Managing a series of multimedia-based social network channels can be like playing dodgeball. Remember dodgeball, that rainy day exercise in physical fitness sadism, wherein two teams square off on two sides of the gymnasium and throw rubber playground balls at each other. For the last member of the losing team, the game becomes a nightmare of flying rubber until, eventually, the bombardment overwhelms the vanquished. Does this bring to mind your day-to-day management of your social media presence with an onslaught of tweets, blog posts, Facebook entries and YouTube comments? To succeed in dodgeball, the winning team needs to be able to catch all of the incoming balls and then return them effectively, meaning a targeted and expedited response. Sound familiar? It should because that's also the key to a successful social media presence. Fortunately, there are tools out there to simplify the management of incoming information and your responses as well, and most can work from your smartphone. Let's take a look at some of these tools and analyze how they can simplify, streamline and help you manage your social media presence across multiple platforms.

For any tool to provide value, it must solve a problem or resolve an issue, so specifying the issues and problems of managing multiple social media sites is the first task. To begin with, unassisted site management is costly in terms of resources and time. An active site requires one or more dedicated resources just to maintain fresh, rich content and respond to visitor posts. While the returns on a well-managed site are of inarguable value, weighing those soft dollar returns against the clear-cut cost of skilled workers makes the argument for efficiency versus labor force fairly obvious. Cost also comes into play when it comes to training resources to manage each platform. Not only does each platform's interface and function have peculiarities, but the audiences on each platform may be different and so the same message can require multiple versions specific to each online community to ensure successful communication.

Another resource and time-intensive process is analyzing and reporting on site traffic. Without detailed metrics and demographic information, it is impossible to know whether your presence is having its intended effect or whether its having any effect at all—or worse, a negative effect. Gathering data, analyzing the numbers and developing meaningful reports can again be a costly process, but it is a critical one. Resources need to be identified to manage the numbers. The challenge becomes determining how many resources are required to do the job while not overstaffing. Finally, when the analysis and reporting are complete, those data points are available for the final task, which is leveraging that information to build future traffic.

So, how does a frugal organization deal with the plenitude of tasks and duties that are required to have a truly effective social media presence and not end up like the last man on the losing side of a dodgeball game? When you can't add resources and can't dedicate more time, you have to find a way to optimize the efforts of the resources and time that you do have. One way to manage this is through social media management tools. While these tools can't replace the basic knowledge and skill set required to manage multiple sites, they can optimize the efforts of the resources and time available to your organization.

"While the returns on a well-managed site are of inarguable value, weighing those soft dollar returns against the clear-cut cost of skilled workers makes the argument for efficiency versus labor force fairly obvious."

Many of the tools out there are simply combined interface tools that allow you to either manage multiple sites individually or though rules and roles that push custom content out to the various sites. One good example of these types of tools is Hootsuite. Hootsuite provides a social media site management package that has smartphone, fat and web clients. While basic membership is free, site managers are going to want the full, licensed package that provides on-the-go access through a smartphone app that allows real-time updates from virtually anywhere, at anytime. With a tool like this, resource and time shortages can be mitigated through a more efficient and mobile interface.

Knowing what to post and to whom is a function of analyzing the traffic flowing through your sites. Google Analytics is something of a benchmark for these types of tools, providing capabilities for comprehensive traffic analysis and output reporting. Better still, accessing that data from a mobile device allows the busy administrator to review and analyze traffic and make quick, informed and real-time decisions about content and direction.

While a spirited game of dodgeball can quickly deteriorate into a pandemonium of flying balls and dodging bodies, the winning team will always be the one with the most talent, organization and preparation. The same goes for your social media presences. Site management tools cannot replace a basic understanding of social media principles, nor can they replace a knowledgeable and experienced marketing group of social media professionals. By staffing appropriately and providing tools that can assist with posting, responding and analysis, your social media team can dodge the pitfalls of managing multiple social media sites.

EMILY MARTINA is a marketing specialist at NEPS, LLC., working with social media and customer outreach programs. To learn more,

DAVID MARTINA is the vice president of Systems Integration for NEPS, LLC of Salem, New Hampshire, a firm that provides solutions for the automation of document-intensive business processes. For more, email

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