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In the penultimate article of our Social Business Future Gazing series we look at the ever-changing landscape of social media management tools (SMMTs). What are the decisions and challenges for social media managers to navigate, and why will they be amplified in 2016?

The journey of SMMTs over the last decade has been, let’s say, a hectic one. As the major social networks have grown, hundreds of tools have been developed to help enterprises manage a range of tasks; publishing content, paying to amplify that content, listening to the audience, responding to queries and analysing the whole shebang.

Some tools have flourished, others have disappeared. Some were snapped up by bigger fish and some remain independent.

travellerFor social media managers this has meant a moving feast of options, configurations and contract negotiations. However, the biggest dilemma has often been whether to select a tool that supports all of the tasks listed above, or plump for multiple “best-of-breed” tools. I think the challenge is not unlike holidaymakers deciding whether to organise the different aspects of their trip independently, or selecting an all inclusive package. The latter is much easier to manage and a safe choice, but you can end up being locked into options you don’t really want or need. Go independent and you have lots of flexibility, but more suppliers to manage.

Increasingly however there’s a third way, as independents continue to specialise in their area of expertise, but partner with other independents. Imagine the hotel you’re staying at is offering a 20% discount if you use Billy’s Banana Boat Company, rather than including banana boat rides in their room rate…

Anyway… back to the challenges faced by those people responsible for selecting an SMMT. There’s also an increasing level of complexity from inside their organisation to consider:

  • As more teams across the business use social media (customer insights, new product development, profit protection etc), owning and managing the SMMT vendor relationship is a much wider responsibility.
  • As the business wants to do more with social media, tools become more sophisticated and expensive – making the procurement process more complex.
  • Relationships with SMMT vendors are becoming increasingly strategic, often with extended contracts/subscription periods… which means brands are locked into the decisions they make for longer.

So that’s the environment, decisions and challenges social media managers are facing in respect of SMMTs. But why will 2016 be so significant? Here are three reasons:

Firstly, integrating data from social media with existing customer data (aka social CRM) will become increasingly important for brands looking to enhance how they target their audiences (and what to target then with). In 2016 this will become a far more common activity.

Secondly, as organisations become generally more engaged in the opportunity of social media, a wider range of networks and platforms will be recognised as having strategic benefit. Are the likes of Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WeChat included on the vendor’s 2016 roadmap?

Finally, the little talked about launch of Facebook Topic Data is opening up vast swathes of Facebook data for analysis for the first time. Does your vendor have access, and if so how will they offer up this service?

In conclusion, the selection of SMMTs still remains a case of “horses for courses”, with certain vendors and configurations best suited for certain businesses. The trick will continue to be selecting a vendor which can balance the needs of the core social team (publishing, listening and responding etc) with the growing interests and demands of the wider organisation – such as delivering support via Facebook Messenger or building deeper social CRM capability.

Are you in the process or reviewing your SMMT? Are you veering towards an all inclusive trip or keeping it independent?


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