Are you in control of your social media strategy?

Marketers are always looking for new ways to leverage additional recognition for their brands.

The rise of social media has sharpened the focus on the array of tactics being used to gain traction from this channel. By the end of 2014, around 1.8 billion internet users had accessed a social network, with global social network penetration at 29 per cent.

With Instagram growing by 50 per cent between March and December 2014, and the reach of Facebook's app now at 69 per cent, it is clear marketers need to focus their attention on connecting with customers through this medium.

This is where social media management comes in, as it means you can deliver strategies across a range of different social channels in a consistent and timely manner.

How can social media management help?

Keeping a portfolio of social channels up to date is a taxing job, as research shows that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest all have different ideal posting times. This means that marketers can quite easily forget about one of the channels, which could jeopardise your strategy.

Social media management eliminates this risk, as it means you can monitor and update all of your accounts at a time and place that is convenient to you. It allows you to take control of your social media activities, and makes sure your business' brand reputation does not suffer.

Among the benefits of social media management software are:
• Improved workflow
• Better cross-channel engagement
• In-depth analysis of social media activity
• Complete overview of social media activity in streamlined format

What are the best social media management platforms?

There are plenty of options to choose from, but businesses need to think about their goals, budget and future plans before making their decision. Here are four of the best:

One of the most popular options in the marketplace, it allows marketers to manage and schedule posts, track conversations and measure campaign results. The free version caters for up to three accounts, but companies can pay for an expanded version. It supports all of the main social networks.

Buffer was the first platform to offer a queuing system for posts, which radically altered how marketing departments could organise their campaigns. It provides excellent analytics about content performance and you can post content in Buffer from practically anywhere as the sharing button is present on most blogs. The main drawback is that it is only for publishing content. This platform is free for up to three accounts, with incremental charges thereafter.

Sprout Social
This option lets you create one unified inbox that means you can see all of your activity in a single stream. It also provides keyword monitoring for Twitter and robust reporting functionality. One handy tool is its Discover tab, as this lets you find people who follow you, but you are not following back. Users can take a 30-day free trial.

This software combines publishing, monitoring, statistics and contests to provide an all-in-one solution. It has both social media and CRM features, and looks to help you manage social media accounts in a similar way to an email inbox. The tool also lets you identify the most active users on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which is useful when developing targeted campaigns. A 14-day free trial is available.