Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress and other blog sites, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr–so many platforms, so little time! Although being active on social media is generally a necessary evil in every writer’s life, if you’re active on more than one platform it can get incredibly time-consuming. So much so, that it can begin cutting into your writing time, and that’s something we don’t want. This week, we wanted to look into some social media dashboard options that could streamline your marketing efforts and carve out more quality writing time for you each day. Keep in mind, everyone is different, and some of our tips will depend on which platforms you use. If you’d like an exhaustive analysis of every type of dashboard out there, take a look at this article by Frances Caballo. So, what is a social media dashboard? Basically, it is a system that allows you, in some form, to view and post to multiple platforms from one place. In other words, by using a dashboard application, you could manage Twitter, Facebook, and your blog from one site without ever having to visit any of these pages directly. The good news is that a dashboard totally streamlines your posting process. The bad news? There is no one dashboard that can flawlessly handle every single other platform, and some of them come with a pricetag. It may take some experimenting to find the one that works for you. Luckily, most of these services are either free, cheap, or offer a free trial, so you can compare and contrast before you make a decision. Without further ado, see our top three picks below. HootSuite Supported platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (with a paid option that includes Google+). Pros: If your main source of fan support comes from Facebook and Twitter, Hootsuite is a solid option. It is a free service for as long as you want, although the paid version comes with perks (see cons below). The portal is user-friendly, and fairly straightforward. You can aggregate your social media news feeds so that you never even have to visit the social media networks. Cons: If you are interested in Google+ or being able to track your analytics, you have to sign up for their paid serivce, which runs $10/month. Images posted to Twitter will appear as links, which could hurt your audience engagement. SocialCast Supported platforms: RSS feed (blog), Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Constant Contact or MailChimp Pros: Supports a wider range of platforms than HootSuite, and allows you to analyze your statistics. Allows you to monitor conversations about your “brand” and follow or unfollow users. 14-day free trial. Cons: If you decide to stick with this program, it will run you $20/month. Unless you will be heavily utilizing the blog and bulk e-mail features, you’re really not getting much more than you would with HootSuite’s free service. SocialOomph Supported platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn (groups, pages and profiles), Foursquare, Flickr, and Picasa Pros: Wide range of platforms, with the added bonus of being able to ReTweet directly from your inbox. Can integrate e-mail platforms such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and more. Tracks click-through rates and growth in followers. Allows you to randomize Tweets to post at different times of day. Pictures post to Twitter as pictures, not links (see HootSuite cons above). Cons: SocialOomph and Facebook do not integrate well, so if you go with this service, it would be a good idea to use a supplementary free service like HootSuite. No mobile app, so you won’t be able to manage it on the go. Many features on SocialOomph require you to pay for their professional plan, which it appears runs about $35/month. There are, of course, many more services than we had time to list here, including ones that specialize in Twitter like TweetDeck and Pluggio. As we said at the beginning, if you’re interested in a more exhaustive list, check out social media strategist Frances Caballo’s article on thebookdesigner.com. And check back next month for more tips, or email us at authorrelations[at]deepriverbooks.com if there is a topic you’d especially like us to cover.