Social media marketing management is no joke. When it’s done correctly with a plan in place to measure effectiveness, you can delve into amazing data to really pinpoint what works, what doesn’t who identify your audiences. One of the main tools I use for this is Buffer.

I do a lot of consulting for a variety of healthcare organizations, mostly working with CIO’s on building a communication plans that include “digital media”. Frankly, I hate that term. It’s all media, regardless if it’s online or not. I am pretty forward about this with my clients. This is because there is a real fear of the immediacy of social media. You can test other forms of media; TV spots, radio spots, print collateral, web and app experiences but social media tends to have this tinge of terror because once it’s out there who knows who will see it and pick it up. It’s a double edged sword, being timely and relevant on social media platforms can quickly establish a brand as leader or instantly send a wave of backlash crashing back at you. It’s a totally understandable fear. This where a solid plan and good tools come into play to help alleviate those fears.

Now, each organization is going to have vastly different plans but there are some basic tools that can be utilized and leveraged to make the social media portion of your communications plan easily managed. For me, I always recommend using Buffer.

My own experience with Buffer started back in early 2013 when working at the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians. As the in-house designer and social media specialist, I spent a lot of time working with my communications director and public relations director on creating a strategy that would bring more exposure to the PAFP, establish ourselves as a leader in healthcare and social media and reach a wider audience that would include other family physicians, primary care workers, healthcare organizations and health IT companies. We established very early one that the tone of our voice online had to be welcoming and show that we weren’t a faceless organization (as many healthcare organizations online tend to act). Once we established our online persona, we explored ways on how do we create conversation, direct conversation, lead conversation and join in conversation.

Create

Direct

Lead

Join In

This was our four pillars of how we interacted online. With our plan of action now in place, we needed a way to actually do this in a meaningful, measurable way. I explored several different tools in the past, until I learned about Buffer from some colleagues of mine. Once I signed up to use their service, I quickly realized the power in Buffer.

Scheduling became dead simple – From a UI standpoint, scheduling became very intuitive and opened the door for collaboration with different departments. Outside of the communications department, we could open up Buffer and work with different colleagues to coordinate their messages in a way that was time sensitive. For instance, working with practice management to schedule timely posts as big news about Meaningful Use Stage 2 where filtering online showed our followers and others that we were ready to help lead that conversation.

Analysis made sense – Data is crucial. We analyzed our messages and interactions with others and it began to tell us stories where we were most effective in leading conversation, where we joined in the most (and with whom), Key moments were we directed or redirected the conversation and what conversations we created had the most interest and traction. We coupled the analysis from Buffer with our other data collection services and tools; Google Analytics, TweetReach, Facebook Insights, Linkedin Analytics, MailChimp analytics and we were able to visualize and report on our actions and give detailed information that helped direct decisions internally.

Ease of use – Buffer is one of the tools that takes user experience incredibly seriously. Many times when I show the tool to people I get the reaction “This is it?” as they expect some big, complicated dashboard. This is why it’s so powerful. It’s minimal UI and clear directions on use make this tool incredibly empowering to those new with social media marketing or even the seasoned professional.

Cost effective business tool – For most first time social media strategists and managers, the basic account will be fine and should be utilized until a social media plans grows. At PAFP, we never needed the Awesome Plan, but we consulted with different organizations that did and we worked with the on how to manage it effectively. For $102/year, it’s a very plan for serious social media engagement compared to other solutions.

Extensible – As we grew in scope with our plan, we discovered many great Ifttt recipes for Buffer. A Google Calendar view of my Buffer schedule was extremely important to include in our reporting. With the base accounts that we could hook into (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus) we could manage a great deal of posts while also leverage the power of the sharing links from our preferred news sites using their Feeds. All of this meant was that we shared a great deal of information that hit the different audiences we engaged with. The feeds were excellent as we hooked in with like organizations that eventually led to us partnering on different projects (and even opening a door for a grant funded project).

By the time I left the PAFP the misconception that a healthcare organization couldn’t effectively join in and lead conversations in social media that was meaningful definitely had taken a 180. We taught by doing and sharing the process and now I can see how some organizations have taken that approach to heart; Oscar being a huge standout in this area.

From a usability perspective, Buffer wins and as a business tool, it seriously wins. Buffer allowed us to build an effective strategy that let us as people behind screens to join in more and direct more, while we could timely create posts to create and lead. Regardless of what industry you are in, Buffer is a great product.