Whether you stick to basics or prefer a more technological approach to implementing your social media plan, there are tools that can help a social media marketer at any level maintain an active presence and increase the effectiveness of the plan.

These tools range from analytics features that are built into social media websites; to third-party social media management programs that enable you to aggregate multiple networks; to full-service providers who can be hired to manage your entire strategy.

The last option was the best one for Colleen O’Connell-Campbell, an Ottawa-based senior advisor with Scotia Wealth Management, a division of ScotiaMcLeod Inc. She wanted to have an active and strategic presence on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, but didn’t feel she had the time.

She employs an external marketing firm that puts its expertise behind her strategy and lets her focus on her specialty of financial planning for women.

“It’s not so much that [marketing on social media] is hard but [I] have to think about where [I am] getting the most return for my time,” says O’Connell-Campbell. “That’s what it really boils down to.”

Although it may seem hard to justify paying for professional services, that approach can improve your strategy, especially if content creation is not your strong point, according to April Rudin, founder of The Rudin Group in New York.

“What happens is that [some advisors] try to save money on things like that, thinking it is something they can do, but it ends up looking like a bake sale, instead of a bakery,” she says.

O’Connell-Campbell works with her third-party marketing team members so they understand the topics that should be represented on her social networks. However, she also occasionally posts her own updates, logging directly onto Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook to share stories she has read or details about her own interests.

Using the social networks directly, rather than a third-party tool, is an effective option for the advisor who wants a hands-on yet simple social media strategy. One advantage of these networks is they provide free analytics on the popularity of your posts.

For instance, Twitter provides analytics for each tweet, showing the number of views, “likes,” and followers gained from that specific tweet. It also counts the number of engagements, which includes retweets, replies, and clicks on a link.

LinkedIn members who use the network’s blog publishing platform, as well as Facebook users, can view similar details about the number of views, shares and comments, and can also access information on the audience’s demographics, which allows advisors to see whether their posts are hitting the right market.

These details are helpful, as your social media posts can generate ideas for other marketing strategies such as educational seminars and future newsletters, says Sara Gilbert, founder of Strategist Business Development in Montreal.

“You’re building those strategies from key metrics,” she says. “You’re not going to do something that people are not interested in.”

Advisors who use multiple networks may want to adopt a social media management program. These tools save you time by aggregating your various networks into one site and allowing you to schedule posts in advance. Other features can include connecting the profiles of various team members into one system, and advanced analytics.

Advisors need to determine what features they require and which team members will use it to find a system that works for them, says Rudin. Asking for recommendations from colleagues who have adopted these tools can help.

The range of services available under a program often depends on the level of the account. Basic accounts are often free, whereas more comprehensive ones require payment. Consider using a program that provides a free service or a trial period in order to ensure the tool meets your needs, before moving forward.

For example, Vancouver-based Hootsuite Media Inc. provides a free social media management service with limited features, as well as paid accounts with a wider range of features and benefits. Chicago-based Sprout Social Inc. provides its social media management services at a cost, but offers a free trial.

Note that your firm may provide access to a social media management platform. Before signing up for any third-party tools, it’s best to ensure your firm permits you to use them.

This is the third article in a three-part series on social media marketing.