In 2006, I started working in social media marketing when things were simple. We only had a small handful of social channels to focus on, they had basic features compared to today, and nobody asked difficult questions about ROI. Life was peachy.

A decade later, things have changed. Social media has become a staple of the marketing mix, and while this has brought greater investment, that comes with greater accountability, so we’ve had to get better at measurement and reporting. Businesses which own consumer brands, particularly those operating in international markets, can quite easily find themselves with dozens, even hundreds, of social channels to manage.

We’re also dealing with a constantly evolving landscape, with new platforms emerging all the time and the old stalwarts continually adding new features. Third party tools that were supposed to help simplify social media management have themselves grown more complex; there are so many now that it’s difficult to know what you actually need, and which ones are any good.

So, social media took over the marketing world, but it created a lot of complexity. How do we begin to solve that problem?

Map out your organisation’s requirements

In many businesses, the social media footprint has grown organically over several years, with little forward planning. A good first step towards taming the beast is to map out in detail how social media fits into your business:

  • Which social channels does your business need a presence on? If your business is international, what does this look like in different markets?
  • Which teams need access to which channels? Internal departments and external agencies.
  • What levels of access do all of those people need? Publishing (paid and/or organic), moderation, analytics, full admin?
  • Which service levels will be put in place? How frequently will channels be updated, how quickly will you respond to customer enquiries on social, how long should it take for inappropriate user comments to be moderated?
  • Who will be accountable for all of this? What reporting lines need to be put in place?
  • What resourcing will be required, where will it come from?
This should not be a back-of-a-beermat exercise, but a deep and searching analysis of your organisation’s social media requirements, with input from everybody it touches upon. What you should have now is a map of “your perfect world” scenario. The hard part is implementing this plan, which will require compromise and pragmatism, but at least now you know what you’re aiming for.
Admit that your social media reports are most probably useless
You’re probably getting a mixed bag of reports from the various people managing your social channel. Spreadsheets full of meaningless numbers, PowerPoint slides full of cut and paste charts, no consistency, no insight, no value. Most of them probably aren’t even getting read.
Data without insight is pointless. Make somebody in your organisation the Chief Insight Hunter, give them direct access to all your social media data sources and make them responsible for:
  • Implementing consistent reporting across all social channels, brands and markets, so that you’re comparing apples with apples.
  • Turning the data into actionable insight, so that every report has real business value.
The goal here is to cut down on the number of social media reports floating around the business and instead distill them down to only what is useful. If a report doesn’t provide information that your business can act upon, why waste time creating it?
End tool-sprawl
As businesses have adopted social media, they’ve also brought in third party tools to help them manage it, and this is often a messy process with different departments and agencies buying tools ad hoc. This results in a messy sprawl of overlapping tools with all of the inefficiencies that come from working with multiple suppliers.
To streamline your toolset, and reduce the number of suppliers you need to work with, first think about five main types of social media activity:
  • Listening – tracking discussions about your brand.
  • Curation – collecting relevant social content.
  • Engagement – talking to people through your channels.
  • Publishing – both paid and organic social posts.
  • Analysis – investigating the data to find insight.
First of all, map out who in your organisation needs to do each of these tasks, because not everybody will need all of them. For example, the ability to publish is most likely to be limited specifically to marketing communications staff, whereas customer service, human resources, and others might need engagement tools.
Once you know what capabilities are needed by different teams across the organisation, and their specific requirements, you can then start identifying best of breed tools which provide each of those capabilities. By approaching things in this way, you’ll find you can significantly reduce the number of social media tools your business currently uses. And if you choose the right supplier, you could even reduce the number of tools to just one.


By Lance Concannon, marketing director, Europe at Sysomos

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