Small businesses also use social networking sites to develop their own market research on new products and services. By encouraging their customers to give feedback on new product ideas, businesses can gain valuable insights on whether a product may be accepted by their target market enough to merit full production, or not. In addition, customers will feel the company has engaged them in the process of co-creation—the process in which the business uses customer feedback to create or modify a product or service the filling a need of the target market. Such feedback can present in various forms, such as surveys, contests, polls, etc.
Rob Watts is PCMag's Business Analyst, writing reviews and features for a variety of business applications. He brings years of experience in editorial insights to the role, having previously worked as an editor for Keypoint Intelligence, an independent test laboratory for document imaging hardware and software. He spends his free time cooking and g... See Full Bio

Although “followers” and the many other metrics are important, they are not the "be all and end all" to social media success. You need to show your audience that you are not just a robot. Integrate personality through humor and emotions into your posts so that your audience can relate to your brand. Social media is all about being social, and if your customers see the same types of posts time and time again, they will lose interest. Make your communications interactive by:

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SocialOomph helps you re-post content on Facebook and Twitter on an automated schedule. It’s one of the most powerful social media management tools on the market, but its interface is a little clunky and old-school. If all you are looking for is a time-saving tool to repost content for you, then Oomph is worth a look. But if you want something more extensive that is easy to use, and encompasses your entire social strategy, than I’d recommend looking elsewhere.

SocialBro helps businesses learn how to better target and engage with their audience on Twitter. It provides tools to browse your community and identify key influencers, determine when the best time to tweet is, track engagement and analyze your competitors. Socialbro analyzes the timelines of your followers to generate a report showing you when the optimal time to tweet is that would reach the maximum amount of followers for more retweets and replies.
Scheduling: Some social media solutions enable businesses to schedule posts through the use of content calendars. They also allow for the anticipation of message releases. Content can be published at times when audiences are most likely to catch them. These mostly free templates eliminate the need for spreadsheets, which are the usual tools used in planning social posts.
Sprout Social offers social media management, engagement and analytics solutions for leading agencies and brands, including Hyatt, GrubHub, Microsoft, Uber and Zendesk. Available via web browser, iOS and Android apps, Sprout Social’s engagement platform enables brands to more effectively communicate on social channels, collaborate across teams and provide an exceptional customer experience. Sprout Social’s intuitive platform was designed with the user in mind, making it easy for anyone to publish content, monitor their social presence, engage with their audience and analyze social media efforts across all connected profiles. Teams can be up and running in minutes—Sprout Social does not require up-front investment, has flexible contract terms and there is little-to-no implementation needed. Sprout Social is an Twitter Official Partner, Facebook Marketing Partner, Instagram Partner Program Member, LinkedIn Company Page Partner and Google+ Pages API Partner. Created for small and medium businesses, enterprise and agencies, Sprout features focus on three main functions: publishing, engaging and reporting. Sprout provides solutions for social marketing, social management, customer service and team collaboration. Sprout’s Smart Inbox gives users a unique all-in-one stream of their incoming social messages, and enables users to work from the stream to respond, tag, task or mark messages as complete to achieve inbox zero. Sprout’s collaboration tools and permissions enable multiple users to work within the platform at once without overlapping or encroaching on responsibilities. The Sprout Queue and ViralPost enable you to efficiently upload content and ensures your messages will be sent at the optimal time for maximum reach. Sprout’s ample reporting capabilities provide insightful analytics and enable you to quantify your social communications.
Converse directly with your followers: Literally have a conversation with them, retweet them, like and comment on their posts, and directly ask them to interact with your content. The insurance company Allstate created a separate Twitter account for their popular advertising character, Mayhem, who continously “captures the life events you just can’t seem to avoid.” Almost everything they post is geared towards talking to their fans, whether that be retweeting, asking questions, running a contest, or even sending #MayhemValentine’s to followers. This Twitter account also follows my point above regarding using humor and personality in each post. Recently they ran an overwhelming successful social media campaign #MayhemSale, in which Mayhem possed as a burglar selling all his best burgles online. It sounds sort of bizzare, but it worked and created an insane amount of buzz. Just look at the one tweet below with 4.6K retweets.
Engagement in social media for the purpose of a social media strategy is divided into two parts. The first is proactive, regular posting of new online content (digital photos, digital videos, text) and conversations, as well as the sharing of content and information from others via weblinks. The second part is reactive conversations with social media users responding to those who reach out to your social media profiles through commenting or messaging[22] Traditional media such as TV news shows are limited to one-way interaction with customers or 'push and tell' where only specific information is given to the customer with few or limited mechanisms to obtain customer feedback. Traditional media such as paper newspapers, of course, do give readers the option of sending a letter to the editor, but this is a relatively slow process, as the editorial board has to review the letter and decide if it is appropriate for publication. On the other hand, social media is participative and open, as participants are able to instantly share their views on brands, products, and services. Traditional media gave control of message to the marketer, whereas social media shifts the balance to the consumer (or citizen).

Where does it fall down? It has to be with the feature list. Buffer is a social media scheduler, and that’s about it. Their business plans have some analytics, but in reality, the platform doesn’t have the same robust functionality to that of Agorapulse, or even Hootsuite. The best thing Buffer has going for it is its marketing, and they do that better than anyone!
Depending on how invested your company is in CRM, integration might be a make-or-break feature for you. Being able to convert social engagements into leads is a powerful feature that, if used correctly, can add a lot of benefit to your business. If you find CRM integration important, then be sure to research which social media management tools are compatible with your relationship management service of choice.
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