5 hot social media tools

These platforms can help brand marketers seeking to engage audiences and key online voices, as well as monitoring conversations and other mentions.

Behind every successful social media marketer is an arsenal of robust marketing tools that help to conceive, implement, and track the success of a social media campaign. A great social tool can save a community manager countless hours of manual data aggregation and analysis. It can also uncover invaluable insights and trends within a brand’s community.

Fortunately—or unfortunately—for us, “sophisticated” and “innovative” social media tools are a dime a dozen, and keeping up with the latest offerings and solutions can be an overwhelming and frustrating process.

Which social tools are the most intuitive to use? Which are most practical for your brand? What platforms will provide your company with the most pertinent and actionable insights? Though the perfect solution will vary from brand to brand, here are my five top social media marketing tools:

1. Socialbakers Analytics Pro

Socialbakers is my go-to tool when I need to develop an in-depth social measurement report for a client or perform a quick competitive analysis for a business opportunity. Enter the URL of any Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube page, and you’ll receive a trove of data, including metrics such as channel growth and engagement rates, and more qualitative insights such as your brand’s most active contributors and average response rates. The biggest advantage to Socialbakers is its user interface; the dashboard is incredibly easy to navigate, with data divided into clear, simple sections instead of buried under multiple buttons and tabs.

In addition to creating insightful measurement reports for clients, Socialbakers also enables you to identify industry benchmarks by evaluating the social success of other brands. You can pull the same metrics for competitors as your own brand, turning painful hours of counting competitor posts and social interactions into a process that takes minutes. The side-by-side comparison helps you understand how your client or brand stacks up against the competition.

Socialbakers is a paid tool that’s priced on a tiered model based on how many pages you’d like to monitor. However, you can test-drive Socialbakers with a 14-day trial and access a plethora of industry reports and helpful industry benchmark statistics in its resource center for free.

Pros: Clean UI, easy competitive reporting, quick access to industry research
Cons: Available only for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

2. Simply Measured

You have to create a comprehensive, beautiful, customized social media measurement report—right now. You need Simply Measured. I have yet to discover another tool that can create such clean and beautifully designed reports. Just enter the link of any public social URL from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Klout, Instagram, or Vimeo, and you’re rewarded with an Excel document or a PowerPoint (your choice) filled with gorgeous graphs and charts that detail daily social growth and trends that can be passed along to clients or stakeholders within minutes. Plus, brands can schedule automated custom reports to be created and emailed to multiple users daily, weekly, or monthly. If the above doesn’t have you swooning, Simply Measured appears to be developing performance report solutions for Pinterest and LinkedIn to debut soon.

There are several free reports you can generate using Simply Measured. Accessing the full depth of Simply Measured reporting capabilities requires a paid subscription (which you’ll need if you’re working for a big brand).

Pros: Beautiful data visualization, fast, affordable
Cons: Historical data isn’t always available for all channels

3. Brandwatch

I’ve had the pleasure—and at times, displeasure—of test-driving my fair share of monitoring tools, and I can certainly empathize with anyone who has encountered a product that provides a data dump of irrelevant keywords and brand mentions, leaving you to sift through and attempt to summarize them into a meaningful report. So you can imagine my deep appreciation for Brandwatch when I discovered its monitoring platform was built around a robust query language that aims to eliminate “spammy” and irrelevant brand mentions that pollute brand-relevant data.

Beyond the standard Web monitoring that Brandwatch does extraordinarily well, the company employs a few key features that are unique to its platform. For example, if you’re curious about who’s consistently talking about your company, Brandwatch will give you a list of your brand’s key online influencers. If you don’t just want to know what people are saying, but where they’re saying it, you can trace brand mentions down to their city of origin. Brandwatch also recently released a new Twitter feature that populates a list of tweets most influential about your brand based on the amount of retweets and impressions received. Rumor has it that Brandwatch is also working on a Facebook analytics dashboard that will roll out soon.

Brandwatch is a paid subscription that’s based on a tiered model. Pricing depends upon on the volume of mentions or queries you intend to pull per month.

Pros: Efficient, “smart” monitoring, location-based results
Cons: Advanced social monitoring is available only for Twitter, expensive

4. Commun.it

All brands with a thriving Twitter community know that interactive engagement is a major time commitment. It takes a keen eye and an attentive community manager to identify your brand’s most influential tweeters and cultivate meaningful relationships. Thankfully, Commun.it takes a lot of the guesswork out of building a strong Twitter presence by serving up the users and conversations your brand should be paying the most attention to.

Primarily, Commun.it does an excellent job of providing a bird’s eye view of your brand’s most valuable relationships on Twitter by identifying community members with large followings that can help spread awareness about your brand. The tool also locates your brand’s biggest supporters by aggregating a list of members who frequently mention and retweet you. No more searching for relevant conversations and new followers, either, because the tool compiles a list of content and people to engage for you—essentially taking the legwork out of maintaining an active brand presence. Last, Commun.it provides high-level activity and engagement reports so you can easily view your brand’s total mentions and retweets, as well as platform reach and number of impressions within a given timeframe.

Commun.it is a free tool for those who wish to monitor just one Twitter account. Users who wish to monitor more than one Twitter profile, or generate activity reports with custom dates, must upgrade to a business or corporate account. Users also have the options to try business or corporate accounts for free for two weeks.

Pros: Simple influencer identification, monitors important user engagement, affordable
Cons: Limited engagement reports for free users

5. GroupHigh

Every social media professional who has executed a blogger outreach campaign knows the amount of manual research and organization it requires. With every outreach campaign you must identify, qualify, and contact several bloggers who fit the specific requirements your brand seeks. Thankfully, there’s a real-time blog search engine called GroupHigh that will eliminate hours of future Google blog searches and meticulous spreadsheet organization.

GroupHigh enables you to filter your blogger search by topic, content, and even location. Once you’ve identified a blogger who’s posting content of interest, the tool will help you qualify the blogger by populating site traffic, SEO, and social network information (which is continually updated within the platform so you don’t have to spend time re-qualifying blogger partnerships from campaign to campaign). Forget hunting down blogger contact information, because GroupHigh already augments its information within the tool for you, ensuring your outreach process is as efficient as possible.

GroupHigh is a paid yearly subscription. The tool allows unlimited queries and lists with the yearly subscription.

Pros: Efficient blogger identification, locates blogger contact information
Cons: Yearly subscription only, so it could be costly for a one-time engagement

On a budget? Here are a few social media marketing tools with completely free versions:

Wildfire Social Media Monitor

Track the daily channel growth for your brand and its competitors for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

SocialBro

Manage and analyze your Twitter community, and find out more about your followers. Plus, monitor hashtags and keywords and access account analytics.

Social Crawlytics

Identify your competitors’ most shared content with the click of a button.

So there you have it-one social media strategist’s take on some of the hottest social tools that can help your brand meet its social goals in 2013. What are your go-to social tools? Have I left anything out that your brand simply couldn’t survive without?

Rebecca Debono is social media strategist for Digitaria. A version of this article first appeared on iMediaConnection.

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