Looking for CoTweet Alternatives? Our Comparison of Social Media Management Options

If you are a standard CoTweet user, you have probably heard that on February 15, 2012, ExactTarget will be replacing the free service CoTweet with the premium service SocialEngage – with a free trial for 30 days. To help those of you that may be scrambling for an alternative, we did some leg work for you. Below you’ll find a comparison of features and functionality across SocialEngage and other popular social media management tools in the interest of deciding which  alternative is best for standard CoTweet users. The factors considered in this comparison include the ability to pre schedule posts, view messages and replies, as well as multiple user and team members support, and of course, pricing.

SocialEngage http://www.cotweet.com

Billed as the next chapter for CoTweet, SocialEngage has the same general interface (single column display with sidebar navigation) plus many new features. Pricing for SocialEngage is not available online. To find out more about SocialEngage you must provide an email to download a digital brochure and then speak with a salesperson for a price.

HootSuite http://www.hootsuite.com

Creating and scheduling posts are simple tasks with HootSuite. It features an intuitive interface using tab navigation for each profile, multiple columns for displaying streams (feeds, mentions, messages) and a side toolbar to access features. HootSuite also features custom analytic reporting and supports adding profiles from most social networks.

TweetDeck http://www.tweetdeck.com

TweetDeck is available as a web or desktop application and is very easy to create and schedule posts from multiple profiles. It features a simple multiple column interface and a top toolbar. You may add multiple columns and assign feeds, mentions, messages and more from unlimited social profiles. Unfortunately there is no team member support.

MarketMeSuite http://www.marketmesuite.com

MarketMeSuite has an interface that is very similar to CoTweet; and offers similar functionality with the addition of adding profiles from LinkedIn and Facebook, but currently not Pages. MarketMeSuite is in beta with some additional functionality still in development, including analytic reporting.

Roost http://www.roost.com

Creating and scheduling posts is not a quick process with Roost. The wizard-like interface walks you through 4 steps to create a message. The application encourages you to create a campaign for the an entire week and has a feature that recommends content based on sources you choose. Team members are not supported.

Seesmic http://www.seesmic.com

Seemic offers a plethora of apps for web, desktops, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. The simple interface uses multiple column display and sidebar navigation – similar to TweetDeck. Seesmic supports unlimited social profiles, but there is no team member support.

Buffer http://www.bufferapp.com

Buffer is an interesting and different paradigm from CoTweet. The idea is that when you come across something you like, simply add it to your “buffer” – a queue from which Buffer publishes at established times of the day. Adding posts in Buffer is very straight forward, however, you do not have the ability to pick individual date/times for your posts. Adding posts from web or mobile device to Buffer is a snap, with browser plugins available for most browsers, Android and Google Reader.

Recommended Alternatives for Standard CoTweet Users
In consideration of all the factors used to compare these services, MarketMeSuite is the only service that offers all the functionality of CoTweet for the same price: free.  CoTweet users will find the interface to be very familiar, while offering some additional features.  MarketMeSuite is a beta service and some of the functionality is still in development, so some change is expected.  For more information, MarketMeSuite has provided a Getting Started Video.

If you would rather avoid using a beta service and are willing to pay a premium, HootSuite is the most affordable option.  It offers all the same functionality of CoTweet plus custom analytic reporting and support for most social networks including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.

We hope this has been a helpful overview of some of the popular social media management tools available for those standard CoTweet users trying to decide on the best alternative.

The Enterprise Still Confused by Social Media – Marketers, Where Are You?

A couple of years ago, we were hired by a global security software company to plan, write, distribute and implement a social media policy for their company – not a small job for an enterprise with employees in more than 100 countries across the globe, and products and technologies for over 300 million users worldwide.

Since that time, we’ve written a lot of social media policies for clients – and trained their employees on proper social media use in various divisions, but I still remember sitting in the board room during our initial kick off, going through questions to help us determine how much work was needed, when one answer shocked me: “We don’t know and it’s impossible to find out.”

This was the answer to the question, “How many social media accounts does the company have and where are they – who runs them?”

Now, while the answer stood out back then – considering social media was a bit of the “Wild West,” and companies were still struggling to buy into its value – I would imagine that today, businesses have a much better handle on who is representing their brand, where and in what way.

I’m wrong.

According to a report by Altimeter Group released yesterday, many of the challenges that we were navigating clients through years ago still exist. Jeremiah Owyang blogged, “Many companies have launched social media efforts with little planning. As social media spreads beyond corporate communications and marketing, business groups are deploying social media without a standardized process. In fact, enterprise class corporations (those with over 1,000 employees) have an average of 178 social media accounts and this number will only grow if left unchecked. Companies that don’t control these accounts are at risk of having abandoned accounts, lack of consistent experience, or untrained employees creating a crisis.”

Wow.

I’m shocked that the enterprise hasn’t caught on yet. How can companies be so lackadaisical about who is talking for them in a public form? How did employees feel the freedom and right to go create branded accounts without some sort of process or checklist? Are companies aware of non-affiliated accounts that have been established (read: hijacked) in their name? (One of my favorite examples I use in my conference speeches on this topic is Chapstick.) And what do these businesses do now in order to reign it all in and get a handle on smart social media for business?

Altimeter Group’s report – and pending webinar to review it – is a good start. It covers market trends, industry problems and data – as well as a buyer’s guide for some monitoring tools – but I’d like to ask one other question. WHERE IS MARKETING?

How can marketing divisions in these companies not be concerned with public discussions of their brand, company and industry – even if they are not the ones running the accounts/updates? Even if other business groups are deploying social media accounts, shouldn’t marketing – as the brand police – know this and help to manage the messages? I blogged on a related topic a few years ago – that with social media’s rise, we are all now in PR, all now brand ambassadors and customer service reps. Because of this, marketing should now – more than ever – be setting, defining, monitoring and managing those messages, regardless of which business group is using social channels. How did marketing departments and PR executives let this slide?

Are we still that far behind? I like to think not. But, if you’re working with a PR or marketing firm that hasn’t yet audited your social media presence – and provided strategic recommendations for improving it – now might be the time to find out why.

Yes, we are all continuing to learn as the industry evolves and new tools are introduced, but this is marketing 101, folks. You monitor who is saying what about your brand and where – and you put a plan together that includes some action around these conversations. There’s no excuse anymore – social media is a part of all business marketing – if not customer service, HR, business development and more. But at the very least, marketing should know about the “on average” 178 “brand” accounts – and reign them in. Reports like Altimeter’s can help you choose the best tool vendors for strategic monitoring and measurement in the future. Get the right vendors, hire the right PR and marketing partners or executives and get your employees trained right – but don’t ignore it any longer. I don’t think the proliferation of vendors is any excuse for letting your brand go wild while you try to make a choice.