By Charlie Balk With literally hundreds of various apps, tools, and widgets to assist you in your social media journey, how do you pick which one is right for you? First, begin by identifying your needs and establishing your budget, then start exploring your options. Don't get tricked by flash and frills, and realize that most things can be done most directly and easily on your networks.
Step 1: Identify and Prioritize Your Needs
Before you begin your search for an app, you'll need to figure out why you're looking for an app in the first place. Much of the time, if something can't be done directly from the source, a third-party app isn't going to change that. Most of what they do is make this process easier or more efficient. So make sure you know your social networks inside and out before looking for time-savers and shortcuts. And don't go searching to cure all of your problems. Prioritize which problems are most pressing and important.
Step 2: Establish a Budget
This step may come first (especially if you know you don't have one), second, or at another point in the process. Most often it will come after identifying and prioritizing why you need a new tool. There is a huge range of cost for apps,(zero to thousands of dollars a month). Knowing your needs will help you to determine your budget. If you're able to figure out approximately how much of your time you're wasting as a result of recurring issues that could be solved by an app, it will help to determine whether an app is worth the price tag. Note that your budget could change, if you find an app that does more.
Step 3: Start Exploring
Google your needs, and make sure you're using the right terminology in describing them. If you can't find what you need, try going from specific to more general concepts, and vice versa. Search your favorite social media blogs, and dig deep. There are a lot of platforms out there that aren't well known, and finding them is a great way to get a leg up on the competition.
Step 4: Rank Your Options
Once you've made a list of all the options that address your primary needs, begin ranking them by how many things they address, convenience, learning curve, reputation, special features, customer service, and whatever else is important to you as the user. Once you've narrowed down your list a bit, reach out to the companies that have the best options and ask for a demo. You won't want to commit to something before you're sure that it addresses your needs. If your favorite options are free, then you can just go ahead and start trying them and see what's best for you. But if you have to pay for your new tool, move ahead to the fifth step.
Step 5: Assess
Okay, so you've reviewed all the options, found the best one, taken a demo of it, and feel comfortable that it's the one for you. Time to pay up. But before you do that, make sure to review your initial needs and your budget. Be sure that this tool, app, or whatever, addresses all your needs in such a way that it's worth investing in. Make an estimate of how much time or money it could save you (or earn you), and compare that to what you would be paying. If you're sure this is one for you, be sure to reassess this investment often, and be sure to keep an eye on the competitive landscape to see if a better (or cheaper) option becomes available.
Let the time and hassle saving begin!
Did I leave a step out? Do you disagree with anything I said? Share your thoughts in the comments!