My Social Tool Belt:
Management Platforms I Actually Use (and Love!)
Without tooting* my own horn too much, I’ll preface this post by stating that I’ve been working with social media marketing in a variety of contexts for nigh on six years now. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, LinkedIn, and the blogging frontier are all in my repetoire thanks to various internships and jobs over the years. Learning how to wield those powerhouse social media platforms has always been a mainstay hobby of mine, but it’s strange to realize that I’m now transitioning from simply learning to sharing what I’ve learned with others. Whether in formal presentations or in on-the-fly conversations with friends and peers, I’m often invited to share my recommendations for best practices, new trends, and more.
*Secretly, I just like the word ‘toot’. I dare you to whisper it to yourself without laughing.
For now, I’m managing a steadily growing social media and blogging presence alongside project management duties at Mostly Serious. My role here is such that I’ve been able to experiment with crafting the penultimate, highly organized social media management process of my dreams. As I’ve settled into my routine, I’ve added tools here and there to help me accomplish the gig, so the least I can do is share what I love about them and how they make work life easier for me. Read on!
After literal years of poking around with social scheduling and management tools on a surface level and ho-humming over one’s benefits versus another’s, I settled on TweetDeck almost immediately after downloading it. Whereas I’ve always found HootSuite’s interface to be clunky and limiting (I’m not trying to fire shots here, but it’s high time for that design to get a refresher) and a plethora of other tools to be lacking in real time power or some other obvious need, TweetDeck was the instant Goldielocks and the Three Bears winner: it was, and is, just right for me.
My joy in a great management tool doesn’t come from spending hours fumbling my way through hidden features or learning how to navigate something — it comes from being able to master it in a matter of minutes. TweetDeck helped me finally accomplish that with real time updates of my various Twitter feeds and notifications, columns that I can customize and drag-and-drop into my dashboard, and a scheduler so simple that I can zoom through a week’s worth of updates in a fraction of the time I could with other tools. It’s minimalistic, costs nothing, and suits me perfectly.
The downside? If I outgrow it by as a few as two or three more accounts to manage, I might have to start shopping again because I can’t see the dashboard accommodating much more, lest it turn into an accordion of smushed content. That’s a shame, because I’m pleased as punch with this tool as is, especially because it’s F-R-E-E.
An alternative tool to use for scheduling and planning is Buffer, which includes scheduling options for what I tend to refer to as “The Others” — LinkedIn and Google+. It’s easy to set up and simple to use, but I’m already married to TweetDeck for now and tend to just resentfully use Facebook’s scheduler because it’s… well, it’s there.
In short: I’ve tried an awful lot of these things, and TweetDeck seems to be the best, most efficient tool for small-time social media managers. Big leaguers, check in with me here, because I’m curious — what do you use?
A few months ago I was presenting on social media practices to a group of non-profit leaders here in Springfield. During the Q&A session, an audience member raised her hand and said to myself and the crowd that she recommended a tool called Canva* to put together appropriately sized images for most major social media platforms. I’d been looking for a good app for that and her recommendation peaked my interest, so I promised to check it out.
*I hope she was a rep for Canva.
The first time I actually used Canva, I thought to myself, “FINALLY!” because it’s a bells-and-whistles, “all that and then some” kind of image editing app. Canva’s existence is amazing for us all, given that there’s now scientific backing for the benefits of great visuals on social media. It’s also just about as easy to learn as TweetDeck, and at least for me, simplicity and speed is the name of the game when it comes to getting my posts out to the public.
Canva’s schematic is interesting. Its foundation is about what you’d expect — you first select an image size optimized for whatever your purpose is (a Facebook post, a Twitter cover photo, a business card, seating markers for your cats’ wedding, etc.). From there, though, it rockets you straight into layering on design options that, until now, haven’t really been so easily available to non-design plebeians like you and me. They’re all very pretty and easy to manipulate, which gives its users almost limitless opportunities to ruin a perfectly well-designed template.
There are a lot of $1 design add-ins to select from among the free ones, but honestly, I don’t know why you would. Every option is tempting, but even the free stuff is awesome, and yes, you can change text color, font, size, backgrounds, and all that good stuff too.
Canva For Work (all together now: squee!) is coming soon. You can sign up for it ahead of time, but I’ll definitely be waiting in the eaves for this mystery to drop because the existing Canva has already made my work routine much better.
In short: Canva’s the best thing since sliced bread to design-conscious social media managers. Go enjoy this candy store equivalent of an image editing site in its current state while you can.
PicMonkey, Canva’s quirky, community college cousin, serves a few very specific purposes for me: resizing, cropping, and collage-making. I use it about once every other day for some reason or another, especially when I find myself working with arbitrary pixel dimensions.
What I like about PicMonkey as an editing tool is that, like my other favorites, it’s super easy to use and can keep up with my need to get from point A to point B in just a few clicks. Basically, it’s got all the Photoshopping basics I need so that I rarely have to actually power up Photoshop.
You can also save images that are more or less optimized for the web. When saving, you can select from “the Roger”, “the Pierce” or “the Sean,” which is mildly confusing if you’re not much into the 007 franchise, but is sort of funny all the same. Pro-tip: just go with “the Pierce” every time for quality images that are closer to being optimized for web.
In short [in the voice of an old-timey Concessions salesman at a baseball game]: Hey, get your Photoshopping basics here! Hey!
The creators of this one are delivering a solution to a big hole for Instagram users right now. Although it’s my most beloved social tool ever, my personal, everlasting beef with Instagram is that it doesn’t cater one bit to business identities (and yet McDonald’s ads show up on my feed — I. See. How. It. Is.). You can’t easily toggle between accounts and you can’t schedule posts, which is frustrating.
However, Latergramme has pulled a serious double hitter for users in that 1) you can easily schedule posts with it and 2) you can schedule them (or just post in real-time) directly from your desktop via latergram.me. I LOVE this because the dance I sometimes have to do to post something for Mostly Serious is a serious time-suck for me. It goes like this:
- I send the photo I want to use to my email.
- I hop onto my email client from my phone and download the photo.
- I fumble my way into @mostly_serious on Instagram (I’m normally logged into my personal account first), pull the photo from my camera roll, and set up the post.
See? Kind of annoying. With Latergramme, I can skip all that and finally stop asking my co-workers to post to our Instagram account for me on days that I’m out of the office.
The only small hurdle you have to jump with Latergramme is getting accustomed to how it works. Whether you schedule a post in advance or post it in real-time from Latergramme, it doesn’t actually post to Instagram until you approve it from your notifications, probably because that’s just the best it can do with Instagram’s API being all, you know, the way it is (I’m not a developer, so hush). It’s not a perfect tool, but it’s leagues better than what we had previously, which was a fat lot of nothin’.
In short: Latergramme takes some initial set-up effort, but the scheduling from desktop feature makes this tool a game changer.
If This Then That (IFTTT)
IFTTT is a great tool that I like to dabble in but don’t actually use very much yet. It allows you to set up rules (or recipes) from one platform to the next; so, for instance, if you post an Instagram photo to your account, you can set up a recipe so that the Instagram automatically forwards to a specific Facebook photo album of your choice. It lets you string up high-level, surprisingly specific webs of connectivity, which is so awesome in theory (but my actual use of it will get there, I promise). A bonus of IFTTT is that it houses a ton of a social networks, some of which I’ve never heard of.
The name is not my favorite, but the tools are. With Followerwonk you can do some quick high-level Twitter work, like search bios to find relevant new accounts to follow (for instance, I did a search of “digital agency” and got an almost overwhelming number of results) or compare anyone to anyone and get basic stat results. If you’re looking for identifiers that don’t come with other analytics services, this is a tool to check out.
Although I spend most of my days working with social content either for myself or for my business, I don’t consider myself an expert in any capacity because social media marketing is a rapidly changing industry with few constants. Not only that, but I’m still setting up a management routine for a position I more or less created for myself, so there’s still — and always will be — so much to discover. So I have to ask: What’s in your personal tool belt? What platforms are better than these? What platforms have you abandoned? What’s your favorite color to wear? I have all these questions and more, so feel free to comment and we’ll talk it all out.