A few years ago when social media sites like Orkut and Facebook were burgeoning no one in the internet marketing world could ever imagine that one day social media would be the Internet's next big marketing tool. Today a huge number of businesses are marketing their services using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to name just some of the most popular social media sites. Even online schools are going the community based way. Busuu.com an online community for learning languages is a good example.
So as part of your marketing plan you would generally use the above mentioned sites for increasing traffic to your website, generating brand awareness and instilling trust for your company in potential customers. All of this (hopefully) leads to increased sales and eventually builds a dedicated base of clientele.
Many companies use more than one social media tool. But with so many social media sites how do you keep track of all your posts, tweets, statistics and so forth so that you can understand how well it is working for your business as part of your marketing strategy? Logging in separately to each of your social media sites and managing them simultaneously is no mean task. In fact that would be a tremendous waste of time and energy. Thta is why the increase in social media dashboards has been booming of late. When we say a 'dashboard', in this context we mean merging the functionality from multiple different social media sites into a single screen and/or providing consolidated reporting. Welcome to the world of Social Media Analytics!
In the following series of blog posts we're going to do a comparison of social media dashboards and comparisons of social media analytics tools.
Let's start with one of the most popular - Hootsuite.
Hootsuite is being used by over 3 million users/companies including several "biggies" of the corporate world too. The best part is that if you wish to test the waters, Hootsuite offers a free trial too and of course the Pro version comes with the additional corporate level features such as multiple users.
So what does Hootsuite offer? Suppose say you have a Facebook, LinkedIn and a Twitter account for your company and you would like to monitor all the activity from a single dashboard in all these accounts. Add these accounts in Hootsuite and you have all accounts managed in one place. You can post to multiple accounts at once, schedule posts and create a consolidated report for each social media tool's performance.
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In the image above a company's twitter account tab (other tabs are for the various accounts for Facebook, LinkedIn etc.,) displays four columns. Unlike a typical twitter account notice how Hootsuite can be customized to display tweets from various sources, Inbox, Sent, Home feed and Mentions. Each of these columns (called Streams in Hootsuite) can be browsed and refreshed separately, and you can perform tasks such as send targeted messages to recipients and follow other social media accounts. From here you can be in touch with teams, very useful for collaborative work such as campaigns and larger organisations with multiple people managing the corporate social media accounts. You can also customize the number of streams displayed.
Now here's something really cool. Hootsuite provides a better dashboard than what the actual Twitter or Facebook application provides. Even the way your view of the tweets, posts etc., can be customized for your optimum viewing instead of going by the standard options and views that Facebook or Twitter would provide you.
Note that apart from social networking accounts you can also add RSS feeds so you can monitor news about your company, brands etc. Plus you can also add other social apps for YouTube, Tumblr, Mailchimp and Flickr to name just a few.
Probably Hootsuite's most useful feature from a 'return on investment' monitoring perspective, is the Analytics feature which generates reports that will provide you with valuable feedback about your social media accounts. Let us say you have launched a new product using your social media networks. With Hootsuite's analytics you can monitor how the marketing campaign is progressing on the various social media networks in your account and then take appropriate action. Do note however that most reports cost extra, depending on what statistics you add to them but it is definitely worth the additional cost if you need to provide management level reporting.
Below is the image of a report in Hootsuite generated using one of the many standard reporting templates.
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You can also export the report in one of two formats .pdf or CSV. You can also print and customize the report. Apart from this you can create your own reports.
Hootsuite comes in various versions for Android, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and is available as Free, Paid and Enterprise versions too.
Hootsuite has competition from a few other social media dashboard applications namely Tweetdeck, Seesmic, Social Report and Buffer. We'll look at these apps in the coming posts and then provide a comparison chart in our final post. Stay tuned!