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An overview of social media marketing tools: Who, what and why

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17th Nov 2014
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For businesses, the dazzling array of social technology platforms and vendors on the market is bewildering. With so many players to choose from, evaluating which of these tools is right and how your business can benefit from them is a real challenge.

The social technology landscape is constantly evolving, with new features and technologies in development all the time. To help make sense of this complex social technology landscape, we have cherry-picked some of the most popular platforms on the market to take a more in-depth look at, alongside some of our favourite social technology tools.

Analytics tools

Analytics tools facilitate quantitative analysis of digital metrics; measuring your digital presence on various platforms including your social media profiles, website and online conversation about your brand.

Examples of analytics tools include:

Brands use analytics tools for all kinds of reasons, to bring insight and intelligence to their online activity. Here are some of the ways that you might use analytics tools:

  • To understand which digital platforms work for your brand and achieve the highest reach
  • Discovering how users are engaging with your content, which content works best and when/ where to share it
  • To figure out who your audience is on social media and how to target certain demographics

Different analytics platforms provide different metrics and information, but there’s no single tool that will give the solution to any business question. Therefore, it is important to look in detail and consider the strengths and weaknesses of the different tools to see which best meet your business needs.

Listening tools

These tools help you to monitor or ‘listen’ to any online conversation happening around your brand. They can also help you keep up with trends and topics relevant to your industry and audience. Some analytics tools also serve as listening tools and vice versa.

Examples of listening tools include:

Here are some of the reasons to use a listening tool:

  • Monitor conversations about your brand, products and competitors
  • Monitor the volume of mentions of a particular topic or brand
  • Discover the sentiment of conversation about your brand: see what customers really think of you
  • Provide top notch customer service, swooping in to save the day whenever someone is having an issue with one of your products, even if they don’t come to you directly for help
  • Identify influencers and brand advocates in your industry
  • Carry out customer research and find valuable brand insights

If you’re using social media as a marketing channel for your brand, using a listening tool to monitor conversation is a must, helping you to find and engage with existing and potential customers rather than simply talking to an empty room. Even if you’re not active on a social media platform, seeing what users are saying about you can provide valuable insights, especially when launching a new product or service.

Social media management or Engagement tools

These third party tools are used to manage your social media presence, providing enhanced functionality such as scheduling content and providing a detailed view of your activity. They also allow you to see activity from multiple social platforms in one place.

Examples of social media management tools include:

Some advantages to using a social media management tool as opposed to posting directly from a platform include:

  • General community management across multiple platforms
  • Planning and scheduling social content ahead of time
  • Viewing all notifications and activity from a personalised dashboard and engaging with other users
  • Collaboration with other team members
  • Monitoring around a specific campaign

If you’re already using social media to engage with your customers, you may already be using one or more of these management tools. However, it might be worth experimenting with different platforms (most have free plans or trial versions) for a specific campaign or just to see which platform best suits your business needs.

Content creation tools

This is a fairly broad category, covering any tool which helps you to create and distribute online media including infographics, webinars, screencasts, social media posts and much more, without using more complicated software like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro.

Notable tools in this category include:

The advantages of these tools are varied but fairly clear, here are some great ways you can use them:

  • Create high quality visual content and graphics for digital use quickly and cheaply, even if you don’t have designers in your business
  • Share your voice, screen or social campaign with other people through a streamlined, visually appealing platform
  • Enable your business to host complex, in depth content such as webinars or whitepapers without paying for expensive tools and software

Gone are the days of paying hundreds or thousands for the license to use the latest professional software anytime you want to edit an image or produce a piece of content. There are plenty of options out there and it’s worth having a look, especially if you work in a small business. You will be amazed at what you can achieve.

Social business tools

We’re strong believers in social business here at Bloom and the digital transformation that many businesses are currently going through. This group of tools, elsewhere recognised as ‘enterprise social software’, e, e, ffectively function as private social networks for internal business communications and collaboration.

Here are some prominent examples of social business platforms:

Most businesses carry out internal communications by email, some form of instant messenger, o, or the old-fashioned way (aka in person). These platforms introduce some of the benefits of social networking to business communications:

  • Streamline communications on a topic to just one area rather than dealing with endless separate conversations or email streams
  • Collaborate with your colleagues, open up a question or project to everyone in the business and get a fresh perspective
  • Enable simpler communication between departments or global markets in larger organisations
  • Getting creative and encouraging people to put forward new ideas can be easier and less daunting through an online platform

The majority of businesses use a multitude of online platforms to handle everything from timekeeping, to holiday booking, to planning the Christmas do. Used properly these platforms can make a major difference to internal communications and efficiency.

Advocacy tools

Employee and customer advocacy is all the rage at the moment, enabling brand advocates to communicate your brand messages to their individual social networks. These platforms give employees or customers VIP access to your brands latest news and content and the freedom to share it.

There are lots of new platforms emerging in this market. Some of the best include:

Here are some benefits your business could gain from using an advocacy platform:

  • Enhance the reach of your lovingly crafted content by encouraging advocates to share it
  • Improve audience trust: studies find that messages communicated by an employees are trusted more than those communicated by the brand directly (Edelman: 2014)
  • Involve more people in your company with your marketing efforts, improving communication and maybe even inspiring some new ideas
  • Hire great people by utilising employees networks: there are probably already some great candidates waiting to be found
  • Incentivise and reward employees and customers for engaging more with your online brand, making them happier whilst enhancing your brand

Many of these tools have only emerged in the past couple of years so it’s worth testing before you buy. However, the benefits of advocacy programmes are being realised by businesses around the world and can help you stay ahead of the curve and make the most of your digital presence.

Conclusion

I’ve outlined a number of social tools and platforms, hopefully providing a concise overview of the social technology market and the potential benefits.

Remember, even if you are already using one or more of these kinds of tools, it is worth regularly re-evaluating whether they are delivering enough business benefit or whether there may be a better alternative out there. New social technologies are created all the time; many of the tools above are new entrants to the market. Keep your ear to the ground for new technologies that might improve the way you do business. 

If you are still unsure which of these tools is right for you, get in touch and we can help you choose the right tools for your business.

Further reading:

Kate Cooper is CEO of Bloom Worldwide.

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