As someone who uses social networks a lot in both a personal and professional capacity, it never ceases to surprise me just how bad and uninformative the UI (user interface) is for networks such as Twitter or Facebook. Whether it be through a browser on a desktop or an app on a mobile device, you will often find that you’re at least three or four clicks away from the information you’re looking for, and even then the functionality can be limited.

This is why many social media practitioners favour third-party applications to access social networks and manage their social media exchanges, rather than relying on the official site or official mobile application of the network in question. For an overall one-stop shop to manage all my social networks, I personally favour HootSuite, but even that has its limitations (and occasional annoying glitches). Therefore other tools are needed by professional marketers, and my personal favourite for assessing the performance of my Twitter accounts is SocialBro.

 

What is SocialBro?

SocialBro is an online platform that allows you to analyse in great detail your connections on Twitter as well as offering analytics of your own performance on the network. You can add multiple Twitter accounts to one SocialBro account, and you can tweet from SocialBro itself as well as manage other functionality that you associate with Twitter.

SocialBro main dashboard blurred

The main SocialBro Dashboard from which you can access all of your Twitter accounts.

The level of SocialBro functionality is dependent on which pricing plan you opt for, which is pretty much dictated by the number of Twitter accounts you wish to monitor and the number of connections associated with those Twitter accounts.

There is a free SocialBro package, but most professional marketers will find this limited and will soon find themselves ineligible if they have any modicum of success with their own Twitter marketing.  If the two Twitter accounts you are allowed on this plan have in excess of 5,000 social contacts between them, you will be forced to upgrade to the ‘basic package’, which currently costs you $13.95 per month.

 

Can’t I do all of this on Twitter?

Yes, you probably could if you have lots of spare time and patience, but that time probably costs you far more in terms of your productive unit time wasted than a basic subscription to SocialBro would.

SocialBro’s strength is that it presents all its information in clear dashboards that are easy to navigate and enable to you to also utilise many of Twitter’s features without having to leave the site.

Users can apply different filters to the many analytical reports that SocialBro offers, which analyse both who you follow on Twitter and also those who follow you on the network. Depending on your SocialBro pricing plan, you can also apply these analytical filters to the Twitter accounts of your competitors or other people/organisations who are of interest to you.

So, for example, if you wanted to review all the profiles of those who follow you on Twitter, are based in the UK, are male but haven’t tweeted in the past two months, you can easily do so by adjusting a couple of slide controls on your SocialBro dashboard.

SocialBro filters

From a SocialBro dashboard, you can apply filters to review the demographics of Twitter followers.

From the same dashboard and the same report, you could then follow those people back (or unfollow them if you already are), add them to a Twitter List or even block them, all without having to navigate away from the screen you are on let alone having to log into Twitter itself.

You also get dashboard reports of who has recently unfollowed you, who has followed you, who you influence and who has influenced you. It is as transparent a depiction of your Twitter activity and performance that you are going to get.

SocialBro can also be used for importing e-mailing lists to find users on Twitter, for calculating your best time to tweet for any one of your accounts and for running a Twitter Direct Message marketing campaign if you so wish (although I personally would advise against doing that).

The program also allows you to monitor specific hashtags and subjects on Twitter, as well as giving you a summary of the interests of those you follow (and of those who follow you) via ‘Bio TagClouds’ (a visual summary of keywords/subjects those people are most likely to tweet about).

You can also easily flick between Twitter accounts on your one singular SocialBro account, saving yourself time from having to log in and out of multiple Twitter (or, indeed, SocialBro) accounts. In addition, you can also export all your information from SocialBro and set up e-mailed reports at a regularity of your choosing.

SocialBro snapshot

SocialBro can represent Twitter analytics in a variety of easy to understand visual reports.

Yes, you probably could do the majority of the above via individual Twitter accounts and, yes, a lot (but not all) of this functionality is also inherent in other programs you may use (TweetDeck, HootSuite), but I doubt you’d be able to get all of this in one package elsewhere.

 

This all sounds very impressive, but is any of it really necessary?

Any marketing campaign, but specifically an online marketing campaign, requires some sort of assessment or analytics by which you can judge its success or failure; otherwise what’s the point?

Marketing through Twitter is no exception to this, and even if you are not aggressively or extensively using it for marketing purposes, you’d be foolish not to assess what kind of following you are cultivating on the network and what sort of impact you are making on it.

Too often, assessment of Twitter marketing gets boiled down to crude metrics about the number of followers any one account has or the number of tweets sent without any deeper thought as to what those metrics actually signify or whether or not they have any real benefit to the business, organisation or person behind that Twitter account.

While I have argued elsewhere that it can be beneficial to have a lot of followers on Twitter, I’d still maintain that it is preferable to have a smaller, more dedicated (and therefore more engaged) Twitter following than a large one. And if the latter option is preferable, SocialBro allows you to easily monitor and curate that following in a manner that would be inconceivable through the Twitter platform itself.

Even if having read through this article you decide that SocialBro isn’t the Twitter monitoring platform for you, please really do give some thought as to how else you should be monitoring your performance on Twitter and what metrics you should actually be concerned about.  Not thinking this through properly would be a huge omission in your Twitter marketing campaign and if you are unwilling to do this, I would argue that Twitter is not the platform for you and you should not continue wasting your time using it.

 

For marketing, this all sounds too good to be true – is it?

SocialBro is not flawless and I do have some reservations about it. I find it occasionally a little glitchy, as some of the actions you think you have carried out through the dashboard are not followed through on the Twitter account in question.  These glitches are very much the exception and not the rule, but I don’t have 100% faith that SocialBro has carried out what I have asked it to, whether that be adding a Twitter user to a specific Twitter list or simply unfollowing someone.

Also, as I have already mentioned, if you are serious about Twitter marketing, the SocialBro free package is far too limited for your purposes and you will have to pay to get the true benefits.  While it would be churlish to deny financial reward to those who took the time to develop and promote SocialBro, it would represent an ongoing monthly marketing overhead that you would have not had otherwise. There is no such thing as free social media marketing, but if you are already paying to use HootSuite, you may feel that there are already a sufficient number of SocialBro’s features on that to negate the need to invest in SocialBro as well.

Another self-evident drawback is that SocialBro is solely concerned with Twitter. All businesses have to think carefully about which social media channels they should be on, and if Twitter is not in the equation or represents a minor platform for your marketing plan, SocialBro is completely vestigial to your needs.

Having said all of that, Twitter plays a very important part in my own marketing and that of my clients, and if I did not have SocialBro I would not have been able to cultivate the high-quality, genuine followings for the Twitter accounts I manage.

In conclusion, SocialBro represents a huge (but not perfect) improvement on the way Twitter’s inherent functionality is presented elsewhere and, if you are serious about Twitter, I would argue it is an essential tool.  However, SocialBro also represents an ongoing monthly overhead that needs to be used fully and properly if the user is to get true value out of it, and its sole focus on Twitter further limits its value for money if you are managing many different social networks.

Update 30/07/2014

Since this article was published, SocialBro have notified Full Media Ltd that they are now Twitter Certified, which means that Twitter have evaluated and approved the program for use with their platform. In addition, SocialBro have launched a free version of their application.