Can A Single Tool Really Simplify Social Media Management?

Social media managers are increasingly turning to social media management tools to make their lives easier. With an ever-increasing list of tasks (more networks to manage, different types of content to push, more detailed analytics to accumulate, more targeted campaigns, and so on and so forth…), it’s become virtually impossible to run an effective social media marketing campaign directly from the social media networks themselves.

According to Kissmetrics,  only 34.1 percent of social media management tool users claim to be “happy” with their current social media management tool, whilst 60.1 percent are just “okay” with theirs (the remaining 5.8 percent are actively “unhappy”). This shows that no tool is really blowing away users.

Why?

The biggest by far is that the needs of individual social media managers vary considerably.

For example, one may run campaigns only on Instagram and Facebook. Such an individual would then want to plan, implement, analyse, and review these campaigns scrupulously, and expect their tool to offer the functionalities to match.

Another social media manager may be expected to run campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Vine, and the rest. This person, since they’re spinning more plates, may want less detailed analytics presented in an easy to understand and actionable way.

As a final example, yet another social media management tool user may also be the owner of their business. This character is likely to want tools which speed up their social media management activities and make them more efficient.

Creating a tool that satisfies such a diverse range of requirements is tricky, to say the least.

However, if a tool falls short in just one area, users are likely to be underwhelmed by their experience, hence the disappointing user satisfaction scores.

Most of the social media management tool market’s leaders (Hootsuite, HubSpot, Buffer, etc.) offer comprehensive, one-stop-shop solutions. But increasingly, other tools are beginning to offer more nuanced services aimed at niche social media management demographics.

For those with little time to create content, there is Edgar, the content recycler. For those with a specific interest in finding engaging Facebook and Twitter content, there’s Post Planner. For those who love a serious Twitter session, there’s Twitter’s own TweetDeck.

viral photos

As the needs of different social media managers become clearer, I believe that we will see more of these less comprehensive (though no less ambitious) tools emerge. After all, such tools are often less expensive and can be used to supplement tools which sell themselves as a one-stop-shop.

And this isn’t a bad thing. Today’s market leaders, the one-stop-shops, may even be able to offer third-party integration with some of these tools. Such integration would allow social media users to use the comprehensive tool as a base before selecting which third-party tools to add as an extra in order to match their exact needs. Buffer is already making good progress in this area.

In order for the social media management tool market’s leaders to survive, they may have to focus less on trying to please everyone, and more on allowing people to please themselves using supplementary third-party tools.

With this in mind, what functions should those comprehensive tools retain as core functions?

Content curation, I think, will have to remain as a standard. Having a place from which to sort through vast amounts of web content and being able to present in a meaningful way is one of the most attractive of a social media management tool’s propositions.

Similarly, publishing and scheduling will also remain a necessity, since such tools work best if integrated with multiple sites and allow cross-campaign analysis (which is the comprehensive tool’s forte).

A social inbox will also stay crucial, since users can save huge amounts of time being able to respond to messages and interactions from various networks in one place.

Finally analytics probably should not be outsourced to a third-party, since having cohesive reports concerning a wide range of different social media aspects is one of the social media management tool users most important and consistent requirements, and third-parties are less well placed to offer this service.

Other functions, such as keyword analysis, more nuanced tools for managing specific networks, content creation tools, and other innovations that no one has even thought of yet, could be provided by third-parties.

Now, if I’m right, and social media management tools do indeed involve in this way, which comprehensive tool is best to pick as your “base”?

Recently, iag.me teamed up with g2crowd.com in order to find out which social media management tools were the best according to their users. The infographic they created, based on ratings and reviews, listed users’ favourite tools (Hootsuite, AgoraPulse, Sprout Social, and Sendible), and rated them in terms of:

  • User satisfaction
  • Product direction
  • Usability
  • Maintenance
  • Meeting requirements
  • Market presence
  • And price

social media tools rated

All of these tools fall into the one-stop-shop category, and so the infographic is a good place to start when it comes to choosing the right comprehensive social media management tool for you.

As the needs of social media managers continue to diversify, it may not be possible for one tool to meet all of their needs single-handedly (however, I’d love to be proven wrong!). That said, tools which embrace and integrate third-party offerings may still be able to offer their users something that covers all of their bases, and allows them to satisfy their more particular needs.

Do you agree that social media management tools are likely to evolve in the way outlined above? Or do you think one tool can rise to the occasion, and keep all of its users happy? Let me know with a comment.

This is a guest post by Lilach Bullock. Lilach is a highly regarded on the world speaker circuit who has graced Forbes and Number 10 Downing Street. 

Listed in Forbes as one of the top 20 women social media power influencers and was crowned the Social Influencer of Europe by Oracle. A recipient for a Global Women Champions Award for her outstanding contribution and leadership in business.  

 

Social media and its effect on distance – a random musing

Social media and the ever-connected world has, in a lot of instances, removed the impact of distance. For the most part this is a good thing.  Connecting old friends and new, separated families and like-minded individuals who may be thousands of miles apart.

As human beings we have an instinct to want to be close to those we love.  We are inherently pack animals and hold a desire to be part of a crowd, either for social or survival reasons.  This is part of the reason social media has grown to be such an integral part of modern day life. People want to feel connected to each other and to the world. Detachment and isolation is not in our nature.

There are great stories of people reuniting, or building bonds through social media that in previous decades wouldn’t have been possible. This is the affect on distance that is most reported.

But social media has another affect on distance.  That of detaching people from others and the effect of the comments that they make.  For every story of the positive affect of social media there is a darker story of its impact, most recently coined cyber bullying or ‘trolling’.

Neither bullying nor ‘trolling’ (in the sense of its action) are anything new.  Yet they seem to be all the more commonplace today. One of the reasons for this the impact social media has on distance.

As much as social media can bring us closer to others, it has the affect of distancing us from the comments we make and those we aim them at.

When children are young, they learn the affect of their comments through the reactions they receive. Cause and effect.  They say something mean to another child; they receive a reaction of upset, sadness or anger.  Most children don’t particularly like seeing another child in distress and so they learn not to make similar comments again as it doesn’t feel nice.

The generation who have grown up in a world of smartphones and social media don’t necessarily learn the same lessons.  Social media contributes to detach them from the effect of their comments.  They say something online, the effect is unseen, and the repercussions are limited.  And if they want to they can detach themselves further through anonymous accounts.

So whilst we all love a heart warming story of how social media has bridged a large physical distance, we should also consider how it is distancing us from our comments and actions an more importantly, what it is doing to the generation who have never known anything different.

5 positive contributions social media made to the UK riots

Despite exaggerated reports by some areas of the press, social media didn’t realistically play any part in starting, or stopping the rioting and looting that has taken place in the past few days. But that’s not to say it didn’t have a role to play in how the events were received, consumed, and experienced by the general public. Here are 5 positive contributions I feel social media made to the situation in the UK over the past few days.

1. Kept people informed, and ultimately safe
An easy one as social media, after all, is a communication channel. But in times or breaking news and events, it really comes into its own. It’s no surprise therefore that twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and numerous blogs became the main source of breaking news as rioting and looting spread throughout the country. But more importantly than just spreading news about the riots social media kept people safe. Updates on where rioting was taking place were made available and spread via social channels such as this Google Maps Mash Up. Granada Reports were the source on the street for real time updates in Manchester via their twitter account and Greater Manchester Police gave advice to the public via their account. All of this helped to keep people safe, knowing where they should, and shouldn’t go.

2. Controlled the rumour mill
As with the majority of breaking news stories, over the days the rioting took place, the rumour mill was out in force. News spread quickly of riots in areas where there were none and the extent of the rioting and looting was vastly exaggerated in some instances. But through a combination of passionate tweeter rubbishing false statements of rioting, and people publishing pictures and videos of the real events, on the whole, the rumours were controlled.

3. Boosted the clean-up effort
It wasn’t social media that made people don rubber gloves, pick up their brooms and join in the clean-up effort, but it helped spread the word. The community spirit and refusal to let the looters get the better that was shown by the clean-up volunteers was great to see, and I have no doubt they would have been willing to do the same with or without social media. But you can’t argue with the role social media played in spreading the word about the clean-up efforts and how it will have contributed to the numbers of people involved.

4. Gave people a voice
Social media is all about having a voice and in the case of the riots this was very evident. Regardless of your views on the cause of the rioting and looting, it gave people an outlet aside from conversations with friends and colleagues. Whether that was venting on Facebook through updates or groups or taking the time to blog their thoughts social media was, as it often is, an outlet for people to express their thoughts on the cause of the unrest, and the people involved.

5. Brought people to justice
And now the worst of the rioting and looting is hopefully over, social media could play its most important role of all. Bringing to justice those involved in mindless violence, destruction and robbery in the past few days. Catchalooter.tumblr.com aims to publish photos of those involved in the looting in an attempt to bring them to justice. Numerous YouTube videos are available aimed at catching looters and the Greater Manchester police are publishing CCTV stills of those wanted in connection with looting on flickr.

Should Employers Silence Their Staff?

prevented from using twitter or facebookThis comes about from a high profile news story this morning about Manchester United banning their players from social networking sites, leading to some of them having to delete twitter and Facebook profiles.  But it has been raised in various guises before in relation to everyday professions.  Should employers be able to control what their staff say outside of work time, on the basis they could reveal details about their companies activities.  In this case Manchester United have done so to ensure that all communication can be done through official channels (i.e. so they can control it!) and their circumstance is slightly different to an everyday company.  Football is high profile and the press are all looking for an easy story that can be gleaned from 140 characters.

But what about in the real world?  Should companies be able to enforce their employees off social networking sites?  And more importantly is it in their interest to do so?  I would argue that this level of control is likely to produce rebellion rather than compliance.  Perhaps not for the multimillionaire footballers who have so much to lose, but from the normal employee.  After all, it wouldn’t take much for them to set up a fake profile in a different name and start tweeting even more negative stories as a result of the ban.

I think it is in a company’s interest to let employees have their freedom of speech, and only addressing should there be isolated instances of abuse or misuse.  By all means put a fair usage policy in place to give them some guidelines to work to and make sure you monitor what is being said, but putting complete bans in place is only going to produce more problems than it solves.

Similar debates range about extra curricular activities such as moonlighting, but I’ll leave the final word on that to Judith Lewis – If Your SEO Is Not Moonlighting, Fire Them

Think Before You Tweet

I’m not the first person to say it and I won’t be the last but there are times when people should really think before they update the social networking profiles or status’.  We have all heard or read about the potential implications on relationships, jobs etc and if you haven’t, here is a whole site dedicated to Facebook status’ getting people into trouble – Facebook Fail.  There have even been a few high profile cases of celebrities getting into trouble for what they put into the public domain (see Darren Bent Twitter Rant).

People are now becoming comfortable with the use of social media as a means to broadcast our thoughts, communicate with our friends and family and engage with the online world.  But some people maybe have become too comfortable, and have lost the ability to think before they broadcast to the world.  More and more people seem to think that publishing status’ on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or any other channel, containing information about their relationships or working life, is an acceptable part of modern day life.  But what I think people need to consider is whether this is information that they, or anyone else it relates to, want in the public domain either for personal or professional reasons.  You may think that you are only connected to your friends on Facebook so it is OK, but some of those friends may also be colleagues so slagging off your boss, or bragging about a new job, isn’t very professional when that is considered.  Similarly sharing intimate details about a relationship (either good or bad!) might be deemed OK when you are talking to close friends, but would this be information you would give to some of your less well known contacts, colleagues, bosses etc? Probably not.

Social media is great for sharing information, and our daily activities with others.  But I would urge you to think before you type when it comes to social networks and channels, as the information you are writing enters the public domain the minute you press the enter key.