:: By Kylie Ora Lobell ::
Social media isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It remains more popular than ever, and it's a highly effective way for marketers to reach their target audiences. That's why it's crucial for companies with customers on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and LinkedIn to invest in social media dashboards and platforms for management purposes.
As of this past January, 70 percent of the population in the United States had at least one profile on social media, and by 2018, the number of users worldwide is predicted to jump from 2.1 billion to 2.5 billion, according to Business 2 Community. On Facebook alone, there are 1.55 billion active monthly users, while YouTube has an even billion and Instagram boasts 400 million.
When choosing a social media platform or dashboard to reach these users, keep the following questions in mind.
You don't want to spend your whole marketing budget on a social media management system. In 2015, according to Buffer, marketers spent 13 percent of their allocated funds on social media.
First, you have to look at what your company does and see if it makes sense to put a lot of money into a dashboard. If you're a B2C clothing retailer with a huge millennial fan base, it would be smart to invest in a dashboard that lets you analyze what's going on on Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. If you're a software company selling to enterprise, you might only need LinkedIn.
If you don't have to, then save your money for other marketing campaigns. Use a free social media management tool like Hootsuite for basic tasks. On their dashboard, you can view multiple social media accounts at once, schedule your posts, and create reports based on your progress. Other options include Sprout Social and Buffer.
One big issue with social media marketing is that companies don't know how to measure its effectiveness. This is because they are not properly tracking campaigns. By utilizing a great social media dashboard, you can see how users are responding to tweets, what's going on your Facebook page, and how many people are clicking through to your website. Once you know which content is striking a chord, you can keep producing it and attracting more customers.
Through its analytics widgets, the business dashboard Cyfe, for instance, shows you how many people you reached with your content and pages, the amount of engagement, and the number of clicks, likes and views you received. It also shows which posts were the most popular, what types of impressions you garnered, and which geographic areas your audience is from.
Your social media dashboard or platform needs to show you evidence that what you're doing is working. Otherwise, you won't be able to prove ROI to the higher ups, and you run the risk of losing your social media campaigning power.
A social media dashboard or platform that's never been used in your niche is a gamble. You want to invest in a dashboard provider that understands your company's specific needs and can deliver the type of service you want.
To figure out if a social media management system is right for you, look at the platform's customer list and industry specialties. On the website for the social media management platform Oktopost, for example, the company lists businesses that have successfully used its platform, as well as case studies to prove it. The studies include the problem, solution, and the results of the campaigns.
Look for companies that can prove how effective their social media management platforms are. See how they increased the number of followers for their clients, and how that translated into sales. If you're friendly with other businesses that have similar capabilities as you, ask about their experience with certain platforms and whether or not they've experienced ROI.
Before you invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars, test out the waters with a social media dashboard. Make sure it's user-intuitive for you and all your team members, it's giving you solid feedback on your campaigns, and it provides you with ideas on how to grow.
For instance: Does it offer free reports on your accounts? How about weekly progress emails? Does the company have guides and blog posts where you can learn more about the intricacies of the dashboard? Do they give you a phone number to call or email you back quickly when you have questions?
Figure out the answers to all these questions before you commit to a yearlong subscription that you may end up wanting to cancel after two weeks.
Social media may be free, but if you want the best results possible, you'll most likely have to invest time and money into it. When you track your posts, look at how your fans are engaging with you, and measure your successes, you're guaranteeing that your marketing budget isn't going to waste.
Kylie Ora Lobell is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and has been published by many industry publications. She's passionate about writing on everything marketing.