In 2008, a young Australian couple launched a Web marketing tool call Wildfire. Designed to integrate with multiple social media sites, and with a strong focus on Facebook, Wildfire found its niche in the social management market by offering promotional management along with website and social media integration.
The platform caught on like...well, wildfire. In July 2012 the app was purchased by Google. Since then the app has been integrated into Google+, Google's social media platform, with a focus on helping brands run games, contests and other promotional features through their social media.
What does all this mean for small businesses? It has the potential to be a giant leap toward the successful monetization of social media and a way for businesses to manage campaigns across multiple social media platforms. But with Google now at the helm, despite obvious Wildfire integration with social competitors such as Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, plenty of opportunity exists for new third-party social media marketing firms to compete.
Managing your business's social life
There are so many social media platforms out there it's hard to even name them all, let alone pin point which ones would be the most beneficial. Most business owners now utilize Facebook or Pinterest, but apart from celebrating your five thousandth friend or how many re-pins you've had over the past month, there's been no way to really quantify how social media is helping your small business.
That's where social media management tools come in. Not only do they help you post across multiple platforms, cutting down on the number of hours you spend working on business promotion, but they also help you keep track of the relative success of your efforts. Some platforms even compare how your social promotional efforts are doing compared to other sites, while others, such as Wildfire, offer to manage specific promotions, freeing you up to spend more time running your business.
Selecting your social management tool
Any tool that can simplify and successfully help you manage more than one social media account will help you save time on marketing and promotion. Following are a few of the more popular platforms for varying types of businesses, from the single-owner small business to corporations:
Wildfire: As mentioned earlier, Wildfire is in line to be one of the most powerful social marketing platforms on the market. Even before it was purchased by Google, it was already making waves in social media management. Along with managing and scheduling posts across multiple social media platforms, Wildfire helps businesses optimize their advertising through automated adjustments and integrates eye-catching templates into your social media pages that are also mobile friendly.
At any time, the software offers analytics that show the relative success of advertising campaigns and referral sites, and a monitoring option allows you to compare your social marketing efforts with others in the industry. Lastly, their flagship option of social marketing promotion and management allows you to customize campaigns, contests, giveaways, quizzes and even coupons on your social pages. Wildfire works well for just about any size business, and options are available for purchasing promotions by the day or by the promotion. The social marketing suites, however, tend to run on the upper end of $2,000 per month (but may be more effective than print or billboard ads).
Salesforce Buddy Media: Buddy Media was purchased by corporate management software company Salesforce in the summer of 2012 in an effort to create "the first comprehensive Marketing Cloud". Designed to optimally work with the same medium-to-large size businesses that Salesforce targets, Buddy Media offers several social management options, from social "listening" (to see what's being said about your company and to follow posts relevant to your industry), to managing social ads for optimal use.
BuddyMedia stands out with its ability to assign particular aspects of management and social responses to different divisions within the company. The platform also tracks how well your company is engaging its audience and offers analytics and monitoring of your marketing to gage relative success. Pricing for BuddyMedia is not published as it depends on the extent of your company's needs.
SproutSocial: SproutSocial is a clean little management platform that seems to be ideal for smaller businesses. A main dashboard allows the user to supervise multiple platforms at once with all incoming messages directed to one inbox and the ability to schedule posts to go out across platforms. SproutSocial also allows users to track their success in separate platforms with an analytics feature and offers RSS integration for up to five feeds.
Just as with Wildfire and BuddyMedia, SproutSocial can be managed via mobile as well as desktop. And as of March 2013, SproutSocial is also offering an engagement report called #BePresent. The report shows how well you are engaging your audience across platforms, showing how many messages you've received and replied to, comparing that to the response rate of others in the industry. The service is free for a Twitter report, but only SproutSocial members can receive reports on other platforms. SproutSocial runs from $9 a month to $49 a month for the business version.
What social media sites have seemed to work the most for your industry? Have you tried another social media management platform that worked well for your business?
Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of promotional marketing pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.