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> How to Choose a Social Sharing Platform
The search for the perfect social sharing platform can make you feel a bit like Goldilocks. Some platforms deliver well in one area and fail in another. In this article, I evaluate three well-known social platforms—Buffer, CoSchedule, and Hootsuite—and compare and contrast offerings.
Upon beginning my first digital marketing internship, I had no idea how much work would ensue, purely from scheduling posts and creating campaigns. I remember the good ole days when creating a post was something I did for fun in my spare time. I never thought I would be hopping from one social platform to another to schedule individual posts, scrambling to grab the ideal photo or design, agonizing over copy, before finally scheduling it. And that was only with one post. Before I knew it, it would be time to schedule another and another... and then maybe one more Tweet here or there. With that first internship, there would be fifteen campaigns in one month I’d need to schedule. I’d go back to work, adding tracking parameters to each individual post until, finally, I had completed the month’s rough social campaign outline. None of this work took into account the events or news stories our company may have wanted to comment on, but the rough outline I had would have to do because I had successfully spent a full week just working on social media.
The above example gives you a glimpse into my workload before I began using social sharing platforms. As you can see, it was hectic, relentless, and a tad bit overwhelming. The day I found social sharing platforms was the day I stopped hectically and hurriedly scheduling content. It was the day I began to dig into metrics when choosing copy and tone. It was a dream day!
For anyone who is still manually scheduling content, please stop! Pick a social sharing platform and not only will you improve your workload, but also help your company craft better performing, well-designed campaigns.
The first step of this process is to outline your needs. Your social sharing platform should be chosen to fit your team’s marketing needs, not the other way around. Here are the top qualities I look for when choosing a social sharing platform, in order of importance:
- Calendar View: This is one of my favorite features. A good calendar view will allow you to see, at a glance, how many campaigns are scheduled, how many individual social posts are scheduled, what time they are scheduled, and what copy they used. Buffer and CoSchedule both have excellent calendar views. Both allow you to make drag-and-drop changes, see some of the copy, and quickly view your campaigns and individual posts. CoSchedule goes the extra mile here. They allow you to set up color schemes to differentiate between campaigns and allow you to see the full copy and image in a hover view.
- Tracking Parameters: Tracking your campaigns allows you to prove the importance of each campaign right down to associated revenue. Hootsuite and CoSchedule have the best versions of this feature. Buffer allows you to add tracking parameters, but it falls under their link-shortening feature and you cannot customize it down to the content level on parameters. It is also solely integrated through Google Analytics. Hootsuite has a link icon at the bottom of the post-builder window that allows easy entry of your CID, UTM, or other parameters. CoSchedule is similar—the parameter appears at the bottom of the post-builder window. All tracking parameters will work after your team integrates Google Analytics into the platform.
- Number of Social Platform Connections: When you have a lot of social platforms for your company, you need to be able to connect them all in one place, so find a sharing platform that won’t limit you.The more social platform connections you can add in a free plan, the better. Buffer allows more social platform connections than Hootsuite’s free plan.
- Integrations: This is another case of “more is better”! Integrations with your social sharing platform allow you to work faster and smarter. Hootsuite has the largest library of integrations available in their Hootsuite App Directory—most of them I have never needed, but there are many to choose from, including any extension or application. Some integrations have different integration set ups, namely Google Analytics. Buffer has basic integrations and only offers a selection of applications for paid users. CoSchedule has integrations, but no applications.
- Post Preview: Being able to preview what your post will look like natively, once it has published, is a feature I have grown to love. You spend hours picking out designs and editing copy so looking at a preview seems like a natural final step before publishing your post. CoSchedule is the only platform currently offering this feature. It will hopefully become a standard for these services as future updates roll out.
- Mobile App: As a marketer, business owner, or employee tasked with social media campaign scheduling, you are busy and on the move a lot. Having the ability to edit, reschedule, and view your schedule from the palm of your hand is vital! Buffer has the best mobile app. It makes it easy to schedule, edit, view, and see quick analytics. Hootsuite’s mobile app is—surprisingly—easier to use than its desktop version and rather powerful. CoSchedule’s mobile app is becoming more powerful, but it still needs development work. Their desktop version, in comparison, is easy to navigate and schedule from, while the mobile app is really only useful for small edits and rescheduling.
- Analytics: I like to use Google Analytics to look at my campaign metrics, so I rated this low on the features list. All of these platforms have metrics associated with them and if you are using the platform to see at-a-glance metrics, Buffer does this best. Hootsuite has analytics reports you can set up but, they are not the easiest to figure out. CoSchedule offers message-level analytics on their lowest plan, but you have to pay for the growth plan to see the social engagement reports, which are the more valuable ones. However, CoSchedule does offer ReQueue, a new feature that intelligently automates re-posting content in campaigns based on its performance. While this feature is available at all pricing levels, it may add to your total cost.
- Browser Extensions: These allow you to post or schedule posts outside of the platform. Hootsuite has an extension called Hootlet which allows for quick posting and scheduling capabilities wherever you are on the internet. Buffer and CoSchedule also have browser extensions that allow quick posting and scheduling.
Final Platform Comparison:
For me, Buffer and Coschedule are the top social sharing platforms.
Let’s Break it Down:
Buffer has a free version where you can have one social account per network and are limited to 10 scheduled posts in your queue at one time. However, you cannot access the calendar view feature in Buffer’s free version. The individual plan is $10/month and the lowest plan for teams is $99/month. This platform also has an extremely powerful mobile app.
Coschedule has a free 14-day trial, but no free version. As my personal favorite social sharing platform and the one I currently use, I don’t mind paying for the ease and excellence this platform brings to my day-to-day tasks. The lowest plan for individuals is $40/month but includes all the calendar-view features I love. The lowest plan for teams is $60/month It also includes integrations with Wordpress, Google Analytics, Bitly, and more. Having the Google Analytics integration allows me to input custom UTM parameters and better track a campaign’s success. The mobile app is still getting some development love.
Hootsuite has a free plan that allows you to connect up to 3 social profiles and have up to 30 scheduled messages in your queue. The individual plan is $19/month and their team plan is $99/month. Overall this platform is not as user-friendly or designed as well, but has a powerful integration/app system and browser extension in Hootlet.
These are only a few features to consider when adding a social sharing platform to your marketing tools. Above all, make sure this addition will help your team meet its goals. Any tool that is too difficult to use or doesn’t simplify your job doesn’t belong in your toolkit. Besides, if your to-do list is anything like mine, you have more than enough on your plate to worry about without any additions.
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