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Guide to Selecting Social Media Marketing Tools

There is no doubting the value of social media data in marketing today - whether it be used to help enable a 900 million dollar acquisition, or help bring bring clarity to the launch of 150 million dollar new brands. Social data is revealing insights never before possible using traditional marketing tools and methods.

If we just look at building a brand online, it requires driving engagement, delivering messages and supporting market interaction. This requires a pull, not push, approach. In true Stephen Covey fashion – it requires us to seek to understand our customer, before we seek to be understood. In turn, this requires tools that support pull, not push marketing. Many companies rigidly believe they are engaged in pull marketing, however they are often basing their perception on outdated assumptions - understanding what worked best yesterday and today, whereas the focus needs to be on what will work best tomorrow. The same applies to selecting social marketing tools. Without the understanding of how social marketing differs from traditional marketing, we are in danger of assessing tools using the same outdated criteria.

Selecting Social Marketing Tools

Every social media tool claims to be the best at understanding the intent of consumers in social data. As we move from an era of software being sold on features, to one where content is the key requirement, we need a common platform upon which to compare different tools. We can only compare them in the context of how social can change the business landscape. Tools can be assessed in terms of FEATURES, CONTENT, ACCURACY and INFRASTRUCTURE.


  • How does the tool present the information?
  • Can it answer the questions I face each day in a timely manner that allows me to act on the insight that same day?
  • What type of analysis can be performed?
  • What functionality enables me to get the information I want?
  • How do I link directly to action?


  • Perception - how do I know I have all the relevant content I need?
  • Completeness - where can I select languages, sources and data?
  • Thoroughness - how can I be sure that ALL the relevant information is delivered?


  • Trust - how can I be sure that:
    • Data is accurate and time appropriate
    • The nuances of language are being correctly captured
    • The algorithms understand emotions correctly
  • Usability - how can I trust the usability of this technology?


  • Development - How quickly can my needs be met – at intitial deployment, with changes in needs?
  • Flexibility - Is there flexibility to handle changes with my systems?
  • Scale - Does the tool scale with my needs?

Content vs Features

The Features phase focused on what could be measured, how much data could be obtained, and how to make data visible. Little time was available to dig into data quality issues – we focused largely on tracking trends. Today, users want the data to be usable. We need to dig a little deeper into the meaning of the data, and this is driving an increasing focus on data quality.

Making sense of content is an important part of building a broader social media program - the foundation of true analysis, and the ability to measure action. A features only focus misses that depth the data provides in terms of both completeness and accuracy. A focus is on insight, not data quantity, means we have to know as much about the data we can. Having access to Twitter Firehose doesn’t tell me what people are saying within this massive data. I need to be able to separate out the relevant messages from the noise. And I need to be able to do this by social media channel.

Most companies are still working out how to apply social insight to more use cases, and measure the elusive ROI from the social data.

Insight to Action Processes

Having all the data and analytics tools doesn’t solve business problems – it is the process by which you apply the outputs of the tools that does. Repeatable, reliable decision making can only be made based on complete, thorough and accurate data.

As we progress with a focus more on content, than features, solution based thinking will likely result in aggregation of multiple tools through a single dashboard. Marketers will be less concerned with having every tweet, and more about understanding the emotion behind the tweet.

Processes will be recognized as critical to the connection between the insight and the message back to the market – with content creation driven by data insights.

As we all continue to seek to understand the social market, we can be sure of only one thing – the faster we can invent ways to leverage the opportunity, the better.

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