8 social media tools for small business

by Carl Natale on March 28, 2011

Dobra Tea for Social Media Breakfast

Ellen Kanner explains how she uses social media leading up to the launch of her Dobra Tea tearoom in the Old Port.

At Friday’s Social Media Breakfast, there was quite a bit of discussion about tools that can help you monitor social media conversations and update your accounts. As much as I try to keep up with this, I have to admit so much was new to me. I have to thank Nathan O’Leary of Legacy Publishing for giving us his perspective on these tools.

Here’s what I learned:

  • JitterJam looks like an interesting tool that you can use to search social conversations for reputation monitoring. What makes this more powerful than a Twitter search is that it combines the results with a CRM tool. That means you get information on the people talking about your brand. This will cost money.
  • TweetBeep will send you alerts for keywords found in Twitter. This free service is new to me so I can’t comment on it. But there are others that can do this well. I like SocialOomph.com for Twitter monitoring.
  • OnlyWire will update all your social networks at once. Since OnlyWire will charge for each update (Your first 300 each month are free), I’m not sure what the advantage is over Ping.fm – a free service that updates it all. But OnlyWire does offer to automatically take care of Captchcas for you (which kind of makes you wonder about the value of those hard to read codes). Also I’m going to assume that OnlyWire can promise more reliability since you’re paying for it. This doesn’t mean Ping is unreliable. I’m just making an assumption.
  • AddThis/ShareThis are services that allow you put social media sharing icons on your website and blog pages. AddThis will give you analytics on who is pressing your buttons.
  • HootSuite is a service I will heartily endorse. It gives you access to your social media accounts. And by access I mean you can update and monitor. It gives you very accessible tools for free. The premium version allows you unlimited accounts and better analytics.
  • SheerSEO looks like a powerful tool to monitor how your site is being found. One of the benefits is that it will find links to your site hidden in shortened URLs. There is a free 90-day trial.
  • NetVibes is dashboard creation tool favored by soon-to-be-open Dobra Tea owner Ellen Kanner. It will give allow you to pull in results from email accounts, social media networks and site feeds. What you get is a page full of updates. This can work well for anyone who has a ton of sites and accounts to follow. It’s also shareable so employees and partners can share monitoring duties.
  • Twitter needs no introduction. But it needs mentioning because of something that Ellen said about community. She plans on using Twitter to tap into community for her tearoom. This is going to be worth a separate post, but the point is she recognizes an audience that can be converted into customers.

I alluded to reliability issues earlier. It would be an oversimplification to say that premium services are more reliable than free services. But when you rely on free services you have very little leverage over the providers.

Your complaints don’t carry as much weight. Since you didn’t make a deal, there is no leverage to make sure that service continues as you expect.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get good service without paying for it. But ask Ning, Delicious and Xmarks users about how much control they feel they have over those tools.

So be careful about what you use and make sure you have a back up if something changes.

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