Five Killer Social Media Marketing Tools You Need to Use Right Now

While the future of social media marketing remains uncertain, there’s no denying it has affected the way businesses market their brands in a tremendous way.

As organizations continue to increase their spending on social media marketing, the pressure is on social media managers to ensure that each dollar spent generates results.

And as new social media platforms emerge and new features are added to the big social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat), companies and marketers have no choice but to adapt how they promote messages to their respective audiences.

This is where social media marketing tools come in. With the right set of tools, you can spend less time managing campaigns and more time developing effective messages and refining existing ones.

Below, we take a quick look at the best social media marketing tools the pros swear by.

Best Campaign Management Tool: Buffer

Any social media marketer who knows what he’s doing will probably use Buffer every day. But don’t let its popularity fool you. Buffer — which has free and paid options — is an incredibly useful campaign management tool that lets you schedule virtually any kind of social media post on any platform you can think of.

More importantly, Buffer lets you design specific posting patterns and schedules, whether it’s a post made every day at 6 p.m. or every other day on weekdays. Buffer also features an analytics dashboard for all posts within specific timeframes, allowing you to evaluate the performance and engagement of your posts.

Pro Tip: Use Buffer to make custom schedules for each social media profile you own, ensuring your posts are timed according to when your users are most active on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. If you upgrade to “The Awesome Plan,” you can make as many schedules for each platform, which can be very useful for A/B testing.

Best Customer Relationship Management Tool (CRM): Sprout Social

Like Buffer, Sprout Social (which only offers paid plans) is an all-in-one social media marketing tool with an added twist: customer relationship management. It still comes with the usual set of important features, such as scheduling capabilities, analytics platform, social listening functions and multi-level access for tight coordination between teams.

Sprout Social’s analytics features are unique in that they’re geared toward engagement tracking, allowing managers to foster and nurture relationships through fast and efficient responses to comments and requests.

Pro Tip: Zero in on your audience by using the Group Report feature on Sprout Social, which shows you analytics data of your audience, including engagement, gender, age and engagement.

Best Visual Content Creator: Canva

For social media managers whose weakness is graphic design, Canva has you covered.

As the majority of social media users gravitate towards visual content, it has never been more important for your images and videos on social media to be on point. This is where Canva (which has free and paid options) comes in, providing you with a suite of tools and templates to help you create stunning social media content for a wide variety of platforms. Whether you need to create simple ads on Facebook, complicated infographics, or even beautiful presentations and letters, Canva won’t disappoint.

While Canva is easier to use than, say, Adobe InDesign or Photoshop, it still requires basic design chops to use effectively. In other words, it may help to take a basic class on graphic design to get the most out of the tool.

Pro Tip: Canva is a great tool, but if you want to make killer graphics, pair it with a great source of beautiful stock images like Pexels and tools like Adobe Color CC, which let you create color palettes using a color wheel.

Best Content Aggregator: Feedly

If content ideation is something you can’t wrap your head around, Feedly can be the tool you need to find inspiration and discover great content to share.

Feedly is essentially a content aggregator (which makes free and paid plans available) showing a feed of content across the internet assembled based on your reading preferences. Whether you want to read about sports, technology, marketing or business, Feedly will display a single feed of what it thinks are the internet’s most relevant stories.

Pro Tip: Running out of ideas for your content strategy? Feedly is a great way to maintain a pulse on current events and breaking news, giving you valuable ideas on what to put on your blog.

Best Content Shortener: Bitly

If your social media marketing campaign revolves around sharing your blog content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Bitly offers (for free and for a premium) a convenient way to shorten chunky URLs that will fit nicely on practically any social media platform. More importantly, using a Bitly URL allows you to track each shortened URL’s performance on a single platform instead of dividing your attention between different sources.

Pro Tip: Use Bitly for networks like Instagram and Twitter, which don’t play nice with links. You can then track your URL activity on the Bitly dashboard, showing you the number of total clicks for each URL, as well as the most popular click sources.

This list of social media marketing tools barely scratches the surface of what’s available to marketers on the internet. If you’re wondering what tool is best for you, think about your campaign’s biggest challenges. Each problem will always have the appropriate tool for the job — the trick is finding out what your most pressing issues are so you can solve them efficiently.

This article was originally published at Forbes.com, by author Jon Clark.

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