If you’re still managing your social media accounts via a series of open tabs in your browser, you’re not only creating a recipe for disaster, but also missing out on a host of analytics that could take your “We’re doing ok,” campaign to a “We’re blowing the competition outta the water!” campaign. One quick, efficient, and time-tested ways of upping your social cred is through borrowing from the customer relationship management (CRM) concept, and applying it to your social media management.

Sure, the well-known names like HootSuite and Seesmic will get your social media management on track, but are you sure that either of these two will meet every single one of your needs? Better yet… before we even get started, do you know what your needs are? Let’s have a look at questions you should be asking, and features you should be looking for.

The Share Factor

share Is your social media management up to par?

Why copy/paste that update to a multitude of channels, if you’ve only got one thing to say? What about that next social media outlet launching right around the corner? Got a typo and need to fix it quick? These are all valid questions when it comes to settling on a social media solution. Others to be on the look out for:

  • Is there a built-in URL shortener? How about bit.ly integration (think analytics)? What if we acquire a vanity URL down the road?
  • Can multiple users access the same system? With a variety of administration rights (Who can do what with what)?
  • Is there an audit trail with specific actions performed by whom and when?
  • Is the software staying up to date with new and emerging channels?
  • Can you schedule updates and have a birds eye view of upcoming, as well as previously published content?
  • Can you specifically target users based on language preferences and location?

Your Team

team Is your social media management up to par?

If you’re working in a startup, or even an SMB, you might be the one and only person responsible for the social media management. But chances are, if you’re already overwhelmed, you, and your existing or future team should be taking full advantage of collaborative social media management. The “too many chefs,” rule still applies, but when done right, team management of your social media can reap the rewards tenfold.

  • How many users does the solution allow? Free for X, but paid for YYZ?
  • How many administration levels are possible? Admin, Reader, Editor, etc.
  • Can certain users be limited to ‘draft’ settings, ultimately to be published by an Admin?
  • Can workflows between various team members be established and overseen by Admins?
  • Can you assign tasks and dates to specific users? Teams? Organizations?
  • What about notifications? Can they be tailored to specific individuals? At specific times of the day?

Your Community

community Is your social media management up to par?

Now that you and your team have published, reactions, comments, and conversations are sure to come rolling in. But how to you manage them all? Maybe there’s a member of the crowd that stands out amongst the others. What was his/her name again? Items to consider when it comes to your community:

  • Does the system allow for real time monitoring of conversations across networks?
  • Are these conversations organized in an easy-to-follow timeline? Can you easily identify which conversations are happening on which channel?
  • Can you reply to these conversations directly from the solution?
  • Can you delete and/or modify comments directly from the solution?
  • Can you quickly and easily view any and all comments, reactions, etc. across various networks from a particular individual? Think influencer targeting.
  • Can you import and/or input Klout score data? Again, influencer targeting.

The Stats

stats Is your social media management up to par?

At the end of the day, all the talking and listening in the world isn’t going to get you very far if you’re not analyzing data. Granted, not the sexiest part of your social media plan, but arguably the most valuable. Which campaigns are reaping the biggest rewards? Who’s your standout team member that best resonates with the community?

  • Can you generate cross-channel reports?
  • Can target and report on individual pages within channels? Individual comments?
  • Can you export reports to Excel?
  • Can you create your own custom reporting tools?
  • Can you automatically generate campaign and medium links?
  • Can you easily identify top commenters and product-evangelists-in-the-making?

This list of questions is by no means all-inclusive, but rather, should serve as a jumping off point when considering stepping up to a more robust method of managing your social media campaigns. There are a number of other factors to be considered, least of which are pricing, support, learning curve(s), and the overall future outlook for said solution. With that said, one other recommendation is to have a look at current clients of the solution(s) you’re evaluating. Any software developer worth their salt will gladly publish a list of “Who’s currently using ABC,” and it’s worth a look. If you’ve seen a few competitors in the list, or simply those who’s social media work you admire, you’re on the right track. Now put the above questions to the test, and qualify your own perfect solution.