Global hotel chain Hyatt tweets 1,600 times a week. Chevrolet tweets 4,300 times each week. But American Airlines makes that little blue bird sing loudest, tweeting an astonishing 6,400 times every single week.
How do they do it? And why?
To answer those questions and find the best social media management tools for big, medium, and growing brands, we surveyed 1,133 social media managers who build their companies’ brands on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and emerging mobile social networks. With help from Texifter’s DiscoverText technology, we analyzed over 250,000 tweets. We tracked the 1,600 brands with the most followers and the most engagement in their use of social media.
And we talked to dozens of vendors. Everyone, apparently, has a social media management tool. Small wonder, when social has become critical to almost every company’s marketing strategy.
But which one is the best for you?
The answers are now in.
For enterprise, Oracle is surprisingly good, as are Sprinklr and Komfo. For smaller companies, Meshfire, Sendible, and Hootsuite lead the pack. And for the midsize company, Sendible, Meshfire (again), and Oktopost are leaders. Other tools you can’t ignore? TweetDeck, Buffer, SocialFlow, Spredfast, and Crowdbooster.
Those are just a few of the results from VB’s social media management report, released today.
But it’s not just about the tools. Even more important than tool is technique, and as our analysis of brands clearly shows, those who truly engage are much more successful than those who simply broadcast.
“Most surprising for me when it came to how big brands use Twitter was the big difference between the ‘high message volume’ users and the rest, The vast majority of those sending hundreds of tweets per day are engaging with their audience: answering questions, solving problems, and ‘being social.’ But when you look at the rest of the list, the majority use Twitter as a broadcast channel.”
In fact, nearly 70 percent of big brands use Twitter in broadcast mode. The ones who don’t, however, use the right social media management software to “fully engage even with the highest volume of tweets,” Rogers said. That speaks to brands who tweet hundreds or thousands of times a week: they’re not sharing their second-by-second status, but engaging with customers who have questions, concerns, complaints … and, hopefully, kudos.
A strong social media management plan, therefore, consists of not just posting to social networks, but also following the right accounts, listening for both brand mentions and sentiment, and engaging in the right conversations at the right time.
Accomplishing that at scale is a challenging endeavor.
The right tools, of course, can help. And they can vary by social network as well company size and type.
In fact, many companies use multiple tools, both because some tools are better at listening or engaging or other aspects of social media management, and because some tools work best with specific networks. For example, Royal Dutch Airlines largely relies on Radian6 to listen to both followers and those that mention the brand online, and will typically use that tool to respond directly. It also uses Hootsuite and the Twitter web client to deliver messages, in addition to Twitter Ads for promoted content.
I asked Rogers what tool works best with Facebook, for instance. Rogers said.
“Sendible scores highest, according to the opinions of our survey respondents, and supports a wide range of networks, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and more. For Twitter, however, it is hard to look past Meshfire for SMEs and mid-sized companies alike.”
While brands do use Hootsuite frequently, individual social media managers for smaller companies use it more than twice as much as the next contender:
Interestingly, while 22 percent of the over 1,100 social media marketing professionals we surveyed are using marketing clouds, many are not using the social tools in their clouds.
For instance, within Adobe Marketing Cloud users, 19 percent use Adobe Social, but 27 percent use Hootsuite. And when we asked Oracle Marketing Cloud customers, 25 percent of them use the included Oracle Social Relationship Management product, but an equal 25 percent use Hootsuite.
The entire report on 28 major social media management tools, and the most successful social techniques, is available now on VB Insight.
COMMENTARY: The criteria used by social media managers for selecting SMM software depends on a number of different factors including costs, features and capabilities, accessibility, platforms supported, scalability, ease-of-use and customer support.
It is very important that your firm be ready to make the transition to SMM software before you have too many social media accounts and too much social media activity to track. How many accounts are too many? In my personal opinion you should not have more than four social media accounts to track. Any more than this, creates a a social media environment that is unwieldly or even chaotic to manage without a good SMM system.
Buyers Guide To SMMS Platforms
Technological change and innovation has hit social media at a speed that makes it very difficult for social media managers and marketers to keep up. In most instances that change and innovation is good, especially when it helps us do our jobs more efficiently and offers value to our respective communities.
Consider for a moment how far social media monitoring platforms have come just over the last two or three years. Back in 2009 social media marketing professionals were happy with a tool that helped them monitor mentions of their brand for the purposes of crisis mitigation. Now these same professionals have the ability to create sophisticated dashboards and raise the collective intelligence of their organizations by listening to the online chatter of the consumer.
Social media management software tools have undergone a similar evolution as brands have looked for ways to more effectively scale social media efforts.
Over the last few weeks Oracle and Salesforce.com have jumped into the ring to take advantage of the obvious CRM applications of these tools. Time will tell how these tools evolve after being purchased by much larger enterprises, but in the meantime marketers are looking at and evaluating them to help their companies.
Because social media tools have evolved at such a rapid pace there is quite a lot of confusion at the point of purchase. What should you be looking for in one of these tools if you are purchasing one for your brand? A few things come to mind:
- Easy to navigate user interface - These are the absolute minimum requirements:
- Scheduling content - keeps us from having to be at the computer 24/7/365. Most of the current tools on the market have this functionality, but check before buying.
- Ability to post to all major social channels – Again, a core functionality of most tools, but you should be able to post to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube without much difficulty.
- Uploading multimedia content – Can you easily attach photos and videos to posts in your current SMMS? We know how important visual content can be for brands so if you can’t upload multimedia with your posts it might be time to start looking elsewhere.
- Geo-targeting – A feature of some tools, but not all. If you are posting information about an event in Chicago chances are good that your fans or followers in Dallas, for example, do not care. The more relevant the content to a particular audience, the more engagement it is likely to receive. Check to see if your current tool allows for geo-targeting.
- Post tagging – This is critical for reporting down the line, but you should be able to assign tags to individual posts. Properly tagging posts will save you from having to go through every single post at the end of the month.
- Robust analytics dashboard - This is the biggest source of frustration because some of the SMMS tools that are thought to be best in class have what we would categorize as awful analytics dashboards. What data should your SMMS tool be offering?
- Everything you can get through Facebook or YouTube Insights – Listen, this isn’t a technical problem anymore. Both Facebook and YouTube have made their Insights platforms available via API. Wouldn’t you like to access that data from the same platform you are using to post? Yeah, so would we. Does your platform offer this currently?
- Twitter data – We realize gathering Twitter data is a little more complex, but your platform should be offering up impressions, clicks, retweets and replies.
- Competitive data – There are tools currently on the market that offer Facebook data on competitors within the publishing platform. That’s invaluable competitive intelligence as you evaluate your own performance. We wouldn’t categorize the lack of competitor data to be a deal breaker, but it is certainly helpful.
- Avoid SMMS with arbitrary black box algorithms - We could spend a lot of time on this point, but we are not a fan of algorithms within SMMS tools that place an arbitrary value metric on your content. The threshold should be that if you cannot stand in front of the CMO and defend what you are presenting, do not use it. In almost every instance, that describes these algorithms.
- Reliability - This would appear to be a “no duh” point, but you would be surprised how unstable some of these platforms can be. Double posting, inability to upload multimedia at random times, broken links and out of date data are all frequent issues with these tools. We totally understand the occasional outage, but if you are having constant technological challenges it is time to look at another tool.
- Scalability - The SMMS platform you select should have the ability to grow as you add more social media accounts and keep up with the volume of activity. The SMMS tool should be modular so that you can add additional module to handle the demands of increased volume as you need it.
- Mobility - The SMMS platform should offer the ability to now or in the near future access your publishing engine or data via mobile devices. If you are on your computer 24/7/365 access to your SMMS publishing engine or data via mobile devices is a must.
- CRM connectivity - A big plus would be for your SMMS platform to be social CRM capable or having customer data merged with social content data.
- Monitoring platform integration – We feel strongly that the winning combination will be some form of listening tool and SMMS platform. Imagine the power of being able to monitor for mentions of your brand, post from your brand page and then gather the data all from one platform. Very powerful combination that has yet to truly come to fruition.
19 Questions to Determine Corporate Social Media Readiness
In order for companies to realize the maximum benefit from social media marketing, there must be a certain level of understanding about the nature of online communities, social media sharing web sites and applications. One of the most effective ways TopRank Online Marketing has found to assess a company’s awareness, capabilities and resources for social media marketing is to conduct an external audit and an internal survey.
Identifying a company’s current state of social media readiness helps determine benchmarks and sets a baseline from where to build from. This is part of developing a social media strategy and helps avoid the random testing many companies are calling their “social media strategy”.
There are a number of free or low cost tools that one can use to identify a brand’s current social web participation, ranging from social media monitoring software to profile checking tools like KnowEm to social search tools like How Socialable, 48ers or socialmention.
With many companies, there are often a mix of official and unsanctioned social media accounts setup. It’s important to get a handle on such participation, who’s managing the accounts, whether they are run by employees or fans and what the company can learn from them. Getting a handle on the difference between how social the company is and will need to become is essential for planning, training and strategy development.
As part of the evaluation process, here are a few questions companies might ask themselves and answer as they embark on a social media marketing journey:
- What goals do you hope to achieve from a social media marketing effort?
- What measures of success will be used to evaluate a social media marketing program?
- What are your current social media channels and destination web sites/pages?:
- Do you employ a full-time community manager?
- If not, do multiple staff share the role of community manager?
- Are you conducting a formal effort at monitoring social channels using a social media monitoring/analysis software application? (Ex: Techrigy SM2, ScoutLabs, SocialRadar, Radian6)
- Is there a particular business unit, division or product that can serve as a test case?
- If active, how long has the company participated with social media sites and which? Blogging, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Wikis, Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc
- Are current social media participation on different sites coordinated?
- Is a dashboard and campaign management tool used for social media content promotion?
- Have you noticed any particular preferences within the target audience in their social web participation?
- Do they prefer particular sites? (Twitter vs Facebook – blogs vs forums)
- Do they comment, do they contribute content, do they tend to observe, do they not participate at all?
- Have you identified and engaged and/or networked with influentials in your target industry on social web sites?
- What unique value do current social media efforts offer clients/prospective clients? What need do they satisfy better than the competition?
- Are text content or media regularly shared on other social media sharing sites?
- Is there a user generated content component of your web site? Profiles, comments, reviews, content sharing: text, image, video or audio?
- What departments, business units, cost centers and approval entities would be involved with the Social Media program? Is there an internal social media council?
- What internal human resources are available within the company for support and implementation of social media marketing initiatives? (Content creation, network development, promotion, monitoring & analytics, community engagement)
Obviously each situation is as unique as the company and its objectives, but the list above can provide valuable insight into a company’s state of social media marketing readiness as well as provoking new thoughts and concepts. The more informed companies are about the social web, the more successful they will be at qualifying and managing social media marketing agency engagements.
Comparing Social Media Management Software
If you are seriously considering implementing an SMMS platform at your company, I would highly recommend this valuable online tool by G2 Crowd for comparing different social media management software platforms.
G2 Crowd helps you compare the best Social Media Mgmt Software products. You can compare products on a Grid similar to the Boston Consulting Group Matrixx, or by selecting any of the products for a side-by-side comparison. In addition, you can download the full report for more detailed information about Social Media Mgmt Software products. Only products with 10 or more reviews are included in the Grid. For a full list of products, click on the Products tab.
Courtesy of an article dated April 21, 2015 appearing in VentureBeat, an article dated September 2009 appearing in TopRank Online Marketing Blog, an article dated June 21, 2012 appearing in SocialMediaExplorer, and the Social Media Management Software comparison grid by G2 Crowd