A Buyer’s Guide To Social Media Management Software

The checklist of what your SMMS tool should have

by Jason Falls |

Note: The following is a guest post from Chuck Hemann, Director of Analytics for WCG. He is also an advisor to many brands and uses and reviews social media management software (SMMS) for their needs. This will be good.

Technological change and innovation hits social media at a speed that makes it very difficult for brand managers and agencies to keep up. In most instances that change and innovation is good, especially when it helps us do our jobs more efficiently and offers value to our respective communities.

Consider for a moment how far social media monitoring platforms have come just over the last two or three years. Back in 2009 social media marketing professionals were happy with a tool that helped them monitor mentions of their brand for the purposes of crisis mitigation. Now these same professionals have the ability to create sophisticated dashboards and raise the collective intelligence of their organizations by listening to the online chatter of the consumer.

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Social media management software tools have undergone a similar evolution as brands have looked for ways to more effectively scale social media efforts. Over the last few weeks Oracle and Salesforce.com have jumped into the ring to take advantage of the obvious CRM applications of these tools. Time will tell how these tools evolve after being purchased by much larger enterprises, but in the meantime marketers are looking at and evaluating them to help their companies.

One of the places where agency partners are valuable to brands is evaluating these tools. In theory, we understand the client’s business, how its customers behave socially and how these tools can help it reach those customers. Because the tools have evolved at such a rapid pace there is quite a lot of confusion at the point of purchase. What should you be looking for in one of these tools if you are purchasing one for your brand? A few things come to mind …

  • Easy to navigate user interface – Please note that I did not say “fancy” or “sexy” user interface. Do not be seduced by the slick interfaces that some of these tools posses. Slick doesn’t necessarily mean functional, and “pretty” won’t help you if the tool is not reliable. What should the interface be able to do? These are the absolute minimum requirements:
    • Scheduling content – THE HORROR! You mean, we might schedule content to be posted in the future? Yes, absolutely, and its time to get over any idea to the contrary. Scheduling content keeps us from having to be at the computer 24/7/365. Most of the current tools on the market have this functionality, but check before buying.
    • Ability to post to all major social channels – Again, a core functionality of most tools, but you should be able to post to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube without much difficulty.
    • Uploading multimedia content – Can you easily attach photos and videos to posts in your current SMMS? We know how important visual content can be for brands so if you can’t upload multimedia with your posts it might be time to start looking elsewhere.
    • Geo-targeting – A feature of some tools, but not all. If you are posting information about an event in Chicago chances are good that your fans or followers in Dallas, for example, do not care. The more relevant the content to a particular audience, the more engagement it is likely to receive. Check to see if your current tool allows for geo-targeting.
    • Post tagging – This is critical for reporting down the line, but you should be able to assign tags to individual posts. Properly tagging posts will save you from having to go through every single post at the end of the month.
    • Robust analytics dashboards – This is the biggest source of my frustration because some of the SMMS tools that are thought to be best in class have what I would categorize as awful analytics dashboards. My hope of a community analyst (merging of community manager and analyst) is likely a long ways off, but just because CM’s are the primary user of these tools does not mean we should dumb down the analytics offering. What data should your SMMS tool be offering?
      • Everything you can get through Facebook or YouTube Insights – Listen, this isn’t a technical problem anymore. Both Facebook and YouTube have made their Insights platforms available via API. Wouldn’t you like to access that data from the same platform you are using to post? Yeah, so would I. Does your platform offer this currently?
      • Twitter data – I realize gathering Twitter data is a little more complex, but your platform should be offering up impressions, clicks, retweets and replies.
      • Competitive data – There are tools currently on the market that offer Facebook data on competitors within the publishing platform. That’s invaluable competitive intelligence as you evaluate your own performance. I wouldn’t categorize the lack of competitor data to be a deal breaker, but it is certainly helpful.
      • Beware of the black box algorithm – I could spend a lot of time on this point, but I am not a fan of algorithms within SMMS tools that place an arbitrary value metric on your content. The threshold should be that if you cannot stand in front of the CMO and defend what you are presenting, do not use it. In almost every instance, that describes these algorithms.
      • Reliability – This would appear to be a “no duh” point, but you would be surprised how unstable some of these platforms can be. Double posting, inability to upload multimedia at random times, broken links and out of date data are all frequent issues with these tools. I totally understand the occasional outage, but if you are having constant technological challenges it is time to look at another tool.
      • Mobility – Does your platform offer you the ability to now or in the near future access your publishing engine or data via mobile device? Probably a question you have not thought to ask, but should. Are you near your computer 24/7/365? I know I am not.
      • CRM “Hooks” – I am not a big fan of the term “social CRM,” but I can see the utility of having customer data merged with social content data. Can you incorporate your existing CRM data with your SMMS tool?
      • Monitoring platform integration – I still feel strongly that the winning combination will be some form of listening tool and SMMS platform. Imagine the power of being able to monitor for mentions of your brand, post from your brand page and then gather the data all from one platform. Very powerful combination that has yet to truly come to fruition.

If I were in the market for an SMMS tool, these are the items I would be evaluating. If you have purchased an SMMS tools for your brand recently did you utilize these criterion? If not, why? If there are others I haven’t listed here, please come and share. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Chuck Hemann is currently Director of Analytics for WCG, a full-service communications company based in San Francisco, CA. Over the last 7 years Chuck has consulted with companies on multiple topics, including digital analytics, social media, crisis communications and investor relations.  Most recently he has consulted for a number of Fortune 500 companies across multiple industries on how best to leverage vast amounts of social/digital data, the implementation of SMMS tools and measuring the performance of social media programs. You can most often find Chuck on Twitter or blogging on Common Sense, WCG’s corporate blog. 

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About the Author

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).