SEMA News—December 2013
By Joe Dysart
Manage All Social Media With a Single Tool
Companies looking for a single tool to manage their social-media presence across all networks can take heart: Dozens of all-in-one solutions are available that will make the most of a company’s presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et al. Even better: Market-research firm Forrester conducted a rigorous study of la crème de la crème of these social-media dashboards and has come up with a list of what it considers “strong performers.”
Essentially, Forrester has done all the advance shopping and legwork for you. So if you’re looking for a single tool that will handle virtually every aspect of your social-media needs, Forrester suggests you investigate the following:
“The days of letting the intern manage the Facebook page are long gone,” said Nate Elliot, lead author of the Forrester report on social-media dashboards entitled “Social Relationship Platforms, Q2 2013”.
“Most larger marketers now maintain at least 10 Facebook pages,” he said. “And marketers aren’t just on Facebook anymore. More than 90% maintain a presence on Twitter; nearly as many use LinkedIn; and more than half even use Google+.”
Aaron Everson, president of Shoutlet, said that social marketers continually face a building list of challenges—from execution to analytic. “The pressure to prove market return-on-investment to the C-suite is mounting,” he added.
While Forrester stresses that none of the dashboards on its strong-performers list can be considered perfect, most go a long way toward pulling together and managing virtually all the elements of a highly effective and highly interactive social-media presence. Specifically, most of the products Forrester puts at the front of the pack automate the scheduling and posting of text and multimedia across a wide array of social-media networks.
Most also enable a company to monitor how its brand is faring on social media—both among casual users of Facebook and other networks as well as more engaged influencers, such as bloggers. “And once they’ve tracked customer questions and comments, these tools help marketers analyze which ones require attention and then allow them to respond to those posts,” Elliot said.
Moreover, most of the strong performers also help company staff greatly automate the processing of social media, including reading, analyzing and sorting out who at the company should respond to a specific post. In addition, these “social-relationship platforms” help marketers manage all their social accounts as well as all the employees permitted to post to those accounts. And most of the solutions “can assign different permission levels to different employees and offer workflow tools for routing inbound posts to the right teams,” Elliot said.
Most of the dashboards can also ensure that select—or even all—outbound posts are reviewed by appropriate staff. For example, legal may want a gander at some posts before they go live, and marketing may want to fine-tune others.
Forrester evaluated social-media dashboards using a 49-point checklist. It also surveyed each vendor about its product, asked for product demos and interviewed three to five actual users of each product.
Here’s how the strong performers Forrester presents as frontrunners stack up:
Sprinklr: Elliot flatly stated that Sprinklr offers the most powerful technology on the market. “Sprinklr set out to build a potent technology, and it succeeded,” he said. Forrester especially liked how Sprinklr can both auto-analyze inbound posts and auto-trigger reactions to those posts. On the downside, Forrester found the learning curve for Sprinkler relatively steep.
Hearsay Social: Companies especially interested in leveraging social media for sales will want to take a much closer look at Hearsay Social, according to Forrester. “It offers sophisticated content sharing and seeding features, and its permissioning and oversight tools are among the best we evaluated,” Elliot said.
Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social, said that social is the future of selling. “There is an enormous opportunity for sales leaders to help reps sell in the new way that customers want to buy, drive sales productivity through the roof and help organizations stay relevant and competitive in the social era,” she said.
“Most larger marketers now maintain at least 10 Facebook pages,” he said. “And marketers aren’t just on Facebook anymore. More than 90% maintain a presence on Twitter; nearly as many use LinkedIn; and more than half even use Google+.” —Nate Elliot, Forrester
On the downside, some clients were disappointed with Hearsay’s reporting, according to Elliot. Plus, the tool is unable to create or post rich content to social media.
Spredfast: “Clients were most pleased with Spredfast’s measurement and reporting capabilities,” Elliot said. It also helps users monitor posts on a number of sites and is available as an iPhone app. The downside: While the tool can monitor posts, it cannot analyze them. Nor can it automatically tag the posts or route them.
Shoutlet: “Shoutlet doesn’t have any one feature that’ll steal your heart,” Elliot said. “But its long list of very good functionality adds up to our top score for current offerings.” On the downside, “the company’s focus is squarely on tactical social solutions rather than on helping social media provide broader business value to marketers,” Elliot said.
Salesforce.com’s Buddy Media: Overall, Forrester found this tool easy to use, and Buddy offers one of the better tool sets for posting marketing content to social networks, Elliot said. On the downside, the product has limited monitor-and-respond functionality, and its client satisfaction scores lagged those of the other vendors Forrester evaluated.
Adobe Social: “Adobe gets the basics right,” Elliot said. Unlike many of the tools evaluated, Adobe Social is more about measuring social success than creating it. Still, Elliot said, the product “monitors a broad list of sites and analyzed posts for sentiment and influence. And it offers good post scheduling and targeting tools.” On the other hand, the product is no standout in comparison to any of the other tools evaluated.
“The ultimate aim is to help social media as a marketing channel mature and prove its worth alongside other digital marketing investments,” said Brad Rencher, a vice president at Adobe.
Bonus: For companies that want to dig deeper and do extremely detailed comparisons of the strong performers, Forrester also offers a “vendor-comparison tool,” which enables companies to adapt Forrester’s criteria weightings to fit their specific