how much you stand to gain from it.  For my level of use, it’s $99 a month, which is the lowest tier that allows you to take advantage of Viralpost, keyword trend reporting, and google analytics integration.  For basic, it’s $59 a month, which covers most of your basic needs.  There is also a referral program for current users that they recently rolled out – so if you do opt to go with Sprout Social, check among your friends or colleagues to see if they are already users (or click one of my links!).  It doesn’t change anything in how you get Sprout Social, but it does give them a $50 credit toward their next bill – so pass along the good karma, if you can.

The next few posts will be moving back into a few of my favorite free tools, which have limited use compared to a powerful all-in-one dashboard like Sprout Social, but nonetheless can give you a better picture of your online marketing efforts.

My Crush on Edgar from MeetEdgar

That adorable little octopus.

I have a confession.  I have a bit of a crush on Edgar, the little helper from the MeetEdgar tool, the little personality that helps you create your extensive, evergreen library of content to share.  Edgar is amazing.  He really is.  He has changed how I utilize statuses forever.

I first learned about MeetEdgar thanks to a podcast last year – a random little podcast whose name I sadly can’t even remember, where the host interviewed the founder of MeetEdgar and was gushing about how easy the platform made his social media.  Naturally, my ears perked up.  When someone is that happy about how easy a tool is making their life, it means something, and I am happy to trial the product for myself.  The founder, Laura Roeder, went on to talk about what inspired her to make the product.  She was recycling content based on spreadsheets and formulas, making sure that her clients had content recycled when appropriate as regularly as possible.

That led her to create MeetEdgar, a service that does that for you.  You fill in your library of content, set the schedule for when things should be shared, and Edgar shuffles up the statuses in the category you pick and posts one.  He doesn’t just do it at random, either, the newer stuff is shared a bit more often, and older stuff gets put in there after just enough time has passed that you realize most people seeing it are unlikely to have seen it the first time.

You won't know what you did before MeetEdgar.

You won’t know what you did before MeetEdgar.

I tend to try and write content that is “evergreen”, as in, not time sensitive – you can post it any day of the week or any day of the year and it’d make sense.  Works awesome for blog posts, and sharing products that never go out of stock.  You can create categories based on days of the week or types of content (motivational Mondays, anyone?), and set Edgar to post from that category as appropriate.

Over time, if you keep adding content to your library, it grows immense.  Some of my clients have over 300 statuses in their MeetEdgar libraries, meaning if I was that lazy, I could simply repeat two a day every day for the rest of the year, and never have to write a status again.  Of course, that’s not ideal – this is for ensuring your old content never stops being shared, not that you completely stop sharing new content.

But think about it.  You want to share to Twitter 5 times a day, or Facebook 2 times a day.  Why not share an old post that, let’s face it, only about 6 to 8% (if you’re lucky, with Facebook these days) of your followers even saw the first time around?   Once you start filling your library up, MeetEdgar becomes an extremely easy way to keep content flowing, and to keep your old content in front of new followers as they come on.

It’s not the cheapest option out there, with the starter plan starting at $49 a month, but as with some of the pricier tools I’ll be recommending as this series continues, you have to view it in terms of time saved.  MeetEdgar easily saves me hours of work each week when I look at the time spent scheduling and writing content for all of my clients.  How much is that time worth to you?

Using IFTTT, you can set up a recipe to save your statuses from your accounts to a Google drive spreadsheet, making it easy at the end of each week to review them, add the ones that got the best interaction to MeetEdgar, then start over the next week.  With Buffer, Pocket, IFTTT, and then MeetEdgar, you can effectively trim down your social media post scheduling time to just an hour or two a week, instead of an hour or two a day.  Have you started yet?

Social Media Tools Guide – Using IFTTT

Social Media Tools Guide – Automating Tips with IFTTT

Now, automating is not always the route you want to go for every single task.  There are some things that shouldn’t be automated, and some that should (check out my blog post on automating certain Twitter tasks).  If This Then That, or IFTTT as it’s called, is a great way to start automating things like finding content to share, building lists, and importantly, compiling data so you can see what’s working.

IFTTT works by creating little “recipes”, as they call them, that are simple scripts to perform actions.  It syncs up with both iOS and android phones, and hooks up to dozens of different apps, social media accounts, and tools.  One of the first places you can start is by automating a list of your statuses – you can create a google doc spreadsheet, then let IFTTT automatically start populating the sheet for you with a list of statuses that you post and when you post them.

I highly recommend reviewing statuses once a week to add engagement rate data so that you’re not swamped with a ton of data to sift through at the end of the month.  Depending on your time, you can review your statuses once a week, every other week, or once a month to see what key words or times work best for your topic.

Use IFTTT to create a spreadsheet of new contacts in your phone as backup, to add a copy of the weather report to your calendar each morning, to follow craigslists posts, download tracks you like on Soundcloud to your dropbox, change your phone wallpaper – there’s a TON of options and I recommend browsing through the top recipes for a bit to get a feel for some of the most useful you could use.

When it comes to incorporating IFTTT into your social media plan, we get to loop back to Buffer and Pocket.  Rather than having to go looking for content like some heathen, you can set up recipes to add top articles from the New York Times, subreddits, top stories on Digg, and more.  Or, if you’d rather surf for content yourself, you can set up a recipe to automatically add a story to your Buffer when you tag the story from Pocket.

You can set up a recipe to automatically text missed calls if you don’t want to or can’t check your voicemail, or to add a calendar event (or task in ToDoist) to call the person back.  Once you start getting the hang of automating things like updating your calendar, adding content, and populating spreadsheets, you can also move into things like adding users to list.  I like to set recipes to run the day of Twitter chats, for example, to add participants to a list based around that chat.

Best Practices for IFTTT

Best Practices for IFTTT

Recipes I recommend the most –

All your tweets in a Google Spreadsheet

Automatic happy birthday posts on Facebook (good for building engagement)

Back up contacts to a google spreadsheet (iOS – there’s an android version too!)

Post Instagram photos as native twitter photos (SUPER useful – images on twitter get more engagement than links do)

Post Instagram photos as native FB images in an album (again, works better for engagement)

If your Facebook profile pic changes, then update the Twitter profile pic too

When you tag “buffer” in pocket, adds the link to your Buffer queue

Tag something as “business” in pocket, it gets shared on LinkedIn

Rather schedule curated content? Tag “save” to a pocket article, and it’ll get added to a spreadsheet in google drive.

There’s TONS of options to save just a little bit of time here and there, which can add up to quite a bit of time saved.  Saving the 1 minute it takes to add something to Buffer, or to add it to a spreadsheet, adds up in a big way at the end of the week.  What would you do with an extra hour each week?

IFTTT does have its limits, and you do have to sync up each channel to your IFTTT account to have things work.  Sadly, you can only add one Buffer stream to IFTTT, making it limited for use with multiple clients or accounts.  I don’t recommend using the automatic thank new twitter followers feature, or the new follower DM, as this tends to feel very spammy or inpersonal to most followers because, well, it is.  Tools like SocialBro (which will be the topic of the next post) offer you the ability to use multiple versions of a tweet, reducing the spammy look of “thanks for following me!” showing up for each new follower, and also encouraging more engagement as a result.

Use IFTTT to embrace the Internet of Things, and to simplify your life as a whole, not just for social media.  This type of automation and super simple script writing is a great way to start viewing your tasks in a more efficient way, enabling you to save time.  I mean, when you can even set up a recipe that lets your plants tell you when they need water… There’s no reason not to embrace it.

Top Social Media Management Tools – An In Depth Guide

An In-Depth Guide to My Favorite Social Media Management Tools

This Week: Buffer, Pocket, and Feedly

I’ll be reviewing a few of my favorite social media management tools in depth for this next blog post series.  There’s a huge array of them out there, and sifting through them all to find the best one for your situation can be truly difficult.  I’ve tried many, and only a few have been good enough that I stick with them for the long haul.  The ones that have been useful enough to trim down hours off of my work day and make managing social media for myself and for clients easier are the ones I’ll be featuring here.

The first tool that I will recommend will be a combination of tool and content curation source.  I highly recommend right here useful site Buffer as a scheduling tool for the small business or social media manager with a small number of clients, and even more, I recommend it in combination with either Pocket or Feedly. 

For pure scheduling ease, Buffer really makes it easy.  You set the general schedule, and start plopping your content into the queue and viola, you always have a ‘buffer’ of content ready to go.  The free option is extremely limited, and from the experience of friends and colleagues who have tried it, it can feel fairly worthless.  You’re limited to only 10 posts in your buffer per account, and you can only hook up 2 accounts.  If you’re trying to build a new habit around content curation, this makes it pretty hard to build up an extensive buffer that will keep you covered for more than a day or two.   Buffer is well worth the $10 a month to get the next level of options, which is up to 10 accounts, and 250 statuses queued.

the Best Social Media Management tools

the Best Social Media Management tools

While Buffer offers a selection of curated content that their editors have picked out (and it’s great to start if you want an easy source of good content), if you’re not in social media or marketing, it is typically quite limited in content relevant to your niche.  Towards that end, you can and should set up a Pocket account, as well as a Feedly account.

Pocket works extremely well as a way to collect interesting content from the blogs you subscribe to, or just see around the internet.  The way it works is it saves an easy to read copy of the content you save to pocket into the app, letting you read articles on your phone wherever you are (even without internet access), and acts as a platform for moving articles to buffer.  Whenever I see a headline that interests me, I save the article to Pocket, and review all my pocket articles every day or two.   If you’re managing on behalf of a client, a shared Pocket account can be an excellent way to review curated content before scheduling it – or allow them to contribute content they like and set up the habit of saving things to share again.  When they save to Pocket, you can also review what they are thinking is worth sharing, and ensure that what they want to share is in line with what you’ve agreed is the brand’s image. What is personally interesting is not always relevant to what the brand or business should share for fans.

Pocket syncs up easily with Buffer, and you can buffer articles via the mobile app straight from Pocket, creating a very easy process (even easier with the tool I’ll discuss next week, which is If This Then That) for curating content.  However, if you’re using other tools, such as Sprout Social, or you want to set up an easier RSS feed, Feedly is the tool that lets you do that.  RSS stands for Rich Site Summary, or as I’ve also seen it referred to, as a Really Simple Site.  Basically, it turns blog posts or updates into a simple article format you can read in one place, which you can then sort by topic.   Feedly syncs up with your other tools, allowing you to share straight to your queue from within Feedly.

Other similar options include Flipboard, which comes with most Android operating systems, and can be downloaded to your iOS device as well.  The downside to Flipboard is that it adds a step – you save the articles that seem interesting to Pocket, then schedule them to Buffer.  If you’re reading them within Flipboard, you could just schedule them straight to Buffer, but again, Flipboard will not sync with the higher level tools you might use.

The simple timeline for setting up your content curation loop is this:
RSS Reader > Buffer > Posted
or
RSS Reader > Pocket > Buffer > Posted

You will always want to put things into Buffer, as the schedule you set up can and should be based on your research into what works and when.  You can view your Facebook page’s insights to see when the most of your fans are online, and you should time your posts accordingly.  Through the use of other tools (which will be discussed in later posts), you can also find your best time to tweet, which in most tools, will sync automatically to Buffer.  Buffer tracks link clicks as well, which is why you want to ensure all posts are shared through Buffer.  When Buffer shortens the link, it tracks clicks on that link, letting you know how interesting your fans genuinely found content (and letting you know if your timing is working).

Keep in mind that you want to schedule each status for each platform, and you do NOT want to set up an automatic cascade of posts to other channels.  Buffer will shorten links but otherwise ensure a status is shared in the way that looks best on each channel; having a tweet autopost to Facebook, or vice versa, does not work as well and does not get the same engagement rates as a “native” post in the app.

Use Buffer in combination with Pocket (and/or Feedly) to get into the habit of always curating content.  Your next step is to begin utilizing automation to gather relevant content into Pocket or Buffer and make it even easier to find new and interesting content…and that’s with If This Then That, or IFTTT for short.  Next week I’ll review the tool and some easy to use “recipes” to get you started.

I will be developing these blog posts further to turn them into chapters for the book I’ll be working on.  If you have suggestions, questions, or advice, please feel free to comment below!