I have a couple of cool tools in my kitchen: The Aero Press and the Vitamix. I love them both. The Aero Press is a convenient way to make a great cup of morning coffee. It helps me accomplish a habitual practice I engage in each day.
But, the Vitamix (a high speed blender) has shifted my understanding and approach to food. I’ve learned to use different types of raw foods to fuel whatever activity I’m about to engage in (tip: try kale for mental clarity).
This shift has improved my performance and productivity both mentally and physically (some in my family even point to a sunnier disposition) — even though I never considered my nutrition to be lacking or my performance (or disposition) to be something that was holding me back.
What does this have to do with social media marketing tools? For now, all tools pretty much fall into the Aero Press category. And, what we really need is a Vitamix.
Like the Aero Press, today’s tools help marketers accomplish things they already knew they were going to do each day, like posting to various social networks and responding to customers in social channels.
These tools also help social marketers find the answers to things they already knew they needed to know – like how to time those tweets or which customers to focus on engaging. While all that is unarguably useful, there are some things this generation of tools simply cannot do, such as:
- Finding solutions for problems you didn’t know existed
- Finding answers to questions you didn’t know to ask
- Discovering insights that will fundamentally change the way that you use/approach social media in the first place
The next generation of social media marketing tools will do more than organize, manage and spit out pretty reports full of out-of-context facts. Transformative analytics will be at the heart of these tools, meaning that the data provided will go beyond standard metrics about activity and/or a single encounter in social channels.
In fact, this next generation of tools will be applicable to not only social media, but to all marketing. Below are three characteristics I very much expect to see in next-generation tools:
1. Broader Data Synthesis: As a (former) vendor in this space, I can personally attest to the difficulty of aggregating data from different social channels and combining it with even the most obvious sources like Web analytics data. And, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the data that actually needs to be aggregated.
Truly transformative analytics will require combining data from sources beyond social channels or even online sources, including data from multiple corporate databases and a very long list of third-party sources.
2. More Information On People: We’re not going to get better at marketing — particularly social media marketing — until we get a lot better at knowing more about people. Understanding the person behind the action (or interaction) is critical to innovative use of social media. The big issue here, of course, is privacy.
3. Better Ways To Work With Data: At a granular level, I’m talking about better visualization, more flexibility with queries, and a more robust set of work-bench features. But overall, what I think we need are tools that emphasize data and pattern discovery rather than tools that emphasize data confirmation. (Think “The Machine” but without the Orwellian overtones.)
In social media marketing, as in just about every information-centric field, the challenge will always be to develop actionable insights into data of ever-increasing volume, diversity and complexity.
Today’s Tools Vs. Transformative Analytics
Do shades of all of these things exist in some of the tools on the market today? Sure. But the reality is that we are a long way from truly achieving transformative analytics. In fact, there is a long list of significant barriers to overcome. (Chief among them: a viable business model that balances the expense of such an undertaking with the market’s preference for cheap tools on an SaaS basis.)
Reality aside, what’s on your wish list for a silo-busting, next-generation set of social media marketing analytics tools? Let’s combine our perspectives, because we’ll never build it if we don’t start envisioning it.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.