Using a social management platform: What you need to know
Is a social management tool right for your business? Columnist Justin Freid outlines the benefits and drawbacks of these tools so that you can make an informed decision.
Social has become a key component of most brands’ marketing and engagement strategies. As a result, there are quite a few complexities across listening, community engagement and advertising. With smaller brands, efforts across these tactics may all fall to one person, who may have difficulty managing it all. With larger brands, several people may share these responsibilities, making coordination more complex.
There is no doubt that tools can make social media management more efficient. But they also come at a cost — and across the board, pricing models differ based on the type of tool you are trying to utilize. The social management platform landscape is much more fragmented than the SEO tool and SEM management industries. With many social channels still developing their advertising platforms, the social management industry will continue to evolve and take shape.
Fragmentation of the market makes decisions difficult
One of the key things to look at in this space is fragmentation. While there are tools that cover paid promotion, social listening and the management of social profiles, many tools specialize in one specific area, while others cover two, or even all three areas of social. For a brand, understanding your business needs — and which tools can best fulfill those needs — will be vital in making an informed decision.
Benefits of a social management platform
Let’s a take a look at the benefits of using a social platform:
- Post scheduling. There are a few key features that make the use of a social platform worth it. One of the main ones is the ability to schedule posts. Through this feature, your social team will be able to load up anything you want scheduled to be released at a future time and let the tool run its course. While you won’t schedule all of your posts, scheduling some of them can help you use your time in a more efficient manner.
- All the data is in one place. If you happen to work with an analytics team, they will be happy to see everything in one place. Instead of going to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms for each data set, many of the social tools allow you to aggregate analytics data in one place. This can save your analytics team a significant amount of time.
- Monitor all channels in one platform. No longer will you have to keep individual tabs on each social platform open to monitor engagements. Many tools offer the ability to monitor and even respond directly across multiple social channels.
- Ease of management. This category varies by the tool you are using, but many offer options to segment performance data, posts and so on by segments you create. This helps you analyze content focused on engagement versus content focused on fan or follower growth. Some platforms also allow for you to export content calendars directly into an Excel document for legal and regulatory submission or presentation purposes.
Drawbacks of a social management platform
Now, let’s take a look at some disadvantages of using a social platform:
- The market is fragmented. There are thousands of tools, all claiming to be the best and having “proprietary” technology. How do you tell who is really standing out? As mentioned above, certain tools thrive in one area, like social listening, but lack capabilities in certain areas, like ad management. Before committing to an expensive long-term contract, you want to make sure the tool is right for your needs.
- Development of new features takes time. Many of the tools have robust development departments that allow them to react and build new features as they become live on a social network. But in reality, with so many social networks out there, these tools are bound to fall behind on certain elements.
- Cost. Most of these tools are not free. For something that may be taking up and adding the cost of your time, the cost for these tools is very real. You’ll need to decide if the efficiencies in management outweigh the cost of the tools.
What to look for during your search
If you do make the decision to go for a social platform, here are a couple of quick tips to ensure you get the right tool.
- Pick a tool that is right for you. Not all tools are created equal. Before doing demos, determine the key areas you need to streamline and improve. Rate the various tools on those specific elements. Some tools may have flashy, interesting capabilities, but if they can’t do something you need each and every day, they may not be worth the investment.
- Shop around. There are many, many tools, at widely different price points. Shop around, and don’t just go with the big names. Find a tool and a pricing model that works for you.
- Ask for references. Many vendors will allow you to speak to current customers. They can be a great resource to see how the tool works in the real world.
- Ask about customer support. One of the biggest items many companies don’t think about until it is too late is customer support. Ask about training and how you will be supported for technical issues.
Many of the social platforms out there provide their customers with efficiencies that make the cost worthwhile. But what is most important is finding the right tool, one that matches up with your specific needs. The needs of a large agency may differ drastically from those of an e-commerce brand or a hotel chain. So when making a decision, be sure to test and demo a wide array of tools before committing long-term.