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Social media monitoring can be helpful, but it’s also expensive. Applications generally come with a monthly per user fee, and many charge additionally for in-depth statistics, custom reporting, or management of more than a set number of social network profiles. Costs easily accumulate quickly.

Because of this reality, it is important to have a clear objective before determining which tool to use or whether to use any at all. Do you want to see analytics for your posts? Do you want to be able to organize teams and assign tasks? Or, do you want to use data to identify potentially high-converting leads? Once you have defined a set of objectives, you can better find the right monitoring application. Here is a quick review of three of the most affordable and widely used options.

SproutSocial. SproutSocial is a monitoring, tracking and management application. Within one dashboard, you can schedule posts, view optimal post times and send messages across multiple networks simultaneously. If you will have multiple people accessing the application, you can organize them into teams and designate which teams will receive messages from specific networks. You can also segment tasks and assign them teams or team members, like following up with a certain prospect or posting on a specific subject or individual social profile.

The service integrates a “Discovery” tool that allows you to search for prospects by interest. Once you are engaged with a follower, you can store your conversations, edit their contact information and add notes for follow-up and sales purposes.

SproutSocial has an edge with its tracking and reporting tools. You can compare of your activity with that of your competitors, get detailed reports on items of your choosing, access follower demographics and measure your firm’s social influence. It also allows integration of Google Analytics and uses the bit.ly link shortener for link tracking.

One of the biggest downsides to SproutSocial is its lack of ability to save messages as drafts. If you cannot finish a post or need an additional piece of information, you have to close it and start over later. Cost is another consideration. SproutSocial starts at $39 per month per user for up to ten social profiles.

HootSuite. HootSuite is considered by many to be the standard for social media management. HootSuite offers many of the same posting and scheduling features as SproutSocial, but at a lower cost. And HootSuite does have a save function, so you can start messages and return to them later. You can also create search streams and filter results by hashtag, geo-location, username or keyword.

HootSuite also supports teams and task assignment. You can create multiple teams and team members and give different teams varying levels of access. This allows you to control who can post to certain profiles. HootSuite also has an internal messaging system within its dashboard that you can use to communicate with other members of your firm.

HootSuite provides tracking reports based on information from Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, Twitter Profile stats, ow.ly click-through data and team use statistics. HootSuite does provide custom reports, but charges an additional fee per report. You also have to have to use their proprietary ow.ly link shortener and can only track links that have been shortened using that tool. HootSuite starts at $9.99 per month for two users and unlimited network profiles.

Buffer. Buffer is a basic tool that many find to be perfect for smaller businesses. Their free account allows you to schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but you only get ten updates per month. For $10 per month (for two users), you can post to twelve networks, including the big three, and schedule unlimited updates.

Buffer gives you access to analytics that track likes, shares and retweets, and it integrates with bit.ly so you can track click-throughs on shortened links. Its strength is in its extension and add-ons. Buffer integrates with Firefox, Chrome and Safari as well as most major newsreader apps, so you can use Buffer to share seamlessly through a web page or external application.

Managing social media activity should not be a hassle. If your firm posts regularly to multiple networks, one of these tools may help you organize your efforts and enhance your results.

About Author

Kristen Friend is a staff contributor for Bigger Law Firm Magazine. She has covered political stories on radio stations like WMNF in Florida and has had her work broadcast by Free Speech Radio News (FSNR). As an Award Winning Art Director, Kristen has been recognized by the WebAwards, Davey’s Award, W3 Awards, Webby Awards, and others for her work with law firms.

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