JoAnna Korkos, Corpoate & Group Sales Manager at Swaders Sports Park, recently asked (via the Key Web Concepts Facebook Page):

Do you have any tips for using HootSuite and programs like that? I’m not as familiar with them as I’d like to be, and I hear they make social media much easier. Thanks!

Let’s dive in! But first things first:

Hoot-what?!? What’s HootSuite?

HootSuite is an example of a social media dashboard.

social media dashboards: tools that allow you to manage all of your social media activities from a single location.

Rather than having to access Facebook and update your Page, and then log into LinkedIn and post an update after that, you can monitor and update your various social media profiles from a central place.

Social media dashboards can be online programs or a desktop application that you download, and many also have apps that you can use on your mobile devices.

What are some other social media dashboards?

There are TONS of social media dashboards out there. This list is not, by any means, all-inclusive, but it does give you a taste of what’s available:

Why use a social media dashboard?

Social media dashboards offer users a variety of benefits:

Save Time

Your time is valuable! A social media dashboard can make social media management less time consuming.

After you’ve set up your various profiles in your dashboard of choice, you can access and check on your social media activity from one location. Just one. You can sign in and get to work…rather than signing into site after site after site.

Ping.fm supported service

Ping.fm allows you to manage your social networks from one place.

Monitor Trends

Social media dashboards enable you to easily track what topics are important to you and to your online networking sphere. Whether you’re monitoring brand mentions or you want to stay on top of industry developments, social media dashboards have the tools to help you do that.

Check out how TweetDeck lets you “follow topics in real-time with saved searches.”

TweetDeck screenshot

TweetDeck lets you track topics that are relevant to your business or industry, and are being discussed on social networking sites.

Share Responsibilities

Ever feel like you don’t have enough time to handle your company’s social media account(s) on your own? A dashboard can help you tackle the workload and spread it out over different people.

With a tool like CoTweet, you can let multiple employees contribute to and manage your social media profiles. Plus, you can assign tasks (and note their completion) to keep your workflow moving and organized.

CoTweet Assign Task

You can assign--and respond to--different tasks using a social media dashboard like CoTweet.

Track Metrics

So you’re Tweeting. You post updates to your Facebook Page. But what of it? Are people clicking your links? Are customers interacting with your brand? Do they like one type of content (say, photos) better than another type (text-only posts)?

Social media dashboards can be a great way to track data and see what results you’re getting across different social channels. And, depending on the service you pick, you can also generate reports that you can share with your co-workers.  With numbers in tow, you can really evaluate your social media activities and see what you do that makes people tick–or what areas you need to work on.

HootSuite Reporting

HootSuite offers tools that give you an in-depth look at the numbers.

There are so many dashboards to choose from! How do I know which one to use?

Part of selecting a social media dashboard comes down to personal preference. You may have to try on a couple sites for size before you find “The One.” Experiment. See what site has the user interface that you prefer. Try an online service; take a desktop app for a drive. You’ve got to like and be comfortable with the provider you choose before you make a long-term commitment.

Budget can be a deal breaker too. If you’re a small business with little to no funds for social media, you probably don’t want to sign up for an enterprise-level (read: super expensive) social dashboard. Or you may want to explore dashboards with tiered pricing options so you can pick the plan that’s right for you.

Seek other users’ opinions too! Check out online reviews to get an idea of what’s available and what works better for your particular situation. VentureBeat published an article on 4 “must-have” social media dashboards; Social Media Examiner also has various articles, blog posts and tutorials on the different dashboards that are out there. What better way to find out how something works than seeing what the community has to say?