Enterprise Social Media Management Software 2014: A Marketer’s Guide

Introduction

Finding the appropriate social media management tool for your business can be a challenge. This buyer’s guide provides a framework for deciding if you need and EMMS solution, details the capabilities of the leading platforms, and compares offerings from leading vendors.

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from "Enterprise Social Media Management Software". You can download the report here free.

The Pros and Cons of Using Social Media Management Software

Social Media Management Software (SMMS) platforms have become must-have toolsets as digital marketers and agencies recognize the impact that social conversations have on every part of the enterprise, from engineering and product development to marketing and sales.

The platforms being used range from freemium services to enterprise-wide solutions like that can cost tens of thousands of dollars per month. Many enterprises license more than one SMMS platform and use only the most robust features available from their vendors.

Benefits include:

  • Structured workflow management
  • Permissions and compliance tools that allow customers to monitor and control all social media content and campaigns emanating from the enterprise

Challenges include:

  • Enterprise SMMS platforms can be a significant investment, with larger organizations paying tens of thousands of dollars each month in licensing
  • Certain platforms can require considerable training and integration with existing technology systems and additional premium services to run them

Does Your Company Need Social Media Management Software?

Enterprises deciding whether or not to license a SMMS platform or to upgrade from their existing freemium platform need to first consider the following:

  • Do we have multiple social accounts and utilize multiple social channels, including Facebook, Twitter and blog publishing platforms such as WordPress?
  • Do we operate in a regulated industry, such as insurance or real estate, where a lack of compliance can result in legal or regulatory problems?
  • Do we rely on a sales network of local dealers, agents or franchisees that may be operating hundreds of Facebook pages or Twitter accounts not controlled by the corporate marketing department?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is "yes," it may be time to consider using a SMMS platform.

Assessing Internal Resources

Choosing an SMMS platform calls for the same evaluative steps involved in any software adoption:

  1. Do we need it?
  2. What capabilities do we need?
  3. Do we have the internal resources to integrate and manage it effectively?
  4. Does the investment make financial sense?

An important step in the decision process is to assess the enterprise’s internal resources. Social media has made its way into all aspects of most organizations, from the HR department to the marketing and PR departments. Before investing in a SMMS system, make sure you understand who and where you will be using the software. Know how many accounts exist, and where and which ones are critical to your social media strategy. Consider the following:

  • Do we have a social media strategy in place – or will we need social media consulting services as part of the SMMS package?
  • Do we have a social media staff in place that can handle the new software or will there be a need for training?
  • If so, who among them is best qualified to evaluate an SMMS platform?
  • Do we have an organizational plan to integrate the use of SMMS software into our social media strategy? If not, who will create the plan?
  • How will we define success?
  • Can we absorb the additional cost of the SMMS and still meet our business objectives?
  • How will we benchmark success?

Which Social Media Management Software is Right for Your Company?

It is equally important to evaluate the type of SMMS vendor that will provide the best fit for your organization’s unique and specific social marketing needs. For example, enterprises with skilled in-house social marketing practitioners and resources may prefer a platform which is built on a proprietary Social Markup Language (SML) and allows internal developers to build completely customized social content and applications.

Enterprises with fewer in-house skills and resources may be better served by a vendor which provide a plethora of social media consulting and program execution services.

Many SMMS vendors serve specific vertical markets by offering strengths such as regulatory and compliance monitoring of social media marketing content and campaigns, or a specific platform for enterprises with a large network of dealers, agents and franchisees.

Social Media Management Software Capabilities

Virtually all enterprise SMMS platforms available today offer a core set of social media tools and capabilities that focus on:

  • content creation, scheduling, publishing and moderation
  • collaboration, workflow and permissions
  • data analytics and reporting

The platforms begin to differentiate by offering additional capabilities, often requiring additional investment, that include but are not limited to:

  • sentiment analysis
  • vertical-specific compliance
  • marketing campaign automation
  • integration with legacy marketing and analytics platforms
  • strategic social media consulting services

The following section discusses some of the key considerations involved in choosing a SMMS platform.

Social Networks Supported

While Facebook still represents the lion’s share of social media traffic and brand pages, the majority of SMMS platforms are expanding the depth and breadth of social media networks they support. It is equally important to distinguish between a SMMS platform’s ability to publish to social networks versus its ability to listen to or monitor social media conversations.

Social Content Creation

The vast majority of SMMS platforms provide marketers with the ability to create customized social content for applications such as Facebook Pages, polls, or sweepstakes as well as to utilize pre-built application templates in which users drop in branding and specific promotional language. Some platforms allow users to design the template, lock certain content elements, and allow other elements to be customized by local or regional offices. Many platforms feature a centralized content library that allows users to pull pre-approved content pieces or assets for their specific campaigns or promotions.

Pricing

Virtually every SMMS platform licenses its technology on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis; the technology is hosted by the vendor and customers log into a web-based dashboard to utilize the system. Customers license the use of the technology on a monthly basis although the majority of vendors require an annual contract to be signed.

Pricing varies among vendors in terms of whether the licensing fees are charged by the user or seat, by the social media channel or page, or by the location, brand or department (also called a subaccount by some vendors). As such, pricing can range from $25 per user per month to several hundreds of thousands of dollars per month, depending upon the scope of the enterprise’s social media marketing programs.

Open or Flexible APIs

A platform’s Application Programming Interface (API) is a source-code based specification that allows other software systems to communicate with it. In other words, the API is the key that can either lock or unlock the platform for integration within other platforms.

Several current SMMS vendors opened their platforms’ APIs to provide more seamless integration with customers’ existing CRM, web analytics and email platforms. Many marketers are seeking this type of integration to eliminate data silos within the enterprise and to create a more holistic approach to customer relationship marketing, as well as a better understanding of the impact of social media on other marketing initiatives.

Standard & Custom Reporting

Analytics and reporting have become some of the most important functions of any SMMS platform. The volume of social media data available to marketers today is overwhelming, and without strong analytics and reporting capabilities, is unusable.

Virtually all SMMS vendors provide a pre-packaged set of social data reports that focus on quantitative metrics such as number of Facebook fans, likes and comments, as well as number of Twitter followers and retweets. User engagement, which looks at how often and how many times specific users engage with brand social content, is becoming more critical, as are metrics involving reach and virality or "true" reach, which measure how often and how much content is shared by followers, fans and other users. Reports can then be customized in any number of ways, including by social media channel, brand and location for enterprises with multiple locations.

The availability of more qualitative data, which measures the tone or sentiment of social media content, varies widely. Many vendors rely on their platforms’ open APIs to integrate with existing social listening or monitoring tools including Radian6, Crimson Hexagon and Social Mention; others provide proprietary sentiment engines usually driven by keyword filtering to determine if user content is positive, negative or neutral.

Strategic Consulting Services

The importance of strategic consulting services, defined as services that help marketers set goals, develop content, execute and analyze their social media content initiatives and campaigns, varies according to the needs of the enterprise. Some marketing organizations have strong in-house staffing and skills to operate a self-serve platform. The majority of SMMS vendors, however, offer a range of add-on social media consulting services designed to help educate customers but keep the vendor’s customer account staff involved in the strategy, execution and analysis of their social media efforts.

Questions To Ask Potential Vendors

Before talking to any vendors, just as you would for any business investment, ask others who may be in a similar situation for recommendations and suggestions. Involve those in your company who will be working day-to-day with the SMMS. Be sure to interview several vendors. Refine your questions as you go along, and don’t hesitate to ask for additional information and recommendations. Here are six key questions to ask in every interview.

  • Do you have access to the Facebook Insights and/or Twitter API?
  • How frequently do you provide real-time alerts?
  • Can the system integrate with other applications?
  • What kind of reporting capabilities does the tool provide?
  • How much will this cost and what kind of service is included?
  • What enhancements have been released in the past year? What’s in the development pipeline

Learn More!

Download "Enterprise Social Media Management Software 2014: A Marketer’s Guide." The 58- page PDF includes additional valuable information including:

  • Key characteristics of social media management software tools
  • Questions to ask of any vendor when seeing their demo
  • Profiles of leading social media management software vendors including
  • Industry trends including the rise of mobile, the increasing number of social media networks, the impact of marketplace consolidation
  • …and much more