5 Superior Social Media Management ToolsMASHABLE AWARDS

As part of the ongoing Mashable Awards, we’re taking a closer look at each of the nomination categories. This is “Best Social Media Management Tool.” Be sure to nominate your favorites and join us for the Gala in Las Vegas! Sponsorships are available. Please contact sponsorships@mashable.com for more information
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So many statuses, so little time. As the popularity of social media continues to grow, so too do the number of networks to update and monitor. Whether you’re keeping track of personal Facebook and LinkedIn profiles or juggling 25 company Twitter accounts, it’s becoming tougher and tougher to keep up.

Luckily, tools to help you manage a growing social sphere are popping up just as frequently as new networks. Some work best for maintaining multiple accounts on one site while others consolidate your web presence across many networks. No matter what type of user you are, there’s likely a tool (if not several) that can make your online social life a little easier.

Here are five social media management tools that can make your life easier. What do you use to keep track of multiple social accounts? Let us in the comments below.

1. One Person, Many Networks
TweetDeck is your best (and free) bet if you’re looking to manage all your personal social media profiles. TweetDeck allows you to connect across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Google Buzz. You can update all or just a few with the same status at one time.

The design is clean, user friendly and even makes some networks more fun. For example, it integrates Google Maps into your Foursquare feed, visualizing your friends’ checkins. You can also view photos and videos from within the tool.

As you might have guessed from the name, TweetDeck is best at managing Twitter accounts. It makes the experience more customizable by organizing feeds, mentions, messages and searches across columns.
TweetDeck is probably best when dealing with four or five accounts at a time (whether that be all Twitter accounts or a mix of the other networks it supports). Though the dashboard is generally easy to use, it can get bogged down if your streams have a lot of activity, making it difficult to keep up with updates and engagement.

Also worth checking out: Seesmic
2. Personalize Business Replies
CoTweet is an excellent tool for small businesses or divisions of larger businesses that spread social media duties among team members and have a customer-service approach to engagement.

Like many SMM services, CoTweet allows updates and follow-up messages to be assigned to specific social media managers. This can make responses more relevant as team members with certain knowledge bases can handle appropriate questions and comments from followers. The responder’s initials are included at the end of the tweet, letting the follower know there’s a person behind the handle.

What’s different about CoTweet is its OnDuty status, which notes who is responsible for social streams at a certain time. Aside from organizing your SMM schedule, it allows for more passive monitoring. The person on duty can receive e-mails when something needs to be acted on, freeing him or her up to go to meetings or take calls while remaining aware of social media activity.

CoTweet supports Twitter and Facebook and recently launched an iPhone app. The Standard edition is free and allows up to six Twitter accounts. The Enterprise version costs $1,500 a month but you can request a free demo.

Also worth checking out: Postling
3. All Monitoring, All the Time
Small to medium-sized businesses that have one or two dedicated social media managers should try HootSuite. Its free version allows you to add five networks and supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MySpace, PingFm and WordPress.

HootSuite is best for actively-managed accounts because its design focuses on streams, which are housed in customizable tabs. You have the flexibility to organize tabs by account, network or content, making it easier to monitor a specific type of feed more closely.
One of the greatest benefits of social media is finding out more about your audience. HootSuite takes this to the next level by providing a follower’s bio and Klout score along with links to his or her social media profiles. You can also create lists of followers you want to keep a closer eye on and increase engagement with.

Stats in the free version don’t give you much information, but paid subscriptions offer Google Analyticsintegration and unlimited insights. Pricing starts at $5.99 a month and maxes out at $1,998.99 a month for the Enterprise package plus vanity URL service.

Also worth checking out: Scroon, Buddy Media
4. Analyze That
For agencies managing social media for several companies with high ROI demands, SpredFast has everything you need.

Its biggest advantage over other SMM tools is analytics. Measurement is determined by the amount of content distributed, how many people were reached and whether the intended audience was engaged. Spredfast integrates analytics from clicks by tracking bit.ly links as well as data from each social network. This information is formatted in presentation-ready graphs, which is ideal for agencies bringing clients up to speed on outreach progressspredfast image.

Most useful is Spredfast’s benchmarking feature. Managers can compare social campaigns to other strategies in the industry or to the same type of campaign as it was run in another industry. As businesses continue to experiment with social media as an outreach tool, this context answers key questions about how to best leverage each network.

These first class analytics come with a hefty price tag; Plans range from $12,000 to $1 million a year.

Spredfast began as an in-house tool and went public in January 2010, then made a name for itself at Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator at SXSW. The latest version launched on Friday. Though the Austin, Texas startup has some big endorsements, it’s always good to be wary of the risks that come with investing in a newer company.

Also worth checking out: Radian 6, Objective Marketer
5. Big Business Made Easy
Franchise companies looking to maintain consistent messaging while giving local branches a hand in social media strategy should give Engage121 a shot. Though its competitors are few, Engage121 is best in its class at encompassing monitoring, broadcasting and engagementengage121 image.

The tool is incredibly customizable and can support just about any site with a social presence. Corporate managers can create a company-wide promotion message and use mail merge to broadcast it with a local store’s name and address. Permissions may be set to allow a branch to approve a message from corporate before it is distributed to area followers, maintaining a local voice and brand consistency at the same time.

With the amount of buzz around big-name brands, monitoring and engagement are particularly challenging. Engage121 simplifies these with customized filters, giving managers total control over what types of messages they see. Just underneath each message is an engagement button. When clicked, a very user-friendly interface pops up where managers can easily respond to followers’ messages or start conversations with social media influencers.

Engage121 CEO Jon Victor said the analytics component measures social media in about 100 ways, depending on the different stats useful to corporate divisions and local branches. Pricing also varies with business needs. Individual stores generally pay $25 per month with a separate charge to corporate. If the company incurs the total cost, the price tag ranges in the thousands, depending on the number of outlets, Victor said.

Because virtually every aspect of the tool is customizable, you should have a strategy in place before jumping into Engage121. Its functionality seems endless and could be overwhelming without a set social media objective.

Also worth checking out: Valuevine

What’s Your Take?
Which of the above tools has worked for you? Are there any social media management tools that you could recommend for personal use? Business?

Let us know in the comments or nominate them for the Mashable Awards.

The Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity (Vegas)
In partnership with Cirque du Soleil, The Mashable Awards Gala event will bring together the winners and nominees, the Mashable community, partners, media, the marketing community, consumer electronics and technology brands and attendees from the 2011 International CES Convention to Las Vegas on Thursday, January 6, 2011. Together, we will celebrate the winners and the community of the Mashable Awards at the Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage in the beautiful New York New York Hotel. The event will include acts and performances from our partner Cirque du Soleil Zumanity. In addition, there will be special guest presenters and appearances.

Date: Thursday, January 6th, 2011 (during International CES Convention week)
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 pm PT
Location: Cirque du Soleil Zumanity, New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas
Agenda: Networking, Open Bars, Acts, Surprises and the Mashable Awards Gala presentations
Socialize: Facebook, Foursquare, Meetup, Plancast, Twitter (Hashtag: #MashableAwards)
From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is now a global entertainment organization providing high-quality artistic entertainment. The company has over 5,000 employees, including more than 1,200 artists from close to 50 different countries.

Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to nearly 100 million spectators in 300 cities on five continents. In 2010 Cirque du Soleil, will present 21 shows simultaneously throughout the world, including seven in Las Vegas.

For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com

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