As marketing technology and artificial intelligence gets smarter, there are more options available for automating certain tasks such as social media management. For companies of all sizes, being able to refocus employee time and energy to bigger and more strategic initiatives is positive for both business and the bottom line. However, there is no one-size-fits all approach to any social media management solution, so how do you know which one to choose?

How to get started…

The amount of available social media management tools can be downright overwhelming. Knowing where to focus your energy and research is a great place to start.  Alfred Lua of Buffer did an amazingly comprehensive review of many of the social media management tools available. He segmented his research by end-user company size, researching and reviewing solutions that are best for both small businesses and enterprise organizations.

The final research is available in a downloadable spreadsheet that outlines pricing plans, product offerings, social networks supported and any unique value each has to offer.

Questions to ask yourself when choosing a solution

Yes, you may now have a comprehensive list of available social media management solutions (thank you Mr. Lua), but this doesn’t mean you now just randomly select a company to go with. Like any new technology or marketing strategy, it is ideal to have a plan in place first. Here are a few questions to ask yourself (and your team) to help you determine which solution is the right fit:

  1. Who is your audience? Having the tools that will auto-tweet or schedule posts out far in advance is great, but make sure you have a firm understanding of who your audience is and what they are interested in. This helps with selecting the proper sources you want to follow and share, growing your presence and your authority.
  2. Which social media networks are you using? Not all social media management systems support all of the networks. If you are planning on using just a few of the more popular networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, you will have more options vs if you are planning on using Foursquare or YouTube.
  3. What tools do you need? Are you looking for publishing, monitoring, and analytics or do you want more robust options such as CRM, marketing/social calendaring, and content library? This will help you focus your efforts on the companies that have the tools you need.
  4. What are your long-term goals? Are you looking to just have a tool to maintain and grow your presence or are you looking to really grow your company with the need for something more robust in the future? Understanding where you are now and where you want to be will help you select the tool that grows with your company.
  5. What is your budget? Most solutions offer a plan that will work for any size budget, and some even offer a free plan or a free trial. If you are a little uncertain as to whether or not social media automation is the right choice, starting out with a free trial (or a free plan) is a good way to go. You can easily upgrade to a plan after your free trial, or stop altogether if you are finding it isn’t working.

A deliberate choice creates a long term solution

The key takeaways here – don’t get overwhelmed, and don’t be a kid in a candy store. Yes, there are a lot of options, but with some pre-planning, a healthy understanding of your goals, and a little research, you can find the right social media planning tool for your company, regardless of size or social media experience.