With social media being a fast and effective way for businesses to generate a vast amount of online exposure and provide an opportunity to showcase their products and services, it’s no wonder 75% of businesses have a social media account.

However, within that 75% only 69% are actually publishing updates to their followers.

For a lot of businesses, it’s not so much about misunderstanding the importance of social media, but instead not understanding how to truly benefit from it – and in this post, I’ve picked out my best, least time consuming and simplest social media tools to help businesses get the most out of social media and truly optimise their digital presence.

1. Buffer

It was only recently that I converted to the ways of Buffer, and I can honestly say that it is, hands down, the best social media management tool I have used.

After using a few of the other popular options, Buffer came out on top.  The whole experience is a pleasure, and it has some great features that other social management tools haven’t even dreamed of.

Buffer makes it so easy to connect all of your social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, while also covering both personal and company pages – and for company use, it has a handy ‘Team’ section.  Here, you can add different members of your social workforce to add posts to be sent out, making it really simple to build up a jam-packed content queue.

The scheduling section of the tool is probably my favourite option.  One of the things that makes Buffer unique is the retweet scheduling for Twitter, as if you want to retweet a piece of content but want to do it at exactly the right time, you can just add it to your queue and it’ll do so later.

This is where the scheduling times come in handy too, as you can set up different scheduling times for any days and just send content to the next available time slot.  Social media has never been so simple.

A screenshot showing a tweet being scheduled in Buffer

2. TwitShot for Chrome

TwitShot is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to share any article to your social media account, and also automatically pulls through any images associated with that post.  If the page has multiple images, they are all collated on one handy page, where you can choose which one to post.

A screenshot of the Twitshot homepage

3. RiteTag

One of the newest extensions I’ve discovered, RiteTag is now one of my favourite hashtag tools.  Downloading the extension for Chrome, Firefox or Safari enables you to see instant analytics of any hashtag you’re going to use within Twitter, and RiteTag provides direct feedback on the popularity and strength of the hashtags you use.

The RiteTag website gives you handy tips on your previous tweets and how you can improve on them, interestingly not just related to the hashtags.  Points such as using images in tweets, the length of your tweets and even an overall comment from their ‘coach’ to improve your tweeting make it a great little tool.

A screenshot of the RiteTag extension screen

4. Feedreader

A really useful tool for finding new content for social media feeds, it pulls together all the articles you could wish for on one simple site. Just take the URL of the page you want articles from – www.Leighton.com/blog, for example – paste it into the Feedreader and there you have it, all of Leighton’s blog posts.

What’s more, you can also organise your content into different categories.  I personally use the categories to separate the feeds that are suitable to share on behalf of Leighton and the feeds that I would share on my personal social accounts.

A screenshot of the Feedreader user panel

5. Followerwonk

Followerwonk is a site that enables you to explore and grow your social graph.  You can compare, find and analyse your followers and it’s a great tool to target and discover a potential audience.

For example, if you wanted to connect with other companies within your industry, you can search the keyword in Twitter bios or profiles, set a location, URL and even their minimum / maximum followers, following and tweet numbers.  From here, you can see the most popular results for your search, displaying their tweets, followings, followers and social authority.

A screenshot of the followerwonk 'search bios' screen

Since using these tools, I’ve noticed a dramatic change in my use of social media, as they all interlink with each other to create a simplistic approach to social media management.

Importantly, the key to managing a social presence is not just using as many tools as possible – or simply using all the free ones – but instead, it’s about working out how different tools can work together to create an effective social strategy that delivers the results you need, want and expect.