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.  

 

Its PPC, but not as we know it

Paid Search advertisers are this week working out how to operate in a new world. One presumably consisting of less traffic, more competition and higher pricing. Not an ideal combination.

The removal of the right hand side PPC ads over the weekend may seem like a surprising move by Google. Don’t more ads equal more money? But after an extensive period of testing, which undoubtedly proved the intensified auction (and therefore higher CPC) for top slots at a higher CTR outweighed the income from those on the right hand side of the page, each SERP now consists of a maximum of seven ads, four at the top and three at the bottom.

A combination of greater revenues from stagnant growth search terms, the streamlined layout for mobile and desktop and also the extra space for other ad formats and the decision makes sense both commercially and strategically.

But in doing this, Google has changed the face of PPC as we know it, above and beyond the amount of listings on a page.

The success of PPC and Google Adwords over the past 15 years has been down to a number of core redeeming features of the channel.

  • National exposure to potential customers for limited cost
  • Payment model based around ROI
  • Limited barriers to entry around cost
  • Unknown or small businesses can compete on a level playing field

In this latest move Google has removed the bulk of these features and fundamentally changed the Google Adwords channel for good.

Small businesses, once the poster boys for Google, have been pretty much priced out of any ‘commercial queries’, which let’s face it, are any which are going to generate sales.

The barriers to entry around cost have well and truly been raised and in established market it is very much a big boy’s game now. The playing field is now far from level.

And more significantly maybe this move could have removed the ROI viability for everything but high ticket item products. In the past couple of years many businesses have been struggling with their dependence on PPC and its rising costs, this is only now going to get worse.

So the advertising channel where I cut my teeth all those years ago, and where I learnt much of my trade, is now to all intents and purposes dead.

RIP Paid Search, its been fun.

Posted in PPC

Content Marketers Have No Excuse Not to Be Creative

Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality

Standing out in a cluttered world is difficult.  With content marketing being the ‘in thing’ for brands to be investing in, we live in a cluttered world where consumers are bombarded with content to consumer, engage with, and share with their own networks.

The only way to stand out from the crowd through content is to be creative.  And through technology and the internet content marketers have no excuse not to be able to push the boundaries of creativity in their projects.

Technology driving creativity

Obviously you have your content topic, functionality, or design which you can invest in to make yourself different from the competition.  Be more funny, useful, or beautiful than the competition.

Here you need ideas, and lots of them.  Tecmarks brainwriting tool is a great example of how you can generate 108 content ideas in just 30 minutes.

Then there is content format.  And this can be where the challenge lies.  Many content marketers do not have the design or technical capabilities to be creating the level of content needed to produce results.

As a result a whole new industry of tools has emerged allowing anybody who is computer literate to create professional images, videos, infographics and animation without the need to specialist resource.

Tools such as Canva and Pablo for creation of simple images for use with social media.  Infogram and Vennpage for infographic creation and Stock Snap and Pexels for photography and vector images, Flat Icons for icon sets

And beyond simple images, you even have tools like GoAnimate that allow you to create animations without the usual software and experience.  Below is one we created for Tecmark with little more than some photoshop files.

With technology facilitating creativity in such a way, content marketers really have no excuse to be churning out the same ideas, in the same format and just adding to the noise of the Internet.

For a more conclusive list you should check out my colleague Stacey MacNaught’s blog post here.

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.

Make sure you are ready for a Multi Screen Christmas

Christmas 2013 was a watershed period for multi screen, multi device internet usage. Advances in the available of high quality, low cost mobile devices meant that last year saw a step change in how people used the Internet over the festive period.

On Christmas Day 2013 traffic from mobile phones and tablets made up three quarters of total traffic, overtaking that from desktops by a considerable margin.

Understanding what this means to you and your campaigns is key, as no two customer journeys are the same. According to research by IBM, while tablets drove sales, smartphones proved to be the most popular device for browsing.

And this just involves online sales, the same research suggested mobile influences over £18bn of in store sales, making the picture even more unclear when looking for direct response to campaigns.

Having a clear multi screen strategy for your retail campaigns, and starting to understand how people interact with you on different devices is going to be the key to success this Christmas and New Year. Ignoring any particular type of device and the role it plays in the customer journey will lead to lost opportunity.

Mine your analytics, access your website on as many devices as you can get your hands on, and put yourself in your potential customers, are you offering the optimal multi device experience? And if you were a customer on a particular device, what do you think you would be trying to do? Are you making it easy for them to do it?

More often the answers when you start asking these types of questions are far from positive.

Your website traffic is only going to keep coming from a longer list of fragmented devices, most of which wont be a desktop. And if you are a retailer this Christmas, you don’t have long to act!