A consistent challenge with using social networks to market is managing the number of profiles, posts and so on. Logging in and checking for messages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and your own blog takes up time and is annoying.

A number of different software platforms have emerged to deal with this. They’re called "social media dashboards" and you might even be using one now.

SocialMadeSimple is a social dashboard that differs a bit from some of the others, like Hootsuite, because it is focused on helping you locate and distribute real estate content and has tools to help you develop a specific plan for using social media to publish that content.

The basics

SocialMadeSimple connects to the "big three" social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Also, you can connect a blog to the service.

A consistent challenge with using social networks to market is managing the number of profiles, posts and so on. Logging in and checking for messages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and your own blog takes up time and is annoying.

A number of different software platforms have emerged to deal with this. They’re called "social media dashboards" and you might even be using one now.

SocialMadeSimple is a social dashboard that differs a bit from some of the others, like Hootsuite, because it is focused on helping you locate and distribute real estate content and has tools to help you develop a specific plan for using social media to publish that content.

The basics

SocialMadeSimple connects to the "big three" social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Also, you can connect a blog to the service.

Once you’ve granted SocialMadeSimple access to these sites, you can perform a few useful tasks from your SocialMadeSimple account:

  • Review a unified inbox that shows all messages to you from each of the sites you’ve linked.
  • Review a unified stream of all messages posted by people in each of the networks.
  • Post responses to any of these messages to the networks.
  • Post new messages to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or a blog.

These basics are nice enough — cutting down a lot of logging in and checking different streams in different places. But these things aren’t what make SocialMadeSimple a truly useful social dashboarding tool.

Grouping your contacts

Once you’ve given access to your social media accounts over to SocialMadeSimple, your contacts will be pulled in. The next thing you’ll want to do is create groups of your contacts.

Creating groups is just as much of a chore in SocialMadeSimple as it is in any of the other systems I’ve encountered. Set up a group, go through every contact on every network and find the people you want to add to the group.

But the end result is that you can have a few useful streams of content. For example, all social content posted by your current clients or your past clients or prospective clients.

Using groups is a way for your to filter out the chatter of all your friends who also work in real estate from potential buyers and sellers. It’s a hassle to set up, but if you keep your groups limited to business-focus then you can get it done.

Some of your customers may be using LinkedIn more often than Facebook, for example. Having grouped contacts in SocialMadeSimple lets you focus on customers instead of social media channels. This is a good thing.

Make a plan for social media

One of the unique features of SocialMadeSimple is how it incorporates building a plan into using the system. The system has several activity-based plans available by default or you can create your own.

A plan in SocialMadeSimple is defined by the number and type of posts you want to commit to over time. For example, its "beginner" plan suggests you complete four short posts (like Twitter or Facebook updates), one long post, and comment four times each week.

The plan becomes a sort of to-do list. As you’re using SocialMadeSimple, your progress against your plan is often prominently displayed on a chalkboard graphic with a letter grade. This keeps everything pretty straightforward.

To help keep you on track, SocialMadeSimple will e-mail you every day (or less if you’d like) to let you know where you stand on following your plan. While none of us needs one more reason to feel guilty about not posting to a Facebook page, it is good to have a reminder.

The default settings all looked solid to me. Even if someone hasn’t ever participated in social media stuff before, if they start with the "beginner" plan it won’t be overwhelming.

There is a progression implied, and an increase in workload as other plans are selected. The "plans" section of SocialMadeSimple will probably put a few social media consultants out of work.

Finding relevant content

What I really like the most about SocialMadeSimple is the content suggestion feature. When you go to make a new post, the system has a selection of content suggestions that are mostly relevant to real estate.

So if you’re not sure what to write about, SocialMadeSimple pretty much gets you started with a headline and a link to a source article. If you give your thoughts on the source article and hit publish button, you’re done.

It’s a nice way to get regular, relevant real estate content into your site — while avoiding the "duplicate content" issues inherent in most "we publish your blog for you" services.

The content comes from a variety of solid sources and, of course, you can preview the link before publishing.

In addition, you can add any content source to the system via RSS feeds. If there is a publication or blog that you like to link to or comment about, you can add the RSS feed to your SocialMadeSimple content library and speed up the process of publishing your commentary and links to your site.

The real trick here, in terms of practical use, is to add your own commentary to the link — sharing your own experiences with your audience and letting them know why you think the content you’re linking to is relevant to them.

The content library also pulls in local news content from Fwix.com and contains some tips and ideas for real estate-focused blog posts. SocialMadeSimple has done just about all it can to eliminate the "blank page" problem for you, short of writing the content for you.

Groups

The remaining feature that I’m really liking about SocialMadeSimple is the group feature. If you’re a broker or organization with a lot of agents or other individuals working with you, you can set up a group.

From a group account you can make posts for your members’ content library.

This is a good way for organizations to get out information that’s common for all of their members. It provides for some consistent messaging via social media networks. It also gives individuals some control by letting them customize the posts for their specific audience, and to choose which posts to publish.

Combined with the plan and content functionality feature, the groups feature is a very solid tool to get beginners in social media up and running with a minimum of effort.

Room for improvement

As with all software tools, there’s room for improvement with SocialMadeSimple. The system wasn’t able to pull in all of my LinkedIn connections, but that was probably due to an API issue. Maybe they’ll show up by the time this column gets published.

Also, while many of the mentions and messages include a link to respond, some don’t (when people "like" a comment in Facebook, for example). It would be nice to be able to respond to any action taken with your content in a social network.

And as much as I love the content library, I’d like to see the source of the content listed, along with the headline, so I know whether I want to use it before clicking to edit. This would help speed things up and avoid backtracking.

Aside from the LinkedIn issue, the others are somewhat minor issues that should be easily addressable. Overall, SocialMadeSimple looks like an excellent social platform for individuals and groups in the real estate industry to take control of social media marketing.

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