The social media management solutions landscape is vast and fractured. Altimeter Group identifies over 150 social media monitoring solutions and over 30 specifically defined Social Media Management Systems. The vastness of the options makes it hard for brand-side marketers to determine what platforms and tools they should be using.

Exacerbating the problem is that even among the 30 tools Altimeter identifies as Social Media Management Solutions, none of them do the same thing. And there’s no clear definition of what social media management solutions should do. Some of the 30, like WildfireApp, provide a very narrow sliver of functionality (network-specific engagement tools). I wonder if these should even be classified as SMMS at all. But I’ll leave the classification up to other analysts.

Mindmap by Mare Kuliasz on Shutterstock.comIn an effort to help bring some clarity to you brand marketers, I’ve put some thought into what a social media management solution should provide. Look at these entries and see which you would like to have when selecting an SMMS vendor. Then ask the vendors vying for your business if they do all of what you want in a solution.

The 8 Functions of Social Media Management Solutions

Monitoring

Often referred to as listening, social media monitoring is now a core function in many tools. While the monitoring platforms can be categorized separately, you can’t have true social media management without monitoring first. This is why many SMMS solutions have tapped into partnerships and integrations with existing monitoring platforms — they have to have it. The bottom line is that if your SMMS vendor doesn’t have a feature that allows you to search the web for mentions of your brand, product or service, they’re an incomplete solution. You’ll need to add a Radian6, Sysomos, uberVu, Visible Technologies or similar to their platform.

Publishing

Whether it’s running your company blogs or posts to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more, managing social media almost implies publishing content to multiple places. Too many vendors in this space are singularly focused on one platform or another. If they aren’t platform agnostic, make sure your audience is on the platform on which they focus. Publishing systems can be basic, but also feature rich, including things like editorial calendar functionality, content libraries and sharing across departments or brands and the like. Most brands I talk to prefer blog management be integrated here. While I’ve not seen a robust integration, platforms like Awareness and Spredfast do have blog publishing tied into their systems.

Engagement

Publishing’s more social cousin, engagement implies these systems need to make it easy for you to respond, interact, comment and share with the networks you’re connected to in efficient and effective ways. But it can also break down to providing applications or tools that facilitate engagement (ala WildfireApp) as well. This is a critical piece of functionality that almost needs to be platform agnostic. If your SMMS vendor doesn’t provide you with the ability to publish to at least Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, there are potentially better solutions out there, provided your audience or activities include those three major networks. And do note that Google+ functionality isn’t yet possible, but will be soon, meaning the companies providing this service will need to include it as a Big Four Network tie-in.

Organizational Management

There’s no management going on if your internal team can’t be organized around your content, brands, outposts and the like. Social Media Management Solutions should provide at least internal work flow functionality, allowing you to assign internal team members tasks, but perhaps also governance and controls to ensure certain employees or stakeholders can access only the social outposts and publishing channels in their responsibility set. (Think franchisee’s running local pages while corporate still maintains control over the national brand with input to local activations.)

Lead & Conversion Tracking

While this might fit under the larger umbrella of Measurement (see below), Lead and Conversion Tracking is important for SMMS vendors to provide if for no other reason than to remind us that there must be a business outcome from our social activities or we’re not going to be allowed to participate in social much longer. Whatever your current lead tracking system is, your SMMS provider should plug into it and delineate where your new social leads are coming from.

Measurement

This category can be broken down into as many parts as the Social Media Management Solutions landscape itself. By definition, SMMS providers can really only be expected to provide measures and analytics from social activity. But customers don’t want separate measurement systems any more than they want separate management tools. Strong SMMS vendors will tie website analytics, eCommerce/Lead Generation metrics and social metrics together in a unified dashboard or report for you. Mind you, not many do all this yet, but they will. Especially if we keep asking for it.

Customer Relationship Management

From simple audit trails of how many times and in what context you have communicated with your company’s Facebook fans or Twitter followers to more robust CRM integration where your customer database is infused with social contact information and connectivity, CRM will continue to be the next big thing in this space. The technology is available to allow us to deliver messages to each individual customer in a customized, relevant fashion according to their own preferences of time, space, network and more. The SMMS platforms that provide the more fully functioning version of CRM will win big in this space as we move more to a true Age of Relevancy in marketing.

Social Advertising Management

If Social Media Management Solution providers allow your company to manage its Facebook Page or LinkedIn Company Page, they ought to also allow you to manage your advertising on those platforms in their interface as well. In fact, tying the two together — mining the interests of your own Fans to know more about your audience to then target others like them — shouldn’t be that big of a leap.

But What CAN They Be?

Now let’s think about how the Social Media Management Solutions landscape can change to become more complete and holistic. Why don’t we as consumers push the SMMS vendors to do what we all want them to do, but perhaps haven’t articulated it well: Build a tool where we can manage all our digital marketing in one place.

Add these categories of what the vendors should provide and let’s create a category of Digital Marketing Management Solutions:

Email Marketing

Why isn’t the original social network tied into SMMS more consistently? Email is still the most effective of the digital marketing channels and will continue to be for some time. How can we not make an email a part of the “messages we send through social channels?” Just doesn’t make sense the SMMS providers haven’t figured this out yet. Sure, email marketing and a vast industry of providers existed long before SMMS became a functional need. But if the Social Media Management Solution providers don’t think major email marketing players are adding social media management solutions for their customers (ExactTarget acquired Co-Tweet two years ago), they’ve got their head in the sand.

Search Engine Optimization (Internal and External) Management

Whether its Raven Tools, SEOMoz or several of an array of other SEO metrics and recommendation systems out there, brands who want to be social also need to be search-friendly. No social media management solutions provider really taps into search and SEO management for either on-page/on-site or linkbuilding practices yet. Even if they just added a link building suggestion tool around their blog content managed within the system, they’d have something many other tools do not. As search and social become more intimately intertwined, SMMS providers will have to add SEO functionality to stay ahead of the curve.

Search Engine Marketing Management (Paid)

If you’re going to add tools to help people better implement on-site SEO and link-building, you may as well turn that intelligence into research for pay-per-click implementation and/or management as well. As SMMS providers add social advertising management to their arsenals, adding PPC management shouldn’t be too far behind. The only really good implementation of this I’ve seen in a management tool was with a neat soup-to-nuts website management tool called Kutenda that shifted its focus to marketing delivery rather than software.

Website & eCommerce Management

The social media management solutions providers are going to choke on this one a bit. None of them are content management systems in the traditional sense and none probably want to be. But customer demand drives markets and customers simply want one place to manage their digital marketing. If that’s going to happen, then there has to be a CMS for the website, blog and even e-commerce portal included in the tool. We may be a ways off from this, but it’s going to be a request of customers. That mean’s someone somewhere will make it happen.

Mobile Marketing Management

If anything is red-hot right now in digital it’s mobile marketing. As companies implement campaigns and solutions around the mobile space, they need to be managing their mobile website, landing pages, campaigns and executions. And they’re not going to want to manage it outside of their digital comfort zone. While Sendible does offer SMS and mobile messaging management integrated into a uniform platform, few other SMMS providers do. Sendible is also a British company focused on the UK market, to my understanding. None of the providers, including Sendible, integrate a full mobile management solution yet. My guess is they won’t for another year or two and then will be more apt to acquire the likes of 44Doors or similar platforms to bake in integration.

Point-Of-Sale Integration

I wrote about RedEApp a few weeks ago which got me thinking more about true digital marketing integration. Imagine having a mobile or social network notification when your dry cleaning comes off the line rather than just getting a time it will be done by at a minimum. Imagine full POS integration with a pizza store so you see when your pizza leaves the store and where the driver is, etc. Flip it around and bake in Location Based Services into your SMMS solution so when a customer checks in, your community manager knows and delivers a deal while they’re still in the store. All this is possible and tying true and traditional customer order data into the social media management solutions make them all the more able to deliver better messaging at more relevant times and locations.

What Do You Think?

Those are my thoughts on what Social Media Management Solutions providers should be giving us. None hit the eight primary functionalities to date, but many are trying. We’ll soon see functionality like social advertising management coming to the feature set, but that’s obviously just the tip of the iceberg.

It should be noted that the one company that hits on a lot of these cylinders is HubSpot. But their All-In-One marketing platform is largely focused on small businesses and isn’t generally categorized in the enterprise software category, even if it can certainly serve that purpose.

What do you think the SMMS providers are missing? Did I leave anything out? What else could they add to our pie-in-the-sky list of functional areas that I didn’t cover? Add your thoughts to the comments so we can build a better wish list for them all.

The comments are yours.

IMAGE: Mindmap by Mare Kuliasz on Shutterstock.com

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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