Thanks to Nicholas Grizzell from AgoraPulse for this practical guest piece!
It’s 2016. And you have work to do.
But that work doesn’t have to be so hard. It doesn’t have to take so long. You might even be able to enjoy it, too.
As a social marketer, you have to manage a lot of moving parts in an industry that just doesn’t slow down. You can’t really do anything about the second thing except keep your eyes open and steer your company in the right direction.
But the first thing – the moving parts thing – you can exercise a little control over. And the best way to do that is with a social media management tool.
Looking back at 2015, Seriously Social and G2 Crowd asked users to rate the top 4 social media management tools in the industry. And today, we’re going to look over what they learned.
Here are the 8 questions you should ask to choose the best one for your business:
How to Pick the Right Social Media Management Tool
1. Do Its Users Like It?
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
If you keep hearing good things about a marketing tool or service – or anything, really – there’s probably a reason for it. You should give it a closer look.
And the tools to watch in the social media management space are AgoraPulse, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite. More than 9 out of 10 users were satisfied with them, with AgoraPulse taking the lead at a staggering 98% approval rating.
That said, when you’re looking at user reviews, you should keep a few things in mind.
Don’t take testimonials at face value. It’s hard to know how representative those glowing experiences are – or if they’re even true. And you should treat dramatic claims (“industry favorite,” “highest customer satisfaction”) with the same kind of skepticism.
Frankly, it’s better to go to the source – the users themselves – to see how they feel about the product. Yelp, industry blogs, and even social networks – particularly Twitter – can tell you what you need to know.
2. Is It Adaptable?
There are quite a few slow-moving industries in the world, but social media isn’t one of them.
Algorithms are updated, features are revised, and new social networks are launched. Your social media management tool, whatever it might be, has to be able to accommodate these changes.
Or you’ll be left behind.
Thankfully, all the entries performed well in this category. Hootsuite, in last place, still picked up a formidable 8.4 out of 10; Sprout Social and Sendible got 8.9 out of 10, and AgoraPulse ranked with 9.6 at the top.
3. Is It Easy to Use?
If you’re turning to a software solution to reduce your workload, to make your life easier, then it shouldn’t be hard to use. That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
And in terms of ease-of-use, there are two categories you should pay attention to:
- Easy to set up
- Easy to operate
The first category is a one-time thing, but it’s still important.
If you don’t properly sync all your accounts or write your rules the correct way, you might suffer real consequences. The easier it is to get the foundation right – to set up the service – the less likely you are to make a critical mistake.
The second category matters even more.
After all, if you’re working with this tool every day, week in and week out, you want it to be intuitive, bug-free, and easy to use. You want it to just work.
And while all the tools reviewed just work, Sprout Social and AgoraPulse work the best.
4. Is the Customer Service Good?
Things happen. They break, they go wrong.
Sadly, no marketing solution is perfect.
And customer service, although not the first thing most people think about when picking a vendor, can really make all the difference. When your Facebook ad campaign isn’t scheduling and you’re hours away from a major product launch, you’ll be grateful to have a reliable troubleshooting team to help you out.
With their 9.6 and 9.3 customer scores respectively, AgoraPulse and Sprout Social are services you can trust in a pinch. However, even Hootsuite, at 8.0, made most of its users happy in that department. There’s no wrong choice here.
5. Does It Work?
Of course, above all else, it actually needs to work. Specifically, it needs to increase productivity.
The top performers here were Sprout Social and AgoraPulse, with Sendible and Hootsuite not far behind. However, it’s important to consider what kind of company you are and – especially – how big it is.
Enterprise solutions – like Hootsuite – might work extraordinarily well for large organizations, but fall a little short meeting startup challenges.
6. Does It Meet Your Needs?
And lastly of the subject of functionality, we come to business needs. Your business needs.
Because let’s face it – they’re different. You probably have similar requirements to other startups, midsized organizations, or enterprises – whatever you might be – but your company is ultimately unique. It’s yours.
And interestingly here, smaller is better.
Sendible and AgoraPulse, the two startup players, outperformed Sprout Social and Hootsuite, the larger ones. Sometimes niche, highly customizable tools just work better.
That said, the difference between all those vendors is pretty small. They range from 8.3 to 8.6 in user satisfaction. You can’t go wrong here.
7. Where Does It Rank in the Market?
While I don’t recommend basing your decision on market share – what works for everybody else might not work for you – it’s still not a bad criteria to consider.
We all know Hootsuite. They’re undoubtedly the top social media management solution in the industry by market share, company size, and social media presence.
Generally speaking, it’s easy to find people who know how to use it – or who already do. That can make onboarding a more painless process for your social media team.
Farther down the line, AgoraPulse and Sendible are still relatively new to the game. Although they’re easy to use in and of themselves, they don’t have the same gravitas as Hootsuite and Sprout Social – yet, at least.
8. How Much Does It Cost?
This part is important. You do have to pay for your social media management solution, after all.
Hootsuite is the cheapest – at first. They even have a limited-functionality Free version. What’s more, the Pro version, at just $9 a month, is pretty robust too.
When you get to the Enterprise plan, though, things can become much pricier. Prices aren’t publically available here – you have to ask for a quote. But, for large organizations, that price definitely shouldn’t break the bank.
AgoraPulse, with its emphasis on small business needs, clocks in at a very affordable $29. Sendible and Sprout Social are close to double that - $59.
Ultimately, price is probably only a factor if you’re a freelancer or a startup. In those cases, take a close look at Hootsuite (non-Enterprise) and AgoraPulse.
Of course, there are more vendors in the market – quite a few, actually! – so you should do a full, across-the-board survey of everything before you make your choice.
But these four – Hootsuite, AgoraPulse, Sendible, and Sprout Social – are the perfect place to start. And if you’re like most social marketers in the industry, you’ll probably pick one of them anyway.
If you already have a tool, tell us what you like and don’t like about it in a comment.
And don’t forget to check out the original infographic below!