There is definitely not a shortage of tools and apps designed to help us manage social media, the messages we send, the communities that gather and its influence on building brand loyalty. Of course, the right tools are easy to use and add value to how customer experience is managed and measured.
The role of the community manager is evolving to keep up with the enterprise’s commitment to customer engagement. And while companies are expected to make it possible for customers to engage no matter where they may be, there’s no one magic tool for community managers to handle it all. Whether it’s on our desktop or from our smartphone, there are a number of tools that help us see the big picture.
As a community manager for CMSWire, here are a few tools that help me stay on top of trends, manage conversations and share information with team members.
I prefer using desktop tools for platforms that I rely on heavily. When it comes to social media platforms like Twitter, the web-based options were never able to keep up with demand and crashed or refused to reload reliably. With desktop tools you can usually benefit from audible alerts that don't often come with browser-based sites.
TweetDeck by Twitter
What it does: TweetDeck is an app that brings more flexibility and insight to power users across a variety of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
What I like about it: The TweetDeck desktop tool lets me manage many different social network feeds at once and lets me seamlessly post, retweet and share information with followers. New updates have also made it easier to follow conversions from within the platform, rather than having to be redirected to a browser window. Scheduling tweets across accounts is also easier to set up and manage.
What it does: Paymo offers a suite of online tools that makes it easy for businesses and freelancers to manage projects, timesheets and billing. Available for desktop, mobile and web. Free, basic and premium pricing options available.
What I like about it: Invoicing isn't just about billing clients. It's about keeping track of the time you spend monitoring communities. The Paymo time tracking widgets helps me measure my online investments. I can track tasks easily and analyze how much time I spend accordingly. Weighed against other metrics, I can effectively evaluate and change course as necessary to make sure both client and community are benefiting best from my time.
I go between using Firefox and Chrome as my primary browsers, with Safari as a back up (mostly for testing and review). Within these browsers, I have a few tabs that always remain open so I can continually access them whenever I want. It goes without saying that Facebook is among them, but there are others that take up real estate.
What it does: SocialBro delivers a powerful and comprehensive Twitter management dashboard that lets users manage and analyze their Twitter community.
What I like about it: I started using SocialBro for a review I wrote. I use it to monitor multiple feeds. While it gives you a lot of information, most of which you may not use on a regular basis, it's always easy to access when you want to. Best features include "best time to tweet" and dashboard insights, like recent unfollows or influence stats that are easy to read and analyze.
What it does: Sendible is an online marketing service for businesses and marketers to promote, grow and track their brands through the use of Social Media, email and SMS messaging. Variety of plans available, starting at $29.99.
What I like about it: Scheduling posts to social networks seems like it should be easier. However, nothing is as easy as Sendible. You can use it for as much or as a little as you need. I like it for scheduling multiple posts across various platforms at once. Great for social media collaboration, as team members can schedule or set up posts as needed.
Google URL Builder
What it does: Google Analytics URL builder allows online marketers define traffic sources to analyze exactly which elements within various campaigns drove particular results.
What I like about it: URL shorteners are definitely helpful, but without adding campaign tracking it's hard to know what links were posted where. With Google's URL Builder, I can set up various campaigns and conveniently track them from within Google Analytics.
I have too many apps on my iPhone and while I don't use all of them every day, many of them are very handy for when the wifi quits or wifi is hard to come by on the road. Dropbox and Box apps are vital to being able to access docs when I'm away from my laptop, while Instagram, Foursquare, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest apps have become mainstays of my community engagement toolbox. Still, there are a few exceptional apps that I would truly be lost without -- not because I use them everyday, but because when I need them, they never let me down.
Firefox Home & Chrome Sync
What they do: Firefox Home uses the capabilities of Firefox Sync, a built-in feature in Firefox for desktop and mobile, to access your Firefox browser information and securely send it to your iPhone. With Chrome Sync Pro, you can leave your computer at any time, pick up your iPhone or iPad, fire this app up and continue browsing.
What I like about them: If you're like me, you go in and out of phases when it comes to bookmarking tools. I was a dedicated delicious user until it became less reliable, and I've tried evernote, and despite their usefulness I still rely on my browsers' bookmarks to hoard interesting sites and articles of note. Which is why when I'm away from my laptop, I can still access them or my browser history from my iPhone.
What it does: TrendTopic displays the top 20 topics that people have searched for in the past few hours, using data from Google Hot trends. You can break down the search results between those searched on Google News, Google Blog or Twitter.
What I like about it: Google Trends is usually among the open tabs on my browser. TrendsTopic comes in handy usually when I'm in a meeting and away from my laptop. Being able to discreetly or actively consult the trends app can help me stay on top of things (and update networks accordingly) whether I'm at an offsite meeting or in a coffee shop.
A Healthy Mix of Community
With so many social media monitoring and community management tools available, it's easy to get overwhelmed. However, the upside is that after sampling them, you get a feel for what works and what doesn't. Better yet, you can use tools for one thing or another. Nothing says you have to use all the features all the time.
Community management is more than just conversation; it's also about keeping up with what's coming next and being able to access information when you want it, from where you are. Most of these tools have both web and mobile components making it very easy to track time on the go or schedule posts when you're on vacation (it happens!). Most helpful, is that most of these apps are accessible to multiple users, so that community managers can effectively take a day off or get sick without fear of community collapse.
For right now, the community manager is only one person, but in the near future she will be a team of people looking out for each other and the members they aim to serve.