Looking to start a relationship with a Social Media system?

Recently I wrote an article about how important it is to include social media in your digital strategy, but of course someone still has to make it happen. For a few of our clients that someone was me. So, I decided to “date” a few different social media management systems to see which ones might be keepers.

Of course, I didn’t have to. I could post directly to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc., since that’s literally the point of those websites. But then I would have to take all that time and effort to post individualized content on each social media platform. 

And to be honest, that just sounded exhausting and unnecessary when there are solutions developed to solve this exact problem.

A social media management system allows me to pull together content to create posts, schedule when they go live on multiple social media accounts, then monitor and analyze engagement – all with one centralized log-in.

Plus our credit union clients don’t have to hand over their social media site passwords and account info to me or anyone else outside the CU, so it keeps things a whole lot more secure.

But how do you start a relationship with a Social Media system?

You can find lots of articles about which social media management system has the best price, features, or analytics. In these articles you can compare customer reviews, even look at pros and cons.

But what you don’t always get are first-hand accounts of what they’re really like. You don’t always hear about their quirks or bad habits.

So I’m going to tell you about three social media management tools I’ve used recently. I’ll give my general impression of each, including what I like and don’t like, then whether you decide to swipe right or left is up to you.

“And heeeeeeeeeeeeeere they are…”

Hootsuite is a platform with a lot of depth, and looking for some commitment.

Hootsuite is the standard for social media management software. It’s on every comparison article I’ve read. Even when you search for other software, you end up finding articles listing “Alternatives to Hootsuite.” As the old flame of many marketing departments, it’s got a lengthy reputation.

From the first moment I started dallying with Hootsuite, I noticed it has a lot of functionality. You never have to ask, “Can Hootsuite do this?” Yes, it can. Of course it can, but can you figure out how to make it work?

In a lot of ways I was reminded of first learning to use MS Excel. I couldn’t help but feel like it was capable of way more than I was using it for. The user interface is a quick study, though not exactly transparent, and the scheduler lets you plan your posts for any time of day, far in advance.

Some of the other features are more opaque, however. This includes analytics, which is super important to most brands. Hootsuite won’t just hand you these automatically, so you’ll need to set them up on your own. 

Price is the other big consideration for Hootsuite that always seems to come up. There’s no getting around that it’s more expensive than a lot of its competitors. Still, with that price and popularity comes a lot of good instructional material. If you have a problem, you can most likely find instructions online.

“So, do I need Hootsuite?”

This is usually one of the first questions we get from clients who want our help with social media management. The easiest answer is no, you don’t need it, but it’s a major time-saver. 

All in all, Hootsuite is always a good choice, if you’re willing to invest both time and money into your social media management. But not everyone is ready for that kind of commitment.

“Let’s go to bachelor(ette) #2…”

Buffer makes you feel good, but always seems to be a little distracted.

I have a bit of a disclaimer here: Buffer and I were only a Summer romance. I worked with Buffer during a 14-day free trial, and then I ended the relationship. Sorry Buffer.

Buffer is another of the well-known social media management software. It caught my attention from its second-place spot on most of the lists I found in my research.

I liked that Buffer was very user-friendly. Drafting and scheduling posts was remarkably easy, and Buffer even suggests time slots for you to post. The suggested two-to-four slots for each social media platform are a great idea. Brands that are new to social media can really benefit from establishing a schedule.

The limited suggested post times could also be a downside, however. It’s a little too easy to feel like you’ve “done your job” because your suggested slots are full. Current wisdom about social media says you should be posting pretty frequently, and I always felt like Buffer was pushing me to stick to their schedule.

The user interface was pretty dang intuitive. It was really easy to make customized posts for each social media platform, and be able to compare them directly. This is something I haven’t noticed on other social media tools. Buffer is also happy to send you lots of reminders about when to post.

In some ways, though, the simplification of the interface was almost too pared down. I was left wondering where I was supposed to find certain features, like a calendar-view of the posts I’d scheduled.

Perhaps most notably, Buffer is unique in that it separates publishing posts and analyzing them into two different products. I only signed up for the 14-day trial for Publish, and I’m wondering what I missed with Analyze. Having to pay for both products is a pretty obvious downside for most companies.

Altogether, Buffer has a lot of promise. I can see how a lot of marketing departments get nice and comfortable with the friendly UI. Just remember that you might need to get both Publish and Analyze for the best experience.

“Finally, let’s look at bachelor(ette) #3…”

Zoho Social has some quirks, but it’s a great way to get back into the social scene.

Zoho Social is kind of an underdog in the world of social media tools, or at least the omnipresence of Hootsuite and Buffer make it feel that way. 

I started using Zoho Social for a client who was skeptical about Hootsuite’s higher subscription price. We’ve had a comfortable, if a little odd, relationship ever since.

Zoho Social has a lot of what I’m looking for in a social media software. It’s got a great price, an easy UI, a calendar view — the works. 

I particularly like how the homepage displays a “brand health” overview, showing some analytics on your recent posts, the posts themselves, and a feed displaying recent likes and comments. It’s easy to see what’s happening and how you’re doing.

My biggest gripe with Zoho Social comes when it’s time to draft a post. There’s no way around it, the UI is weak. It’s functional, but just not refined. You can’t preview your post until you’ve clicked “save draft” or “schedule.” You can’t select a time slot from the calendar view like you can on Hootsuite.

Aside from actual functionality, there are also some minor quirks, like how the date is always initially displayed day-month-year instead of month-day-year, but then switches when you’ve made a selection. Also, the preview you do get when you select your completed post doesn’t look like what you’ll see on social media.

Overall, bachelor(ette) #3 has some shaping up to do if it wants to compete with the others, but for a CU getting back into the world of social media, it’s a solid choice.

Your favorite social media tool will come down to your taste.

Are you excited about spending time with cutting edge software and learning how to access every feature?

Are you looking for a bit more guidance, with a comfortable, easy-to-use UI?

Or do you just want something to get the job done, without all the bells and whistles?

Every system I’ve discussed here will let you connect to different social media accounts, post content, and respond to likes, comments, and messages. This should be true for any social media tool listed on the articles above, as well.

In the end, the social media management platform you end up sticking with will come down to your budget, needs, and time invested. The most important thing is that you find a way to stay connected to your members, and take the time to interact with them on social media.

Many of these platforms offer free trials, and some have been offering several months free due to the pandemic. Give them a try, see what you like and don’t like. If you find you aren’t thrilled, just dump them and move on. There are plenty more fish in the sea.

And if you need some help, give us a call.

Anyone else have a recommendation? Leave a comment below!

Sam Dicken
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