Features are the bread and butter of any social media scheduling tool, and a comprehensive feature set should be the number one thing you look for when making your decision.
In my years working professionally in the social media landscape, I've used social tools extensively, and I've come up with twelve essential features you should prioritize when picking a management platform.
1. Comprehensive Analytics
If you're a business, you're not doing social media just for the heck of it. We should all be looking at effective metrics to inform everything from our content pillars to our posting schedule, so getting meaningful insights is crucial. Look for a platform that lets you track performance on your important social platforms, business reviews, websites, and blogs. Also, have a look into whether the platform can track social data outside just your own sites. Analytics are great for competitive research so keep an eye out for that as an option as well.
2. Content Calendar/Planning Tools
I'm a big fan of time blocking, which means I like to do my social media content creation in blocks of an hour or two at a time. Then I plan them out on a calendar for the coming days, weeks, or sometimes even months. A good social calendar is super helpful for getting your content calendar squared away, and it's a great feature to have built into a management tool. Planning ahead like this keeps you from getting overwhelmed, and on content driven platforms it's essential for the best results. Then, all you have to do is schedule your posts to be sent out on the day you designate.
3. Social Media Posting
What social media tool would be complete without some kind of posting tool? Scheduling your communications across networks and devices automates the process and eliminates that “wait did I post on social today” panic. All you have to do is tell the tool what day and time you want your message to post, and you're done! Some tools even have a smart timing feature that will look at your audience and guess the most effective time to post your message on that particular day.
Management tools vary a bit about which platforms they can post on, so don't assume that scheduling is a one size fits all tool. Know your key platforms and be sure your tool of choice includes them.
4. Social Media Monitoring
If you've planned, scheduled, and posted your content, then the next step is to monitor the conversation around it! Social listening tools let you “eavesdrop” on what your customers and audience are saying, so look for tools that have a dashboard that tracks brand mentions, relevant hashtags, or whatever keyword you're looking to stay on top of. This kind of listening I find really helpful for getting a better contextual sense of my audience, as well as giving you a heads up proactively if there's a customer service issue you need to respond to.
5. Social Inbox
If someone interacts with you, you want to respond to those messages quickly! So go with a tool with a social inbox feature that brings all your social media messages into one stream. This is a time-saving thing more than anything; you can engage directly without having to constantly monitor your platforms, which will give you and your customers a better experience.
6. Keyword Monitoring
I mentioned earlier about the importance of social listening, but I also love tools with monitoring for keywords that aren't directly related to my brand. Sometimes you want to follow a particular conversation, an event hashtag, whatever! Keyword monitoring lets you stay connected to the dialogue.
7. Post-Time Optimization Tools
This is a fun one. Every audience is different, and even on “professional” platforms like LinkedIn, people log on at weird times. Sometimes I check my post time optimization and it recommends an odd hour, like five PM on a Friday. Go figure, right? But that's the kind of data you can get when you're using a social media tool that does post time optimization. It will help you post your content when it's the best time for your specific audience.
8. Unlimited Presentation-Ready Reports
This is one of those features that's helpful if you're reporting up to someone and need to share your metrics. You might be able to tell the difference between attribution models on your Facebook analytics, but I doubt your Vice President can. A presentation ready report generates your data into a pretty, readable graphic that can be served to your team and your customers. Bonus points if the graphs are white-labeled so you can add in your own company branding.
9. Manage Teams and Customers
If you work on a team of people (or you think you might in the future), be sure your tool lets you delegate work and share access across projects. You may also need to set customized access levels. This is awesome if you support multiple brands with a few teammates, because it reduces the headache of all that emailing back and forth.
10. Measurable ROI
Your tool should be getting your conversions. Whether that's sign ups on your websites, emails added to your list, or purchases made, having a tool that gives you a conversion snippet to track results will let you connect your social media efforts to actual profit. You take the line of code and add it to your website (easier than it sounds, I promise! You can do that with no tech experience), and then watch to see how your efforts are adding to your business.
11. In-App Customer Support
The last thing you want when it's the day of an enormous flash sale or the start of a campaign is customer support that isn't responsive. If something's broken, a company's customer service can be truly make or break. I like in-app customer support (rather than having to email or call), so keep an eye out for their average response time.
12. Partnerships & Integrations
Obviously, your tool needs to connect to the platforms you'll be posting on. But what about your CRM? Your email client? Your analytics? If you're a power user of your social media management tool, you can really make your platform work for you by integrating with your current business suite of tools.
And there you have it! My top-twelve most loved-features for a social media management tool. Did I miss any?
Andréa Jones is a social media strategist who works with lifestyle brands to build their online presence through targeted social media and content marketing solutions. She's also the founder of SavvySocialSchool.com – a membership community with everything you need to achieve visibility, growth, and engagement on social media.