The Paradox Of Social Media Tools

by Jason Falls |

For the better part of the last five years, companies, agencies, consultants and managers have been sifting through all sorts of different platforms, softwares and programs, looking for that one social media tool that will solve their company’s or client’s problem. I have personally wasted about 57 aggregate days of my life sitting through hour-long demos on everything from Twitter clients to social media monitoring platforms and CRM solutions to WordPress plugins.

For the record, and for all you sales and marketing tools out there … er, um … people who sell and market tools, let me give you a few suggestions for your demos. First, keep it to 15-20 minutes. We’re busy. Second, get rid of the company background slides. I don’t care who founded or funded you. I care about the thing your stuff does that I can’t do better without it. Third, show me a real use case using a real client that outlines their problem and shows how your tool solved it. If I can’t connect your tool to a real solution, I won’t remember it.

But then there’s the age-old paradox of tools. They really become useful when someone figures out a different reason to use them.

Standing Ground Hog
Image by tcd123usa via Flickr

It’s like my Cousin Johnny’s method of getting rid of a ground hog. To rid his backyard, garden or farm of a pesky ground hog, he uses three tools: a shovel, a five-gallon bucket and a six-pack of beer. Think about those tools for a moment and make assumptions on how he would use them.

To get rid of a ground hog, Cousin Johnny places the bucket, upside down, beside the ground hog’s hole. He drinks the six-pack of beer. By the time he’s finished, the ground hog pop his head up. He whacks the varmint on the head with the shovel.

Social media tools, too, can have a paradoxical nature. Social media purists have claimed for years that you blog to engage your audiences. Compendium Blogware (a client) has proven time and again that you can also use a blog to win search results and drive leads to your business, even without any measurable level of engagement. Those same purists claim Twitter is a conversational platform and one-way blasting of messages doesn’t work. Still, many mainstream Twitter users enjoy the fact they can follow feeds of companies or media outlets to just get the news of the day. (See @cnnbrk, @NBA, @MarthaStewart or @GStephanopoulos, all top 100 Twitter accounts, or even a feed like @BayerUSNews, which keeps media and pharma industry folk updated on the corporation’s goings on.)

More importantly for brand managers and companies buying tools, there’s the paradox of expectation. You expect a social media monitoring tool to monitor the Internet and take that burden off your shoulders. But the tool monitors nothing. It only presents information in an organized fashion so that you may monitor it more efficiently.

You expect a market research firm to tell you how to run your brand or make marketing decisions for you. But it only presents information about your audience, brand, market or competitors that enable you to make smarter decisions. An enterprise management system like Valuevine will not manage the Facebook and Twitter presence for the 150 separate locations for you. It will give you a mechanism to manage them, however.

The tools, in and of themselves, are not important. What you do with them is.

So the next time you’re suffering through a product demo, listen through the sales pitch and propaganda and ask yourself, “How can I use this tool? Who will manage its use on my team? Can I afford it in both fiscal and human resources?”

Those answers will help you pick the right tools for your social media marketing efforts.

NOTE: No actual ground hog was harmed in the writing of this blog post. While you’re welcome to complain about the violence Cousin Johnny uses to get rid of ground hogs, he hunts deer, too, so your concerns will probably fall on deaf ears. Sorry if his methods offend you. For good measure, here’s an article that explains more humane ways of ridding your property of a groundhog.

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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).