Like many others, my social media experience began with a Facebook account. The first few weeks were an eye-opening experience. I was amazed at how easy it was to find and connect with old friends, scattered across the globe. I got so excited about ‘friending’, that I started connecting to people that I barely remembered from childhood, just because I could. Any time I met someone new, the first thing I did was connect to them on Facebook. Very quickly I had hundreds of “friends”. How cool?!
Then I began to realize that keeping in touch with hundreds of people is not practical. Before Facebook came along, I already had my hands full keeping up with my immediate friends and family. Even with the direct connection provided by Facebook, I didn’t have the time or frankly the interest, to keep up with so many acquaintances. One of the great things about Facebook though, is that it lets you maintain a “shallow” connection to everyone in your network. Scanning the newsfeed once in a while and writing birthday wishes on timelines is good enough, for the most part. I had found a manageable balance.
But then I discovered that everyone was talking about Twitter. “Why would I possibly need more than one social media account?” I wondered. I signed up anyway, to see what it was about. Eventually I understood some of the nuances between Facebook’s model and Twitter’s, so I started using both.
Then I discovered LinkedIn. It was clearly differentiated from the others, because it was the social network for business. Easy enough to understand, so I signed up there too. Then Google+ came along with its Circles feature that I thought was so much better than the Facebook approach. So I started experimenting with Google+, hoping everyone would switch over from Facebook. They didn’t. Then came Pinterest, which I still don’t use much, but I do log in from time to time.
That brings me to 5 social media accounts. I like having these accounts, but I find it challenging to keep up and make good use of them. Sound familiar?
What I need is a tool to help me keep up with less effort. It turns out that this is such a common problem that there are already a lot of sites on the web that offer a solution: a means of aggregating your networks into one place.
I found this post about social media aggregation options, so I set out to explore and find the solution that would work for me.
The approach offered by Flavors.me and Rebel Mouse is to enable you to create a custom website that brings together your content from different social media sites. These sites allow you to more easily show all your social media offerings (and what others are saying about you) in a one-stop shop, allowing fans/followers/friends to engage with the entirety of your social media presence in one place. I suppose these sites can help brands connect with their target audience, but they won’t help me manage how I consume content from the people in my networks.
Mention.net is a tool that allows you to keep track of where your brand is being mentioned across the entirety of the social web. By easily finding out who is talking about you, you can respond quickly, presumably to buoy the trend or do damage control. Not the kind of tool I am looking for, but I filed it away for future reference. It could be useful once I’m famous (or pretentious?) enough to have my own personal brand!
Ming.ly allows you to manage all of your social media from your e-mail inbox. Updates of interest get aggregated into e-mails addressed to you. You can also post to social media by sending e-mails. Personally, I already struggle to keep my inbox uncluttered and I like to use other tools to lighten my e-mail burden, so Ming.ly is pretty much the opposite of what I want. But if you can’t get enough e-mail, this might be for you.
Postano, Stackla and HootSuite are tools aimed at businesses looking to evangelize their brand and manage it across social platforms. They include several tools and features for tracking the effectiveness of your social marketing efforts. HootSuite offers a free account to let you handle up to 3 social profiles, whereas Postano and Stackla are strictly focused on business customers. They look impressive, but as a humble private user, they are not what I am looking for either.
Cyfe is also a business-oriented tool. It’s goal is to offer an “all-in-one” dashboard, bringing together social networks, analytics, marketing, sales and more. Its goal is not so much to help you manage your social networks, but rather to monitor things like how many ‘Likes’ or ‘+1s” you are getting. It has a great demo video which shows how powerful (and overwhelming) the tool is. It does offer the option of creating a free account (not just a trial), which I did. It didn’t take long to figure out that it isn’t what I’m after.
Finally, Alternion and Jyst.us are the kind of services I am looking for to aggregate content from my various social networks into a single place, to simplify monitoring and interacting with my own personal piece of the social web.
Jyst.us is still in beta and struck me as the least interesting of the two. While it does offer a clean, minimalist look, it only allows you to aggregate Facebook and Twitter (when I wrote this post), which makes it inadequate for my needs.
That leaves Alternion as the winner. Although it is also still in beta, I was able to sign up and add all of my social networks effortlessly, as well as a bunch of other accounts I hadn’t thought to aggregate, like Goodreads, StackOverflow and even e-mail!
However, it is not quite the perfect solution. There are a few things that leave to be desired:
- My biggest disappointment is that there is very little Google+ support. I can’t read posts from Google+, nor publish updates of my own. Unfortunately, the root of the problem is the inadequate API provided by Google. So, until Google improves Google+, Alternion (or any other social aggregation solution for that matter) won’t be able to do any better.
- No Android app (yet?), so using Alternion from my mobile devices is not ideal.
- When composing an e-mail or direct message, there is no obvious way to add recipients other than by typing their entire e-mail address from memory. I don’t actually know anyone’s e-mail address, or phone number for that matter. I am wholly dependent on my contact book.
- I couldn’t find a way to archive e-mails either, only delete them. Who deletes e-mails?
- I would also have liked the option of adding custom RSS feeds (which could provide a workaround for not being able to directly receive Google+ posts).
- Oh, and an aggregated calendar would be great too.
I hope these are all features that are under development! Kthx Alternion dev team!
There are even more aggregation tools out there, but I’m happy with Alternion… for now. If you use any social media aggregation platforms, or if you’re curious about others that you’ve heard about, please let me know!