*It goes without saying but for the sake of clarity: This is the opinion of Samson Adams, not b2cloud*
I can write a novella-sized manifesto about the social media dashboard. In fact, if I added the amount of time wasted researching and testing social media clients and then used that time to do something actually productive, I could written an actual novella.
The social media dashboard is without doubt the bane of my professional existence. It is the dragon I am still chasing despite never finding it to begin with. It is mythical in stature, all-powerful in potential and so elegantly designed that it I can’t even see it.
For those pure souls untouched by this modern condition, a social media dashboard is a website or application that allows you to manage all your company’s and/or personal social media feeds.
On the surface this doesn’t seem like it is such a big deal, how hard can it be to find a useable dashboard that displays all the feeds? Of course the answer to that is it isn’t hard at all.
The real question is how hard could it be to find a dashboard that displays the feeds, allows you to schedule posts, choose your network with ease, monitor conversations, research trends, compile reports from usable and beneficial data, allow multiple-account functionality, drafts that can be scheduled and a learning curve that makes introducing it to the uninitiated less painful and mind-numbing. On top of that there is a whole heap of other features that would be nice but wouldn’t be considered 100% essential.
Right now the big boss of the all encompassing dashboard space would be Hootsuite, an incredibly successful company that has a significant share of the market. Alongside Hootsuite are some similar alternatives more or less doing the same thing yet in someway still lacking . Above these options are the Enterprise power-players appealing to companies with significant social media budgets thereby making them unappealing for small businesses and any organisation not dedicating several thousand a month to social media services. Bellow Hootsuite in terms of functionality would be Buffer, a beautifully simple service that makes scheduling posts incredibly easy. If only it did something else as well.
Hootsuite probably does everything a social media manager needs. Holistically speaking it covers everything rather nicely.
But there is a catch. The features are tiered with some of the most useful unavailable to those not on the Enterprise plan- which is clearly expensive enough that there isn’t even an advertised price online- so those on the two lower tiers must settle for a limited feature set.
While the Pro pricing is quite affordable starting at $8.99, it is still lacking a key feature of any team-based social media management strategy- post approval. If a marketing assistant or content writer were to draft some posts on an upcoming promotion, the marketing manager would like to proof-read it first before it goes up. With the Enterprise plan that can be done- the assistant write up the posts and schedules them, submits them for approval and the manager will then have a look at them/edit them in the approval section and click a button to send them on their way. If only you didn’t have to spend enterprise money to have this clearly essential feature.
To best way to understand where Hootsuite is lacking is to look at Buffer, a limited service that offers one feature better than anyone else- scheduling posts.
The Buffer user experience is both seamless and powerful. With a click of the mouse you can schedule, reschedule, edit and post without opening any new windows, knowing any unique shortcuts and all in similar time that it would take to post a tweet using the traditional way. To add a post from one network to another requires simply clicking and dragging the post to a different network. To monitor impressions and clicks requires no extra effort, Buffer does it for you using whichever URL shortening system you desire, thereby creating a repository of content and links to comeback to at a later date. On top of that Buffer elegantly integrates with IFTTT, a system that makes auto-posting from a variety of sources so incredibly easy. Did I mention that Buffer also allows you to set favourite post-times so scheduling a post is as easy as just ‘Buffering it.’
I am not a Buffer salesman. In fact for work I use Hootsuite. But I talk about Buffer because it is doing one thing well where as Hootsuite does everything but with a sizeable learning curve and regular bouts of madness, so not very well. If these two dashboards were to combine, bringing the best of both worlds together, then we would have a social media dashboard worth using. Until that happens, I will continue to wallow in my frustration and keep trying to capture that elusive dragon.