This blinding image is an extract from the Tech Landscape Supergraphic for 2019 (more details here); mapping over 7000 companies offering tech tools. It broadly classifies tools into Advertising, Content, Social, Sales, Data, Management.
Social Media Marketing & Monitoring (S3M) figures among the top 3 popular use-cases of tech tools. Your guess of how many S3M tools exist today, is as good as anybody else’s. As a tech buyer, even if you end up evaluating just a fraction of these, your consideration set will add up to a significant number.
Such a deluge is a classic situation of information overload. Businesses keen on developing or improving their digital presence find it challenging to identify tools suited to their unique needs. For instance, a tool that’s great at Social Media Marketing may do a sub-optimal job of Social Media Monitoring.
A tool is only as good as its ability to address business issues. Therefore, a logical first step is to decide what is the singlemost critical reason for you to seek out an S3M tool. Do you want to monitor your brand’s presence and thereby, digital RoI? Manage customer engagement better? Spot brand crises faster? Know your customers and competition better?
Unfortunately, “I want it all” isn’t an answer that will enable your decision-making process. On the contrary, prioritizing objectives will help you arrive at your consideration set of tools. Certain tools are better at content publishing and content management; than at consumer research. Some others are better at crisis management than at content publishing. Hence, it is critical to lock down your top objective.
Next, pick up to 3 tools to evaluate, for that objective. The task of evaluating tens of tools can be a long, painstaking one. It is indeed tempting to succumb to the ‘shopping’ mindset and evaluate many more. However, going beyond 3 tools just means wasting time navigating repetitive sales collaterals that tool companies spew at prospective buyers.
· Your organization’s resource-readiness to adopt/ migrate to a new tool. Do you have internal capabilities to start using the tool to its full potential from day one? Often, organizations tend to invest in resources who know how to use tools, operationally speaking. However, tools can never provide ‘readymade’ answers to questions that business executives need answered. This is where the experienced human mind comes into play. One that has exposure to carving insights from data of multiple platforms, for a variety of industries. One that can translate tool outputs into relevant answers to business questions.
· Customer support team’s understanding of your top objective. Generally speaking, Sales teams of tool companies are geared to service brands and communication/ media agencies. This is because traditionally, S3M tools were designed to publish brand content, measure social presence and monitor online reputation. In a significant development, the past 2–3 years have seen tool companies partnering consumer research agencies, to customize for market research use-cases.
· Tool’s proven success in the top objective you are seeking to achieve. Is the tool able to provide relevant case studies of having achieved your top objective, for another organization? In our experience, most tools are geared to measure brand performance on Social and manage crises. However, few have taken the initiative to develop features that help a brand understand their consumers better.
· Feature upgrades. How frequently does the tool update its features, in response to API changes that Social platforms implement from time to time? Over the past decade, tools have responded differently, to evolving APIs of Social platforms. For instance, recent API changes by Instagram and Facebook have forced tools to change how they extract and manage data. Product Development teams of certain tool companies have been more agile in improving tool features, whereas other companies have lagged.
Navigating the chaos around S3M tools can be challenging even for seasoned Social Media practitioners. Third parties like digital agencies/ consultants are often the conduit to buyers’ understanding of S3M tools. However, more often than not, third parties are unable to convey limitations of Social Tech, to businesses. What it takes is a neutral, experienced source to dispassionately evaluate the fit between an organization’s S3M needs and a tool’s capabilities to address them.
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