6 Steps to Buying a Social Media Tool

June 13, 2018

Social media tools help you cut down on the time it takes to manage your company's digital persona. Following these 6 steps will let you pick the best one for your needs.

Now that 83% of B2B organizations are using social media, it’s safe to say that social media is a major campaign channel. Marketers use it alongside email and video marketing, but they’re not always sure of the best ways to measure social media results.

That’s why many social media managers are turning to automation to scale their efforts—and they need the right stack to do it. But according to Social Media Examiner’s 2016 Social Media Industry Report, a surprising 86% of social media managers don't know which tools are best.

Because we at Haatzama Marketing have tried many social media tools ourselves, we wanted to provide advice for those searching for the perfect social media tool.

1. Justify the Spend

Social media return on investment (ROI) is more challenging to prove than other channels, but it’s not impossible.

Being able to quantify the hours you’re investing in social media is one of the best ways to make a case for a social media management tool. Use data to show how much time you’re spending, estimate time saved by the right solution, and you can make budget sound like a no-brainer.

If you’re not already logging the time you spend managing social, start today. A tool like Toggl is free, easy to use, and beats tracking hours on a spreadsheet.

2. Step Away from Free/Freemium Tools

Marketers often have tight budgets, so it’s important to spend money on the tools that really matter.

Free tools sometimes work just fine, especially for specific needs. WordStream published a helpful list of free tools for social media management.

For example, if you’re looking to manage several Twitter accounts, TweetDeck offers a great (and free!) solution.

Tweetdeck example screen

However, we’ve found that, while free tools work well, they have limited functionality. Using solely free tools can lead to stacking many solutions, ultimately complicating the social media management process

Freemium offerings (or those that give some free functionalities, but charge money for the rest) from companies like Hootsuite often prevent social media managers from using these tools to their fullest extent.

Marketers trying to grow their brand presence with free/freemium models will eventually build such a complicated stack of free tech they aren’t actually saving time.

If you’re searching for a general social media tool, expect to pay at least some money.

3. Define Your Requirements

Decide what you want to focus on before you shop for a new social media tool. Make a list of the top three things you need your tool to do and allow you to share those requirements with your team and potential vendors.

If you’re not sure where to start, look to review sites for types of social management tools that exist to guide you. Here are just a few features you might want your social media tool to handle:

  • social listening
  • social measurement
  • sentiment scoring
  • social post analytics
  • As you research, use your goals as the criteria. Remember, tools that support several needs will help you keep the number of tools to a minimum.

Make a simple spreadsheet of the tools and mark which of your desired features each solution has. If Excel isn’t your strong suit, you may find useful templates online.

Collaboration is another important step in building a requirements list. Anyone involved with social media, from execution to strategy, should come together to create a comprehensive list.

Together, you can identify which of the things on the list are “want to have” vs. “need to have.”

Starting with a complete list of requirements will help you select the right tools to invest in.

4. Read User Reviews

According to a study by TrustRadius, 84% of buyers look for peers input and user reviews. There’s a reason why consumers seek information about a tool from sources other than the vendor.

If you want information on a company’s customer service, or a tool’s functionality over time, you’ll get an honest perspective from users who have needed it.

This transparency is leading a growing number of buyers to rely on peer experience. Unlike a salesperson, user reviews of social media solutions will give you information about the strengths and weaknesses of a tool.

A full understanding of the solutions you are considering will allow you to choose the best solution for your needs.

5. Review Your Referral Traffic

A look at your website data will help you make the right decision about which social media tool to use.

If you use Google Analytics, look at the source of your referral traffic. This will reveal the websites that are driving traffic to your website — both organic and paid.

Knowing which channels are referring traffic will help you know which channels you should focus on.

For example, some platforms still struggle to integrate with completely is LinkedIn. Two years ago, when LinkedIn cut ties with many third-party apps, they their data became unavailable to many social management tools.

Today, providers like SproutSocial (pictured below) have developed solutions for LinkedIn data, while others have plans in their roadmap.

Sproutsocial screen

A concise list of the platforms you need to work with can guide you toward solutions that integrate with those platforms.

6. Try Before You Buy

Test-driving a social media solution using a free trial can be a great way to figure out whether a tool meets your needs. Demos make good introductions, but dummy data won’t show you how tools work with your own company’s information.

Trial periods can keep you from wasting money by making commitments to solutions that don’t work as expected. Many tools, like BuzzSumo, have monthly pricing models, but some require annual commitments.

Even if the vendor doesn’t advertise a free trial, they will usually grant your request if you ask.

In case you can’t get a free trial, ask lots of questions and request that the vendor show you real-time examples and reports with your company’s data. That way, you have a better understanding of how it will work for you. And of course, make sure you can back out if you’re unhappy.

Try out several solutions, if possible, to compare how each meets your needs.

Be Realistic about What Social Media Tools Can Do

As you’re evaluating solutions, remember that, like all software, social media tools aren’t made for everything.

Buy tools for their strengths and look for complementary solutions to mitigate weaknesses in your overall marketing stack.

Once you’ve made your purchase, keep tracking your time to measure how much you’ve saved with the new technology. You may even want to blog about the experience to help your peers with similar decisions. 

About the Author

Angela Earl headshot Haatzama MarketingAngela Earl is president of Haatzama Marketing, an agency providing marketing operations services to B2B marketers to fuel growth. With experience on both sides of the agency-client relationship, she understands what it takes to produce quality work that meets expectation. She is passionate about driving revenue through operational alignment, performance measurement, and marketing technology.