To be effective and successful on social, your company needs much more than just completed profiles. It takes a creative, thorough strategy to make that regular posting schedule effective, and to interact effectively with a growing audience. Once you have a plan, you also need the right tools to put it into action.

As the importance of social media for businesses has grown, more and more programs have appeared that promise to revolutionize your company’s capabilities. How do you know which ones are worth the investment? And what features does your brand really need? Here’s a primer on what’s most important when choosing a social media monitoring tool.

1. Start With Monitoring

Since it’s right there in the name, you should expect a social media monitoring tool to cover all bases for your profiles. Especially for enterprise businesses maintaining profiles for different countries, departments, or services, it’s crucial that your program deliver both the broad bird’s eye view and the focused magnifying glass on your social media presence.

As a foundation, your monitoring tool should facilitate a smart workflow. Look for a tool that streamlines your feeds. You should be able to look at all of your social messages and activities in a single place, then filter out specific information as you need it. This allows your social team to assess general audience sentiment about your company and make smart strategic decisions while still respecting the need to review smaller subsets of messages.

Monitoring shouldn’t be limited to the direct interactions on your profiles. You might want to set alerts for key words related to your products or your industry. Social moves fast, so having a tool that tracks those sudden spikes and trends is crucial to staying at the forefront.

2. Publishing and Scheduling

One of the top challenges to building and maintaining a strong social presence is managing your content. Having a schedule is a good start, but your social media tools should help you to stick to that prepared plan while allowing you to make last-minute changes without hassle.

Seek out comprehensive publishing features for your brand. You should be able to connect multiple profiles across multiple networks under one umbrella. If you can pick and choose where your message appears, and which audiences will see it, your content will be more likely to perform at its potential. That means controlling when your messages go out, as well as where.

Set up a queue in advance to lighten your team’s load. Also, make sure that you can review drafts before publishing; that will help your brand to avoid errors that can detract from your social standing.

3. Analytics and Reports

After the content goes live, part of your monitoring duties should be dedicated to tracking performance. One of the most important elements of your social presence to measure is engagement.

Engagement metrics are a two-way street, and the best monitoring tools reflect that relationship. Not only does your company need to know how the audience is responding to your content, but you should know how well your team is reacting to what your followers say.

And of course, if your social team needs to present to executives or investors, you’ll want a tool that can create customizable reports. Great visuals can help convince even the toughest skeptic about how social media gets results.

Learn everything you need to know about who your social followers are, which posts they respond to, and when they are talking to you. Get a better understanding of your reach and impressions on social, and see where and how to improve your strategy.

4. Teamwork and Integration

Some social media monitoring tools might promise your company the moon and more, but they’re so expensive that you can only have a handful of people on your plan. You should be able to have accounts for as many people as you need from your staff without breaking the bank.

After all, collaboration is one of the most important steps to getting the most out of your social media monitoring tool. Community managers, sales reps, support experts, and marketing pros should all be able to work together to help build your brand’s social presence.

Collaboration doesn’t just happen between people. Your social media management system usually isn’t the only tool in your marketing arsenal. If you’re going to incorporate a new resource into your team’s day-to-day activities, then it should cooperate with the existing systems.

For instance, many brands are encouraging their customers to use social media to report service issues. If your business is working with a customer service platform such as ZenDesk or UserVoice to create tickets for those support tasks, then your social media monitoring tool should be able to work with those programs.

5. Test It Out

Sprout Social offers all of these key features and more. Whether you’re working with a team of two or 200, it can support all of your monitoring, publishing, analytics, and collaboration needs. Connect your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ and see how much more you can do with those networks when you have the right tool at your fingertips.

The best way to know how a tool will work for your team is to take it for a test drive. Sign up for a free trial and explore all of the great features Sprout Social offers.