Social Media Management Buyer’s Guide

Econsultancy Social Media Management Buyer's Guide 2011[Originally posted to Euler Partners.]

We kicked off our New Year speaking with the eConsultancy team about the upcoming update to their successful Social Media Management Buyer’s Guide 2011. Here's a rundown of the questions Amy Rodgers put to us and our responses.

1) What are the most important trends occurring in this market?

Maintaining one system for external social media management and workflow, and another system for "buzz monitoring", and another system for enterprise social networking looks increasingly disjointed. We have media to communicate, and we communicate to influence, and influence flows are the lifeblood of mutual understanding, knowledge building and decision-making. Maintaining technological islands for influence flows with one group of stakeholders (eg, customers) distinct from another island for influence flows with another group of stakeholders (eg, employees) effectively 'misses the trick'. It fails to recognise that today's organisations must strive to be more than the sum of the payroll.

2) Where are the biggest opportunities for growth within the social media management technologies market?

Integration. This market is maturing from product to platform with unprecedented speed.

3) What do you consider to be the most important challenges or threats facing this sector today?

Integration. Standalone products don't stand a chance. We don't believe this necessarily requires procurement to select a single vendor, as perhaps the phrase 'platform' has implied traditionally, but it does require due diligence as to how well products and services plug'n'play. Procurement should place considerable emphasis on open data formats and extensive and well documented APIs.

4) How do you see the competitive landscape for this market evolving over the next few months? (e.g. consolidation, differentiation, fragmentation)

As much as I consider integration to be the biggest opportunity and challenge, that doesn't necessarily mean we'll see consolidation. The market remains sufficiently nascent to witness consolidation, differentiation and fragmentation in 2013. Or perhaps we're just hedging our bets!

5) Does this area have any other strengths and/or weaknesses?

A significant weakness is inadequate procurement process. Procurement too often fails to recognise the criticality of social media management and workflow to long-term organisational success, the corresponding adjustment required to the organisation's structure and process, the upheaval required in changing systems at a later date, and the importance of data portability. It may also approach the topic with a campaign mentality rather than with the more appropriate 24/7/365 outlook.

6) Are there any other issues that you believe will be extremely relevant over the next 12 months?

Many organisations have privacy policies. Unfortunately, too few of these policies address the full gamut of privacy ramifications of social media management, workflow and social CRM, leaving a potential trust deficit between the organisation and its publics.

7) Do you have any other thoughts or insights from a non-vendor point of view on the SMM marketplace?

SMM cannot be considered a point solution if an organisation is to adjust to the full scope of opportunities and challenges here.

At Euler Partners, we define social business as designing the organisation around influence flows, connecting: its people, partners, customers and other stakeholders; data, information and knowledge in and all around it; more openly, productively and profitably with the application of social web, big data and related information technologies.

Organisations have invested many millions in recent decades to track the flows of money, materials and time. This decade, they must extend these capabilities to track the flows of influence amongst all stakeholders to maintain and grow engagement, relevance, trust, reputation and profitability.

8) Are there any tips or pitfalls that you can share for companies looking for a vendor or consultancy looking to provide social media management technology or services?

Here's our favourite tip. Qualitative rather than quantitative, but revealing nonetheless.

Keep a record of how often the vendor / consultancy mentions group A and group B phrases. Group A includes names such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, and phrases such as Facebook strategy, Twitter strategy etc. Group B includes words and phrases such as mission, vision, business objectives, business strategy, social business, organisational learning, knowledge management, business performance management, measurement, etc. You get the idea.

We'd always recommend gravitating towards vendors and consultancies who score higher in Group B than A.