Social Media Management Software Overview

Not surprisingly, since we launched our first Buyer's Guide to Social Media Management Software in November 2013, a few things have changed. In that guide, we defined social media management software as a “set of tools to manage or analyze interactions through multiple social media accounts from a single dashboard,” including the ability to listen for brand mentions, post to multiple channels, run marketing campaigns and measure the relative success of campaigns.

Within the broad definition, we identified seven “use cases”: analytics, listening, publishing/engagement, customer care, curation, social selling, and promotions, each of which emphasized a different feature set.

Social tools are both proliferating and consolidating

Since then, two major and somewhat conflicting trends have been underway: the simultaneous proliferation and consolidation of social tools. The 2011 marketing technology landscape, produced by blogger Scott Brinker, contained a little over 20 social media marketing and analytics tools. The 2012 version contained about 35 products, the 2014 version contained more than 60, and the 2015 version contains well over 100, and is by no means exhaustive. TrustRadius currently has more than 140 social media management tools listed on our website. This proliferation of tools aligns with a similar trend in marketing technology in general.

Of course, as tools with different feature sets arise, mergers and acquisitions take place as vendors aim to become an all-in-one solution for their customers. In the social space, this is happening on two levels. First, the marketing cloud or suite vendors are adding social to their arsenals. In 2012, Oracle, for example, purchased Vitrue (a social marketing tool), Collective Intellect (a social intelligence platform) and Involver (a social development platform), and recently used the three products to create the Oracle Social Relationship Management platform. Salesforce purchased listening tool Radian6 in 2011 and the publishing tool Buddy Media in 2012, and in 2014 launched Social Studio, a unified version of the two products. Adobe acquired Efficient Frontier, a tool that allowed marketers to place ads on Google and Facebook, in 2011.

Secondly, social media management vendors are using acquisitions to incorporate different social capabilities, as well as developing their own additional functionalities, in order to become a one-stop shop for all things social. Spredfast merged with the social curation platform Mass Relevance, Hootsuite acquired the social analytics tool uberVU and the social media campaigns platform BrightKit, and Sprinklr acquired services company TBG Digital, as well as Dachis Group and Branderati.

With all this consolidation of social media management software, the lines between some of the use cases we delineated in our first buyer's guide are blurring. For example, many software tools that were originally positioned as “listening” tools have added or strengthened their engagement capabilities, just as many of the traditional publishing- and engagement-focused tools have added or strengthened their listening capabilities.

A third trend in the social media space is also underway, though not strictly related to software: some companies are shifting their approach to social media in general, from an isolated marketing channel, to an integrated part of business processes. This means that where social media was traditionally the activity or responsibility of one person in the marketing department or a small team, some enterprises are now leveraging the data and engagement opportunities via social media across different business units—from marketing to sales to customer service to HR—as well as across the customer journey—from awareness to prospect to customer to loyal customer.

Our new approach to covering social media management software

Based on these trends, we've adjusted our approach to the space in this second guide. First, we're zeroing in on enterprises. There are many free or low cost tools that help smaller organizations or those just starting to leverage social media. We decided to focus on comparing the software products used by large companies (with more than 500 employees) for enterprise-level social media programs. Enterprises have particular social media software needs, including scalability, security, user permissions, collaboration within a team and across departments, workflow, content management, and governance. These software products are not used exclusively by enterprises, so this guide will be valuable to other market segments as well.

Second, we're defining use cases not based on the feature sets of the various tools (since those are blurring), but rather the social media strategies of software users. We've analyzed 400+ end-user ratings and reviews of 23 social media management software products to understand how enterprises are leveraging social media in general, and what tool or set of tools are they using to facilitate those activities.

Based on end-user reviews, in-depth interviews with some of the reviewers, and interviews with vendors, we've identified three primary use cases, or ways that companies are leveraging social media, and the tools that support them: social customer care, social intelligence, and social media marketing.

The use cases are by no means exhaustive. For example, PR departments might use social media for reputation management, and sales representatives might use social media to maintain relationships with clients. HR departments are starting to use social media to discover and recruit candidates for employment, as well as track employee sentiment and employee compliance with social media policies. Other use cases will arise as new social channels emerge and attract audiences, and as enterprises continue to find new ways to take advantage of the opportunities presented through social media. However, we feel these three use cases are the most widely used and require the most tool support.

Using more than one social media management tool

It's also important to note that some companies fit multiple use cases and also use multiple tools. In fact, despite the consolidation of social tools and the desire of many vendors to become the one-stop-shop for social media management, consumers of these software tools still largely say they need more than one tool to meet their needs. In a recent TrustRadius survey, 75 percent of the respondents who use social media management software use two or more tools, and 14 percent of those who use more than one tool actually use six or more.
Pie chart illustrating how many social media management tools are used

Richard Margetic, head of social media at Intuit and previously at Dell, says using multiple social media tools is redundant but necessary. “We've got to pick and choose among the landscape to meet our needs,” he says. “Each one does something well, but fails miserably in other areas that are important to a company. We end up with multiple tools that have overlapping functionality in order to get everything we need to be successful in social. We're not optimizing our spend, and still not getting the cohesive capabilities that we need to meet the business requirements.”