How to manage the multiple online conversations for your business…..(and for us, your PTA)
Guest post by Kim Bale
With the torrent of social media conversations coming at us today, how do you manage the flow?
The answer used to be: Painstakingly and one conversation at a time. But a new crop of social media tools aims to tamp down the social media gusher by letting you update, manage and maintain several communication outlets at once. (While it's sometimes hard to know what counts as a social media dashboard, we're not including a wide range of customer relationship management (CRM) or social media monitoring tools here.)
When selecting a dashboard for personal or professional use, you should consider such items as cost, analytics and which social networks they support, among other things. Our list is meant to feature some of the breakout social media dashboards in the space and highlight their distinguishing features to make the selection process a bit easier.
Threadsy: Unify your email, social networks
1Threadsy is an intuitive, easy-to-use dashboard that allows organizations to connect through multiple email accounts as well as Facebook and Twitter. Free to use, Threadsy is great for managing your brand from one clean dashboard across the big names in social media platforms. With no fees and no downloads, this service should make a splash in the space for both personal use and use by your business or organization.
Myweboo: Organize your information streams
2Haven't heard of Myweboo? That's OK. This upstart startup invites users to discover, browse and read popular streams and share them with friends and followers. You or your organization can choose from a wide variety of “applications” to connect to and stream to a dashboard from categories like news, social, fashion, photo and video. These streams can be viewed together of filtered from “My Dashboard” and then easily shared via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Delicious and other networks. You're in complete control of which sites will make up your dashboard. Free to use, Myweboo is run by an appealing brother-and-sister pair of young tech stars.
Hootsuite: Integrate all your platforms
3Our personal favorite is Hootsuite because of the depth of its products and services. You can update multiple social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and more) from a computer or iPhone, Android or Blackberry. A team of users can track results of their interactions and create a dashboard that will work efficiently with their preferred social streams. Hootsuite offers two versions. One is free and aggregates up to five social network and two RSS feeds; it stores stat history for 30 days and is ad supported. For $5.99 a month, your organization can enjoy unlimited capabilities for a single user, with each additional user costing $10 per month.
Spredfast: For teams of social marketers
4Spredfast allows an organization not only to manage its social media presence but also to monitor and measure its voice across multiple social media channels from one easy-to-use dashboard. A great choice for organizations with multiple hands in social media marketing efforts, Spredfast offers superb organizational tools that help identify and assign tasks to multiple users across multiple social media sites ranging from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and blogging platforms. It also lets you publish video to many video sites at once, similar to TubeMogul. Free for 30 days, Spredfast has pricing tiers that start around $250 per month for businesses. See our recent writeup on Spredfast.
MediaFunnel: Collaborative, permission-based system
5Coordinate and manage your business's social media presence with MediaFunnel, a collaboration platform that lets you navigate and moderate online conversations about your brand. One interesting feature: You can use MediaFunnel to manage your team member's social media updates -- say, by holding your intern's tweets in a queue until approved by a supervisor (roles include admins, publishers and contributors). Chiefly geared to businesses, MediaFunnel makes it easy to combine several social media accounts and to offer solutions for presenting a brand's presence through multiple voices. Scheduled tweets, brand alerts and tweets via email or SMS are supported.
CoTweet: Advanced features for Enterprise users
6CoTweet is used by thousands of individuals and employees at enterprises around the world. The free Standard edition is limited to a few Twitter accounts and geared to a couple of team members. The paid Enterprise edition supports Facebook, too, and is geared to brands more deeply engaged in social marketing, brand building and customer support. It supports an unlimited number of users, advanced workflow, more analytics, third-party integrations -- including Salesforce.com -- productivity tools, unlimited conversation history for deeper customer relationships, a mobile app, rich profiles of fans and followers and more.
Seesmic: Free, clean & credible
7Seesmic allows users to manage unlimited Twitter accounts as well as Facebook, Google Buzz, LinkedIn and Foursquare accounts. Another free service, this dashboard is well-organized and can be sorted into a variety of timelines detailing tweets, retweets, @mentions, direct messages and lists. Seesmic also publishes trending topics, making it easy to join already popular conversations. This dashboard -- created by Loic Le Meur, founder of LeWeb, and his San Francisco-based team -- is clean, simple and affords the ability to update several statuses, send direct messages and check in to locations from one easily navigated page.
Netvibes: Share your widgets with the world
8Netvibes lets organizations keep track of the news and trends that matter, create unique personal and public dashboards and share these public dashboards or sites with anyone, anywhere, at any time. You can easily create fun and personalized widgets -- detailing the weather, to-do lists, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts or Flickr updates, among many others -- and post them to both personal and public dashboards. Businesses can choose a theme, name their pages and organize them with tabs and share them with the world.
TweetDeck: Connect with your contacts
9If you're a Twitter aficionado, you may already use TweetDeck, which works on the Mac, PC, Linux, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android. It connects organizations with contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google Buzz and many more. Free of charge, TweetDeck allows users to schedule future posts, manage multiple accounts and update several social media sites at once to maintain consistency. One unique feature allows users to send tweets longer than 140 characters through smart cross-posting to both a Buzz and Twitter account. Twitter is a desktop app and not Web-based, so one thing we don't like is the inability to manage the app's font size on different screens.
Brizzly: Simplify your updating
10Brizzly simplifies your social media browsing and updating experience while taking some of the work out of keeping up to date with trends and followers. It lets you update on Twitter and Facebook. Its Brizzly Guide helps explain trending topics on Twitter. Brizzly is free.
Also, don't forget other tools that can integrate your social networks:
• You might want to try using a browser as your social media dashboard. Flock has been the most social of the social browsers for the past five years. Others say Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox will get you a social media dashboard with the right add-ons/extensions. And Marc Andreessen's upcoming RockMelt (Mashable review) will take it a step further, requiring you to log into Facebook before using it.
• Unilyzer has a social media dashboard to unify yourTwitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts.
• We're impressed by the private beta of Nimble and will report back when we've used it more extensively.
• TwitterFeed lets you feed your blog to Twitter, Facebook and more.
• Ping.fm is a free service that makes it easy to update your social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and Delicious.
• RowFeeder is a tool to cross-post, to track conversations on Twitter and Facebook and to create analytical reports.
Experiment with the different ways to get your message out and find out the best ways to meet your PTA needs. You need to start out simple and make sure that your board and members are comfortable using the tools that you incorporate. There are Computer Geeks in every PTA. Find out who knows a lot about using social media and other web based tools and invite them to help you and your board create your own marketing portfolio.