The Best Social Media Management Tools for 2012

Today, companies looking to automate or organize their social media assets are met with a myriad of options. From customized apps by Wildfire and Fanzila to standardized systems that allow you to manage multiple brand pages like Vitrue and Buddy Media, it appears that now every start-up in Silicon Valley, New York, or Austin has jumped on the social media bandwagon promising to simplify your company's Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, or Google+ accounts. It's enough to drive any digital advertising exec bonkers, but thankfully, I've rounded up a few options -- and some helpful questions to ask -- to help you organize your choices.

How long should a custom Facebook application take to develop?
Depending on the extensive nature of the application, many Facebook applications can be developed in around three weeks. Wildfire's new Social Platform is a bit different in that it's a ready-to-go interface similar to a blogging platform with set boxes for running contests or sweepstakes, uploading photos and text, and pulling in RSS feeds from blogs or Twitter accounts. Although shareability features and unique additions still need to be strategized by the executive in charge of your social media work, remember... everything should be shareable, otherwise, you're missing the point of being the social space in the first place.

What differentiates Facebook Insights from other analytic platforms?
Facebook Insights are helpful in that they show you fan acquisition, attrition, and most popular posts, and now, with the new CAT tool, you can see even more demographic breakdown and other brand affinities according to user's 'likes'. This is critical when looking at your audience and determining who might be the best fit from a content generation and partnership point of view.

What should customized development cost?
Costs can vary according to the amount of development work needed. Fanzila comes in at a reasonable $2K per month with about $10K upfront for licensing fees. Wildfire's Social Platform can be at upwards of $100K, while options for less pricey app builds run a standard $25-30K. In the end, it often depends upon the complexity and functionality you're seeking. In addition, whereas a year ago most people were moving away from microsites for contests to contests and sweepstakes taking place within Facebook through third party apps, more and more digital strategists are seeing that -- with the development of more viruses and app privacy concerns -- some are opting to drive Facebook fans through ads to a microsite to eliminate the barrier to entry that comes with accepting an application.

Here are some suggested social media content management systems.

What is your one to watch for 2012?

Buddy Media
Provides software to make it easier for brands and agencies to publish content, monitor and moderate conversations on the Facebook wall. They also create robust landing page tabs featuring brand content and viral tools, measure all Facebook page activity and, for global brands functioning in different languages, they've establish a streamlined global presence with local content controlled by local markets.

One of the leading social media publishing software provider, Vitrue is much like Buddy Media in that they provide Fortune 1,000 brands, agencies and small businesses with the tools like automated messaging to moderate content. They can watch for lists of words and phrases to flag for response or automatic deletion, have one control panel to consolidates Facebook, Twitter and Google+ content, and 10+ wall apps for rich content such as coupons, polls, videos, and quizzes.

Context Optional
Similar to Vitrue or Buddy Media, Context Optional offers analytics and moderation, scheduling posts, contests, and rich media apps. They're inching their way into capturing more of the lion's share of the social media management space with brands like Audi, AT&T, Clinique, ING, and Wells Fargo now using their suite of products.

Provides marketers with everything they need to create rich experiences across the social web, they developed the social markup language, SML™, that enables web developers to quickly build and customize social applications from a suite of over two dozen, and a dashboard from which to create and monitor content. Designers tend to favor Involver for their ability to work within their system whilst maintaining some creative control.

Shoutlet's features make it the most comprehensive tool available for companies to manage all their social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more than 100 other social sites.

Sprout Publisher
With Sprout Publisher, Page administrators can access Sprout's creative platform, right from the Facebook Fan Page.