I’ve run a few social media sessions recently for PR and comms folk working in the voluntary and public sectors. One thing that comes up in discussions with them is how to get the most out of social when it’s just one of the tools in their kit, and time is limited. Talk turns, of course, to low cost tools they can use.
As with most things, you get what you pay for. Even best in class tools such as Google Analytics have their weak spots. However, the tools outlined below are, in my opinion, the best free tools to help you get started with a social media strategy. No one tool will do everything (not even paid ones) so you will need to experiment and find the combination that works best for you.
SocialMention.com – As far as ‘free’ options go, this is a solid as it gets. Alternatives: BoardReader.com (discussion board specific), Addictomatic.com (a general listening dashboard) and PeopleBrowsr.com (big data, big insights).Each of the major social media platforms can be interrogated using a combination of specific tools including: FBsearch.us (Facebook), Monitter.com (location-based Twitter search), TagDef.com (Twitter hashtags), YouTube/KeywordTool (YouTube content optimization tool)
Influencer Research / Identification: This is a much-debated topic thanks to the existence of Klout.com, PeerIndex.net, Kred.ly and the like. While these tools are useful to a degree, the listening tools listed above (when used manually), are just as useful.
There are literally millions of tools and process for discovering relevant content and arranging it online so it can be re-purposed / re-shared. Bo.lt, Trap.it, YourVersion.com and MyCube.com are just a few examples of content curation and discovery tools which you can tailor to suit your needs. en.fooooo.com (video search engine which aggregates results from all the major video platforms
Scheduling: BufferApp.com – A simple way to ‘pace and space’ your updates across multiple social networks.
Google Analytics is the king when it comes to free website insights but lots of other tools can play a role too. StatMyWeb.com is a great all-in-one tools to get a feel for the performance of any website on the planet and SiteTrail.com/analysis/ can track site performance over a time period.
Social media analytics tools
Facebook: In addition to Facebook’s own insight tools, there are third party ones like Booshaka that will help you see who on your page is most engaged, so you can reward and recognise your biggest fans.
YouTube: The YouTube Comments Search tool is worth having in your toolkit to assess community sentiment post-upload.
If you are after a social buzz aggregator, sites like ZoomSphere.com, YourBuzz.com and Unilyzer.com also worth a look. ViralHeat.com provides great insights too and has an extension that provides you with sentiment on any social network page (as reliably as is technically possible).
One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of these tools are free only at the basic level, and will want to upgrade you, so will hold back on giving you all the really useful stuff. If you’re going to pay, there there’s a bunch of options out there. But that’s a topic for another day.