As much I as I have beaten the drum lately of bridging the gap between the echo chamber it-getters and businesses that are still fearful and skeptical of digital and social media marketing — I did, after all, co-author a book that helps businesses jump that gap — I think we’re starting to see a maturation of the social media marketing space. Whether it’s full-scale corporate evolution on the enterprise side or entry-level social media tactics implemented by small business, it seems the market place is maturing enough so that companies are escaping the sandbox.

No longer do we seem to see clients that just “want a blog” or “want a Facebook page” with no rhyme nor reason. Now, clients and companies are coming to the table with, “We want to drive sales,” or “We want to manage our online reputation,” or other strategic purposes for social media use.

Sandbox Fun

Image by engelsrud via Flickr

This is good because it means more social media consultants and agencies will be held at a higher level of accountability than just, “handle that for us.” Those not pushing clients to graduate beyond tactics and start implementing larger-scale strategies to compliment business drivers will now be held accountable for more than followers and fans. This will further weed out the bad and elevate the good. And it will serve our clients and customers better.

But the trend doesn’t mean all businesses everywhere are moving ahead. Among social media management software companies, the number one client challenge is that even socially adept companies don’t understand the difference between monitoring and engagement, between engagement and advertising, between monitoring and measurement. Certainly, the social media software vendors don’t seem to help matters.

Radian6 is a monitoring and listening platform that provides an engagement portal. Expion is an engagement platform that provides analytics. Argyle Social is an analytics platform that provides an engagement platform. Wildfire is a game/engagement platform that for some reason gets classified as a publishing and management platform, but it isn’t.

No wonder brands are confused. The vendors themselves can’t define what they do well. Throw in advertising management and you’ve got a whole lot of tools that do some of what brands need, but none that do them all.

But the good news is that of the various functions of social media management software, brand-side marketers are at least now coming to the table knowing which ones they want. Sure, they may be unclear on the definition of each but they have a strategic purpose with more frequency nowadays.

What I hope this evolution out of the sandbox means is that we’ll start to see better case studies, stronger strategic advice from the vendors we use and more proof positive that social marketing can, in fact, drive business in ways we’ve not been able to before. We need more case studies. We need more stories. We need more sophistication in the marketplace so our innovations and ideas can grow.

Here’s hoping we start to see that and more. But let’s not forget there are still millions of businesses out there that don’t get it. Maybe it’s because they’re waiting for more proof-positive case studies or maybe they just don’t like engaging with customers. We can’t stop bridging the gap as social media evangelists. If we do, we leave too much of the world behind for the industry to sustain itself.

But as we’re building that bridge we can now start to make sure it doesn’t end in the sand, but on solid ground for businesses.

Your thoughts? The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.iproductionstudio.com Video Production

    Are you finding that most of the people who are skeptical of social media are people who are not using it themselves for personal reasons?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Yes and no. Many people skeptical for business reasons use it for personal reasons. They just can’t see beyond the frivolity.

  • http://www.iproductionstudio.com Video Production

    Are you finding that most of the people who are skeptical of social media are people who are not using it themselves for personal reasons? 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Yes and no. Many people skeptical for business reasons use it for personal reasons. They just can’t see beyond the frivolity.

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    Jason,

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    Jason, 

    I’ve always felt that there’s a big disconnect between corporate and personal social media efforts. The challenge that I think so many companies face is dealing with all the red tape that holds back their innovation and social media efforts. I think I could write an entire post about that. In fact I interviewed for a position yesterday at a large company and this topic came up. I think that companies need to not be as afraid to be human with their social media efforts.  It’s a rather challenging gap to bridge, but once that gap has been bridged, and business results are generated, maybe they’ll remove the red tape. 

  • http://dempseymarketing.com/journal/media/ Robert Dempsey

    I was recently approached by a global company to work on a content site for them. It was refreshing to see a very large company interested in what a content strategy can really do for them. They understand they’re expected to engage (meaning have an actual conversation not just see them go by) and are willing to do so.

    The biggest issues I’ve come up against with businesses large and small are:

    1. Time – it takes time to foster a community around a business and grow it
    2. Fear of “what if” – what if someone goes negative, what if it “doesn’t work”

    Typically both of those can be easily addressed with a larger strategy. The big picture business case needs to be shown and discussed along with goals and success metrics.

  • http://dempseymarketing.com/journal/media/ Robert Dempsey

    I was recently approached by a global company to work on a content site for them. It was refreshing to see a very large company interested in what a content strategy can really do for them. They understand they’re expected to engage (meaning have an actual conversation not just see them go by) and are willing to do so.

    The biggest issues I’ve come up against with businesses large and small are:

    1. Time – it takes time to foster a community around a business and grow it
    2. Fear of “what if” – what if someone goes negative, what if it “doesn’t work”

    Typically both of those can be easily addressed with a larger strategy. The big picture business case needs to be shown and discussed along with goals and success metrics.

  • http://twitter.com/Collectual Collective Intellect

    Jason,

    I agree with you that the social media monitoring market is maturing (and no, I did not intend the alliteration). But I wonder if instead of trying to identify a single technology to support a business strategy if the emphasis should be on developing a suite of tools. I don’t know that a single software solution can provide the full-range of functionality a business looking to drive more strategic outcomes from their social media efforts might need.

    It’s great to hear that more businesses are wanting to tie their social media projects to other more traditional metrics; I think that bodes well for the industry as a whole.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    -Jennifer

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Brands don’t want a suite of tools. They want one login, one dashboard, one button to push for reports. More to come …

  • http://twitter.com/Collectual Collective Intellect

    Jason,

    I agree with you that the social media monitoring market is maturing (and no, I did not intend the alliteration). But I wonder if instead of trying to identify a single technology to support a business strategy if the emphasis should be on developing a suite of tools. I don’t know that a single software solution can provide the full-range of functionality a business looking to drive more strategic outcomes from their social media efforts might need.

    It’s great to hear that more businesses are wanting to tie their social media projects to other more traditional metrics; I think that bodes well for the industry as a whole.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    -Jennifer

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Brands don’t want a suite of tools. They want one login, one dashboard, one button to push for reports. More to come …

  • http://davidhorne.me david horne

    Good thoughts (as usual) Jason. It seems the evolution process is has been to measure anything, then shiny social objects, and hopefully the metrics that

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I don’t know if I’d be as brash as to say it’s laziness. I think it’s ignorance. They just don’t think it through. None of what I preach about measurement is complicated. I just took the time to think about it … what does a Facebook like mean? Nothing if you can’t get them to buy something.
      But the companies that are bringing strategic purposes to the table now are pushing the platform providers to provide better information. That’s a good thing.

      • http://davidhorne.me david horne

        Thanks for the response. You mean you have to think? (You nailed it)

  • http://davidhorne.me david horne

    Good thoughts (as usual) Jason. It seems the evolution process is has been to measure anything, then shiny social objects, and hopefully the metrics that correlate to real business KPIs. 

    Do you think laziness has led to a lot of the fluffy measurements and if marketers put in the work to discover what is meaningful, then the tool providers will shift to providing what the market requires?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I don’t know if I’d be as brash as to say it’s laziness. I think it’s ignorance. They just don’t think it through. None of what I preach about measurement is complicated. I just took the time to think about it … what does a Facebook like mean? Nothing if you can’t get them to buy something.
      But the companies that are bringing strategic purposes to the table now are pushing the platform providers to provide better information. That’s a good thing.

      • http://davidhorne.me david horne

        Thanks for the response. You mean you have to think? (You nailed it) 

  • http://twitter.com/theboomerangkid Lindsay Hunt

    I talk with clients and businesses that don’t get it every day. They typically fall into one of two categories: (1) Businesses who think they should start using social media because they feel like they’re being left behind and want to keep up with others. (2) Businesses who think social media will bring them tons of new clients / customers just by creating social media profiles.

  • http://twitter.com/theboomerangkid Lindsay Hunt

    I talk with clients and businesses that don’t get it every day. They typically fall into one of two categories: (1) Businesses who think they should start using social media because they feel like they’re being left behind and want to keep up with others. (2) Businesses who think social media will bring them tons of new clients / customers just by creating social media profiles. 

    When I start to talk to both groups about their goals, engagement plans and content strategies, they seem surprised that they have to spend time using social media to see results. At this point, they usually ask me to tweet for them or update their Facebook pages, but still are unwilling to have the strategy discussion about how social media integrates into their current business plan and other marketing initiatives. 

    As we have more case studies and statistics to prove the benefits of social media, I’m hoping these businesses will begin to embrace it and devote their time and resources to it. 

  • Velma

    More companies have started strategic utilization of social media driven by goals and objectives. But many are still hiring an intern updating the Facebook page or blogs. One of the big reasons is that they haven’t developed a strategic plan of incorporating social media into their PR or marketing plans. And they are not fully aware of what social media in terms of ROI will bring to them. This goes to the problem of social media measurement. Evaluation of social media PR/marketing effect is not isolated because usually social media is one sphere of the integration of new PR/marketing use. It makes the company difficult to measure social media roundly.

  • Velma

    More companies have started strategic utilization of social media driven by goals and objectives. But many are still hiring an intern updating the Facebook page or blogs. One of the big reasons is that they haven’t developed a strategic plan of incorporating social media into their PR or marketing plans. And they are not fully aware of what social media in terms of ROI will bring to them. This goes to the problem of social media measurement. Evaluation of social media PR/marketing effect is not isolated because usually social media is one sphere of the integration of new PR/marketing use. It makes the company difficult to measure social media roundly.

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  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com Nick Robinson

    I think we’re in the same transition as the 1995-2000 era, where many were questioning the efficacy of having a website for marketing purposes. As the dot com boom flourished, there was obviously a lot of data and case studies that were public. Many businesses were sitting on the sidelines until the last moment. I see that happening now with social and content marketing. Again, many businesses will wait on the sidelines for the evolution that is going on right now: mobile.

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com Nick Robinson

    I think we’re in the same transition as the 1995-2000 era, where many were questioning the efficacy of having a website for marketing purposes. As the dot com boom flourished, there was obviously a lot of data and case studies that were public. Many businesses were sitting on the sidelines until the last moment. I see that happening now with social and content marketing. Again, many businesses will wait on the sidelines for the evolution that is going on right now: mobile.

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  • http://twitter.com/IdentifyBI Kevin Hudson

    Jason, what software/tools do you recommend for each parameter…monitoring, engagement etc? I think the social media software market is becoming too cluttered with tools and dashboards that aren’t really that different from each other, except maybe in terms of price structuring.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      It really depends on what you’re trying to do, the aptitude of your staff and lots of other factors. No one tool solves all the problems or even most. That’s the problem with the marketplace. It’s just cluttered with options, not solutions.

      • http://twitter.com/IdentifyBI Kevin Hudson

        I couldn’t agree more. I am yet to find a software/tool that I really consider to be the best, or even close to being something I’d consider the best. Have you ever thought of creating a No Bullshit social media marketing software/tool, or range of tools?

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Great question, Kevin. Find me an investor who will let me do my thing without being all up in my bid-ness and I’ll do just that! Heh.

  • http://twitter.com/IdentifyBI Kevin Hudson

    Jason, what software/tools do you recommend for each parameter…monitoring, engagement etc? I think the social media software market is becoming too cluttered with tools and dashboards that aren’t really that different from each other, except maybe in terms of price structuring.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      It really depends on what you’re trying to do, the aptitude of your staff and lots of other factors. No one tool solves all the problems or even most. That’s the problem with the marketplace. It’s just cluttered with options, not solutions.

      • http://twitter.com/IdentifyBI Kevin Hudson

        I couldn’t agree more. I am yet to find a software/tool that I really consider to be the best, or even close to being something I’d consider the best. Have you ever thought of creating a No Bullshit social media marketing software/tool, or range of tools?

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Great question, Kevin. Find me an investor who will let me do my thing without being all up in my bid-ness and I’ll do just that! Heh.