By Mat McDermott

Kurt Gwartney demonstrates social media tools (photo by George Conklin)

As religious communicators we naturally want to appeal to the best in humanity, Kurt Gwartney, Senior Director of Seminary Relations for Phillips Theological Seminary, told RCC conference attendees during Friday’s “Tools for Working Smarter on Social Media” panel. But, Kurt continued, this instinct is sometime at odds with the fact that not only are the social media tools we all use both physically addictive, they are primarily designed to make money for their makers. So, how can we best use these tools for good and not just play into the next dopamine hit we get by pressing ‘like’?

It’s a lofty question and one that served mostly as a segue into the more prosaic discussion of what are the best social media management tools on the market today, how do they compare, and how are they best used.

Most of Gwartney’s 75-minute talk was given over to comparing Buffer with its leading competitors (Hootsuite and Sprout Social) and walking through the ins and outs of what makes Buffer Kurt’s tool of choice for scheduling social media posts across multiple accounts for Phillips Theological Seminary, as well as analyzing how they are performing.

All of the three top social media management platforms perform well and picking the right one is somewhat down to personal preference, Kurt explained, but it’s Buffer’s transparency as a company that is ultimately one of it’s most distinctive features. (Not many companies not only make everyone’s salary publicly available, but also the company’s internal Trello project management boards, so users can stay abreast of where their subscription dollars are going.)

Regardless of what platform you choose – Kurt pointed out that all of the leading ones offer free trials so you can determine which one works best for you and your organization – there are some best practice guidelines he applies that transcend the tool used to implement them: know your audience and time your posts to when your users are most active; be aware of what’s happening in the world and don’t hesitate to pause your content if some breaking news deserves to take precedence; make sure the majority of your content is not actually about your organization directly, but is rather of interest to your community.

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