Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Why do Social Media Management Tools Still Suck?

It’s been over 5 years since I wrote this piece on MarketingProfs referring to Charlene Li’s original post that introduced us to new ways to track social media metrics. Here we are in 2012 and after a review of some of the leading social media “management”, “monitoring” and “listening” tools, it’s too bad that we don’t have a single winner-take-all scenario but rather a mashup of tools, some of which work better than others.

Now, I bet you didn’t come here to read that. What I’d like to do over the next few minutes is to give you a sense of the social media landscape that greets you today. Consider this post a primer on navigating the mess that is social media management.

There are tons of social media management tools out there that’s probably confusing to the novice but the ones you’ve probably heard of are the ones above. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I’d highly recommend Jeremiah’s research on this topic.

Where do I begin?

I’m sorry to break this to you but there ain’t a single tool that’s a panacea for all your social media tracking woes. Frankly, you’re gonna find out that there are two kinds of tools that cater to different teams in your organization:

  1. Social Media Management tools (Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc.)
  2. Social Media Listening tools (Radian6, Sysomos, Lithium, etc.)

You’re going to find that all of the tools you evaluate is going to perform better either as a management tool or a listening tool. Very few try to do both (For example, Hootsuite) and in those cases, they fail at one of the two. Chances are that most companies and small businesses will start this journey looking for a social media management tool since the first step in evolving your company’s social media brain is “Awareness” where you identify and track your existing social media presence on social platforms. For example, see LinkedIn’s Social Media Presence below:

Step 1 is gonna be to monitor your activity on these key platforms, identify audience growth (# of followers) across platforms and figure out engagement (how to improve RTs or comments via proper copy and scheduling).

Define your criteria

Step 2 is to identify what are the criteria for selecting this social media tool for your company? The social media tool will have to take into account a bunch of internal requirements that you’ve got to map and then find a tool that fall within the parameters you set for yourself. Here are some criteria I mapped before we began the process of identifying potential social media tools at LinkedIn.

Once you define your version of the above criteria (see above), the goal is to come up with a list of tools that fall within the parameters you define. As you go through the list you realize that the primary challenge is finding a tool that’s complex enough to deal with massive datasets (for example, to plan your marketing campaigns on Twitter or run reports around PR campaigns) while at the same time easy enough to be used by everyone on the team to update your company’s status updates.

So, though Tweetdeck is ideal since it’s free and is easiest to use (has basic scheduling of tweets for e.g.) it unfortunately lacks even basic collaboration / report generation features. So, what you eventually end up with is you’re forced to pick either a Social Media Management System, Listening tool or both.

How does your company do social media? And, if you’ve had a different experience and found your ideal social media tool leave a comment or tweet me @mariosundar

Filed under: Social Media ROI, Social Media Tools, , , , , , ,

17 Responses

  1. Great post, Mario. I agree – there is no perfect solution out there for listening, engagement and reporting. I think each person/company/agency will have different needs and while Hootsuite may be perfect for some, it may fall short for others who need a more robust monitoring tool like Radian6.

    I find that I use a combination of tools, which, while frustrating, seems to be the reality that is social media in 2012. Hopefully all of the tools you mentioned will continue to improve and we’ll see some consolidation in the space.

    Like

    • Mario Sundar says:

      @Eileen, I know we discussed this topic in our LinkedIn Group for social media folks, but I figured it was time to expand the conversation.

      I think most companies may be forced to use two tools in the near term, but I feel both R6 and Sysomos are working hard at coming up with a solution for both measurement and management. Maybe Sheldon from Sysomos who commented above can share some of the latest.

      Like

  2. Very useful article. Thanks.

    It’s been interesting to see the social media landscape evolve over the past several years. One quick observation: 3 of the 6 companies you’ve listed (Radian6, HootSuite and Sysomos) are Canadian. That’s pretty cool, eh?

    Like

    • Mario Sundar says:

      @dharmesh, couldn’t agree more. Oddly, enough I was in Toronto while evaluating these tools and ended up meeting with many of their co-founders. Interesting space.

      BTW, if you were to pick one of these tools what’d it be? ;)

      Like

  3. Joe says:

    Have you checked out the Awareness Social Marketing Hub? The tool is brilliant for management, and their monitoring module is due out within 6 months, so definitely worth a look!

    Like

  4. 40deuce says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with you a bit, Mario. I don’t know if you’ve taken a look at Sysomos recently but I think that we’re starting to bridge the gap between management and listening. You can now do a lot of engagement and monitoring right from within our platform.
    I think you’d be pleasantly surprised.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    Like

    • Mario Sundar says:

      @Sheldon, I did take a close look at Sysomos, spoke to your co-founders Nick and Nilesh while evaluating these tools.

      I do think you guys have done a pretty decent job of providing an easy to use experience (esp. compared to others) but it still is evolving from a social media management perspective, while being better at listening.

      Like

  5. Greg Marlin says:

    Looking at these charts makes my brain hurt. Seriously, there are some decent analytics guys out there, and I think Sheldon is a great guy, but seriously, guys like me (and my customers) have no time anymore for “maybes”. They want to know the right answer now. That’s not to say you can’t get that from Sysomos, but we are waiting to hear about the Sysomos API that will help us to help your customers to do that. Until then check out http://www.experts.ai :)

    Like

  6. gudani says:

    Most brands need different tools (listening, management etc.) depending on where they are in their social media adoption cycle. Listening mostly helps if your brand already has a significant presence in social media and you want a way to track and measure the conversations that are happening around your brand or market. Management (which Marketing) is more about building awareness about your brand on social media.

    Having said that, you should also checkout Beevolve. Its a listening platform that provides a way to engage your Twitter and Facebook audience.

    Like

  7. Jenn says:

    Your thoughts on Cymfony?

    Like

    • Mario Sundar says:

      @jenn, @gudani, thanks for your thoughts. I’ve had a few additional tools mentioned in these comments section – Cymfony, Beevolve and Attensity. Given the proliferation of these tools, I wonder how they differentiate themselves.

      Thoughts, feel free to continue the conversation here or find me on twitter @mariosundar.

      Like

  8. Ben Watson says:

    Love your thoughts here and the way you have positioned things both in terms of cost and complexity and the need to use more than one tool sometimes.

    We agree, there is a lot of opportunity for improvement and further integrations and trust that those improvements are in the works at HootSuite.

    We continue to grow our AppDirectory and our API to integrate more and more networks and external tools (like Omniture and SocialFlow). This is the heavy lifting of maturing an industry.

    If you consider where we were as an industry a few short years ago, its actually kind of awesome what we have all been able to do!

    Like

    • Mario Sundar says:

      @ben,

      I think there’s tons of opportunity for whichever tool is able to provide the most comprehensive solution for both, since using two tools to do the job of management is quite a hassle. I’ve spoken to many, many social media folks in this space and the sentiment is unanimous.

      Can’t wait to see what you guys are building…

      Like

  9. Martin Kang says:

    Please also consider including SocialMotus. We’re a new, free social management tool platform for businesses and individuals. We’re building some innovative and powerful conversion tracking and social management features including priority messages inbox, targeted Twitter followers discovery, sales conversions by posts and much more.

    You can review it by signing up for free here http://www.socialmotus.com or emailing me for more information.

    Like

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