At the risk of being accused of falling off the Cluetrain, I find myself increasingly wondering how much of a need there is in the world for social media management as a discipline and social media management software as a tool?
I know, social marketing (technically, social media marketing) is all about genuine, authentic, transparent, distributed conversations. And somehow the notion of explicitly managing that process — especially using software to systematize or optimize it — feels a little counter to the culture.
But that being said, as social marketing continues to expand its role in marketing and business overall, there are clearly challenges in efficiently doing social marketing at scale. (Jason Falls has a great post on The Bonsai Method of Social Media Management that inspired these thoughts, as well as Jeremiah Owyang’s post on Strategies for Organizing your Corporate Social Media Program.)
As the number of people on your social marketing team increase, you run into coordination issues. On one hand, you want as much autonomy as possible, so people can make quick, real decisions for individual opportunities in the social sphere (think “Blink”), without losing speed or authenticity by bogging things down in committee or hierarchy.
On the other hand, issues are bound to arise — externally in the social sphere or internally in the organization’s evolution — that will benefit from quick synchronization up and down the the chain of communication. (Okay, ideally it’s more of a “net of communication” — chains are so 20th century.) Companies do have constraints, and rather than abolish or ignore them, it’s far better to let social marketing adapt and influence them. But that requires some structure and mechanisms to do so.
Related to this challenge of scale is the challenge of scope. The number of different social marketing channels is continuing to explode. Brian Solis’ Conversation Prism is a snapshot of the popular ones as of August 2008. But new ones will continue to be born, and old ones will continue to evolve, die, or fade away. The lifecycle of some may be as short as a few months — but those may be incredibly valuable months for savvy social marketers to leverage.
The optimal allocation of resources into these channels is a complex and dynamic optimization problem. It’s probably unreasonable to expect 100% efficiency here — just because of how distributed social marketing is. But there will be organizations that do it more efficiently than others, and that will be a competitive advantage.
Social marketing metrics (described in this great post by Jack Humphrey) are a part of what’s necessary for social marketing management:
- link popularity;
- social news tracking;
Services that offer social brand tracking, social media monitoring and measurement, and reputation management — such as Andiamo Systems, Sentiment Metrics, and Buzzmetrics — are useful. But these are largely discovery and monitoring tools. They’re the “pro” version of Google Alerts.
Metrics and monitoring are important, but what seems to be missing is software to help organizations close the loop between what’s happening in the social sphere and how to optimize their engagement in it.
I think social marketing management software requires more than an adaptation of current campaign management or marketing resource management (MRM) software. It needs to be built from the ground up with a vision for leveraging the highly distributed and inherently fuzzy properties of social media marketing — with the ability to fluidly adapt to new channels and the feedback and cross-pollination between them.
Visible Technologies‘ TruCast and TruView might be examples of this new type of software (they’re the only ones who came up in a search for “social media management software”).
Such social marketing management software would be a complement to campaign and resource management systems. At some point, I could imagine it as a module that’s part of integrated enterprise marketing management platforms such as Unica, Aprimo, and Alterian.
Can social media marketing be both genuine and coordinated, authentic and efficient? Can a new generation of software tools both embrace the spirit of social media marketing and the power of software to efficiently manage scale and scope? I think so.