There’s no shortage of social media tools and apps designed to make your life as a social media manager easier. I recently wrote a list on some of my favorites, and personally, I know I’d be lost without some of them.
Almost every app promises to improve the ROI of your campaign -- or at least cut a few hours' worth of tasks off your plate -- but most apps offer overlapping functionality, and almost all of them cost a monthly fee to use.
If these tools were free and easy to navigate, you could maintain a long list of them for planning and executing your campaign, but at some point, you can have too many; and should that happen, not only will your monthly bills be outrageous, you’ll also get a headache from trying to navigate all of those different interfaces.
So, how many social media tools do you really need to be successful?
Achieving the basics
First, make sure your tools have the capacity to cover your basic social media needs. It’s possible to run an entire campaign with no extra tools whatsoever, but I’d argue that those main areas are lifesavers, and are borderline necessary to make a campaign successful.
Plugins and integrations. First, set up some automatic processes. Find a plugin like Social Warfare, which will let you publish all your new posts to your social media profiles automatically, and give your online readers the chance to share your material to their own personal profiles. These functions are important because, once installed, they won't cause you any worries -- and most of them are fairly inexpensive.
Analytics. Next, you’ll need a strong, reliable way to measure your campaign’s impact. Most social platforms like Facebook and Twitter already offer campaign insights, even if you don’t pay for advertising, but most social marketers should strive for a little more depth and specificity. Google Analytics is a good start here, but a dedicated social media analytics platform like Sprout Social will be able to provide you with more platform-specific insights.
Publishing and scheduling. You’ll be doing a lot of posting on your social apps (at least, if you want your following to remain active and interested), and that’s a tall order for even the most dedicated social media manager. Using a publishing and scheduling app, though, will help you keep track of everything you post, and more importantly, help keep your publication consistent, even when you aren’t actively on the site. Hootsuite and Buffer are two of the biggest names here, and they both offer a host of other features.
Depending on the size and nature of your business, and the goals of your campaign, you may have more niche-specific needs:
Collaboration and management. If you have a large team, or you intend to post many times throughout the day, you'll need at least one tool that allows your team to coordinate. You should be able to delegate tasks, monitor progress and communicate with one other about the scheduling of posts, responses to customers' messages and new developments.
Social listening and discovery. Part of building an active following is understanding what makes your followers tick. If you want to spend more time getting to know your customers, a social-listening and discovery app can help you do it. An app here will help you choose the right topics, jump on up-and-coming trends and even identify influencers to leverage as part of your campaign. Social Mention and BuzzSumo are strong examples here.
Recommendations. If you’re new to the social-media marketing world, or if you don’t have the money to hire a professional, an app that gives you custom recommendations is essential. Such an app can help you catch typos, more easily identify trends in your analytics reports, and maybe even provide you with strategic direction. However, going with an agency or consultant will likely pay off better in the long run here.
These aren’t the only niche applications you can consider, but they are some of the most common.
The case for minimalism
Most social media tools and apps offer multiple functions simultaneously, specializing in different areas. However, I personally advise you to enlist the help of as few tools as possible. There are several advantages to this minimalistic approach:
Cost. For starters, you’ll pay far less money every month for a smaller circle of apps. With most tools charging anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars per user per month, you could save thousands of dollars a year by consolidating.
Practicality and time. Training new people and managing your daily tasks are both much easier when you have only a few apps to worry about. Trying to keep track of dozens at once is exhausting.
Consistency. With less overlap in functionality, your employees will be able to perform their tasks more consistently, which is good if you want to learn and improve your campaign over time.
Dependency. Finally, relying on lots of tools can make you lose focus of what really counts in social media -- interaction and audience-building. Keep your campaign personal, and avoid the temptation to automate everything.
So, how many social media tools do you really need? That depends on the size and nature of your campaign, but realistically, most businesses should be able to get by with one or two. As long as you have all the basics covered, you’ll be in good shape; and remember: You can always add more or make a swap if you find yourself missing a key ingredient.