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Alex Knight

Social media teams (even teams of one) are incredible centres of creativity, flexibility and adaptation. When it comes to keeping up with trends and delivering fresh content, the good ones have got it dialled in. What they need from their organizations is support to make their lives easier and more efficient – and that often comes in the form of software.

Part 3 of the Starter Guide dives directly into the sea of options that are available both because great software can be so helpful, and because there’s so much noise out there that can distract, rather than direct.

If you missed the first two parts, bookmark this post and get caught up here: The Essentials and The Toolkit

Most SAAS platforms claim to be the definitive one-stop cure for overwork, disorganization, and collaboration, they barely stop short of claiming to be the cure for cancer. The reality is that the great ones each do a couple of things really well and are best suited only for specific types of teams.

Before taking any sales calls or “free webinars”, it’s important that you figure out exactly what your team needs, so that when you are signing agreements, you’re solving your problems first and not the use-cases that the salespeople have been so well trained to pitch.

Some of the best options can satisfy more than one need for you, but it’s extremely unlikely that any will solve for all.

Social Team Needs, by Category

Let’s start by categorizing what type of organization that you are. In my experience, most fall roughly into one of the following four buckets:

  1. Ambitious, but lean small business
  2. Traditional, established marketing team, shifting to digital
  3. Small team, looking to grow
  4. Dedicated team, keeping up with volume

For the sake of simplicity I’ll also roughly define the priorities for each of the teams:

Running a few channels, posting content without a fully defined strategy, but doing its best to be creative and grow the community. Doesn’t have a lot of mentions or replies to manage, and has a small social ad budget to play with.

Social team operates mostly within a silo and has a lot of pressure to prove its value. Still seen by some as a bit of an experiment, while others see it as a line-item necessity. Needs to be able to share plans, prove value in a non-technical way and manage projects across multiple departments.

Small team
The organization has definitely seen success in social and digital, and while the team could certainly be better resourced, it has some bandwidth to drive the brand forward. The community is starting to grow, and it’s a challenge to stay on top of all of the inbound messaging.

Dedicated team
An established, significant part of the brand strategy. With great power comes great responsibility to report and show value. The CMO has questions about how the IG can push the envelope, and the CFO has questions about how you could possibly need more headcount. Your team is great at what they do, but its a challenge to keep the person posting on the same page with the person buying ads, and the agency that’s building your holiday campaign. Clear communication and sharing responsibility is your constant battle.

Social Media Software Options, by Team Needs

Now, I’ll match some software options with the teams. However, software shifts, companies get acquired and pricing changes, so more important than the individual recommendations is the way that you categorize your software and identify which needs its solving for you.

I am fully aware of how *yawn* riveting a topic like software selection can be – trust me I want to flip straight to the memes too – but this is the stuff that makes the fun stuff possible. WestJet’s Christmas Miracle, Wendy’s Twitter roasts and lululemon’s community would never be possible without the backbone of software that supports them.

1. Publishing

This is the one that most of think of first. Publishing software allows us to draft, organize and schedule all of our posts across all channels from one place. It may also make it possible for use to present content for approval and collaborate with non-local team members.

Here’s a link to lots more options from Jeff Bullas (sorry in advance for all of his pop-ups): 17 Best Social Media Management Tools

You’ll notice that AgoraPulse is his #1 – I haven’t tried it out myself, so I can’t recommend it, but if you have I’d love to hear about your experience.

2. Content Planning

Planning software is often confused with publishing software, and it can look very similar, but the big difference is that only the people actually doing the work need access to the publishing platform. There are often many more people who will need to review, contribute, approve or just generally be aware of what’s up. That’s why most teams choose to have both a place where they plan content, and a place where they publish it from.

3. Discovery & Community Management

Many, if not most of the best conversations on social don’t directly @ mention your brand, so you need software to find, organize and manage those conversations. Beyond that base need, some software can track your long term relationships with people, and assign conversations or follow up to different members of your team.

4. Reporting & Analysis

Reporting is the worst, right?

But what good is all of this stuff if you can’t brag about it to your boss?

Even more importantly, great reporting software pulls out insights and opportunities that you can act on, and it tracks your KPIs so that you can easily see how you’re progressing.

5. Ad Buying

Spoiler: Boost Post is not a professional ad buying option. Effective ads are achieved by testing, tracking and improving over time, even if your budget is as small as $100/month.

I could go on. This industry has grown so quickly that there are literally thousands of options out there, each offering a unique take on your needs. Start by solving these 5 major needs for your team, in whatever cocktail works best for you, and turn down any sales demos that address any other needs or opportunities in the meantime. Your team will feel like they have a solid foundation to work from, and that they are well equipped.

One last note: I’ve yet to meet a team that didn’t have constant, running complaints about nearly every one of their software providers. Know that it’s much better to have your team annoyed that the software isn’t perfect, than held back while you try to find that unicorn solution.

Part 4 – Managing Execution


If this guide is useful to you, the I’d love to have you on the Social Brief list so that you get the rest – every Monday I send a piece like this out to our community. To be included, just enter your work email address in the box below. If you know more people who could benefit from this series, send them the link to this post, and if you’d like to talk about how my team and I can help you in your process of setting your organization up for success, shoot me an email: I look forward to hearing from you.