Can’t Find A Good Social Media Management Tool? Get A Strategy First.

If you work in social media one of your biggest pain points is trying to manage all the different accounts your company or your clients company has. Even if you don’t actively manage accounts for work or clients, if you’re like me and a “power user” you have multiple personal accounts you have to manage and there’s no easy way to do this. Even the automated tools out here take hours to set up and need constant adjustments every time something changes.

But guess what, for most companies, complaining about the lack of “Social Media Management Systems” (SMMS) isn’t just putting the cart before the horse, it’s putting the freight that goes on the cart before the horse.

In a new report that came out today from Jeremiah Owyang at Altimeter, his research shows that 70% of people at enterprise companies said that social media efforts met business objectives, but only 43% of people said they even had a formalized strategy as to how social media will meet specific business objectives. Wh-What?

My colleague Jen Grant, who was interviewed for the report, and I did a short video chat today to discuss the report.

I’ll be the first one to admit that SMMS out there are seriously lacking, but how can you expect to find a tool that fits your need when you don’t even know what need your trying to solve, let alone how the tools would solve that need?

Because of the proliferation of social network API’s anyone can build a tool that allows you to manage your various social media accounts. And most of these will work just fine for your personal accounts, but they fail miserably when it comes to managing multiple enterprise accounts.

The Altimeter research shows that on average your global, enterprise brand have about 178 distinct social media accounts. I know when we did an audit a year and a half ago for one of our large clients we found over 200 blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, just in the US alone. That wasn’t even counting YouTube or Flickr and that was before Tumblr, Instagram, Google+, etc., etc.

It’s so easy to start accounts that most companies don’t even know how many they have, let alone the status of those accounts. It’s totally out of control, but that’s not all bad. At some level you have to give your people the freedom to act quickly and nimbly. But as this space continues to mature, we need better integrated tools for managing and measuring the activity across the company.

Part of the problem in developing a tool to work for companies is that social media is rarely (nor should it be) owned by one group. So Marketing is going to have similar but different needs than PR, which is going to have different needs than customer service. And while these are the three main departments engaged in social media, they’re not the only ones. Then, not only are there different groups using social media but they may have different strategies among different teams even within the same group.

Altimeter lists the 5 most common use cases for social media and even came up with a cool graphic.

Altimeter Five Use Cases for Social Media

Altimeter Five Use Cases for Social Media

So what do you need to do in order to effectively manage your social media efforts. First you need to develop your social media strategy. Something I’ve written A LOT about.

Then you need to develop your internal processes. Who’s going to be your core team? What are you going to publish? What content are you going to publish where? You need to work through the strategy tactically, before you stat worrying about what tools you’re going to use.

The process phase is very important and very often overlooked. If you’re a large company, you’ve probably brought in an agency or a consultant to help with the strategy. If you do, make sure it’s someone with the experience to put together a workflow for you. One of my main jobs over the last two and a half years at Waggener Edstrom has been to develop a system we call the Social Influence System (PDF). This isn’t something that should be done haphazardly.

Jeremiah recommends five steps to follow if you want to really master your social media management:

  1. First prepare the company internally, and conduct audits to verify readiness.
  2. Determine which of the five social media management use cases, defined in this report, the company aligns to.
  3. Select vendors based on business needs, not marketing.
  4. Tap into services, support teams, and outsourced community management services.
  5. Roll out internally in a systematic way that starts with education, training, mock workflows, and thorough testing.

But if you don’t feel like you’re quite a social media management black belt, Jedi, ninja, don’t feel bad, no one is. No seriously, all those companies with huge command centers and full dedicated teams of people sitting in a situation room makes for good PR but it’s not as sophisticated as it looks. The reason they have a dozen monitors and a team of people is because everything’s duct taped together and it take that many people to manage it all. Our systems and tools are still years from getting seriously useful. Unless you’re able to hire a company to build something for you from scratch (and I can tell you., that’s not easy) things are still changing so much it’s impossible to develop something that’s going to resemble anything like true enterprise software.

So hang in there and while you’re waiting for the tools to develop, work on your strategy and your processes.

Here’s the full report.

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About Tac Anderson

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.
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