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What to Look for When Evaluating a Social Media Management Platform

8 Jun

So you need a social media platform to help you with your day to day marketing tasks that cover everything from publishing to customer service to reporting, sound familiar? So how do you cut through the marketing noise and find a tool that will actually give you what you need? It’s easier said than done but fortunately I am here to help you demystify some of that. 

I have worked as a sales engineer selling these platforms to brands of all sizes for over 8 years now and still come across social media management platforms that I have never even heard of. So how do you begin your evaluation?

There are literally tons of choices and all of them are awesome. Seriously, look at their websites and marketing materials, every one of them lists a bunch of big name customers and appears to the greatest platform on the planet to handle all of your marketing needs. Detecting sarcasm yet? 

A Googling we will go.

You will find yourself at some point Googling “Social Media Platforms” or “Social Media Tools” and you will see a litany of ads and results like “23 Tools for Marketers” or “The Top 52 Social Media Platforms Every Marketer Should Know”. Spend enough time searching and you will find review sites, analyst reports, webinars, product guides and even some dated demos.

Let me save you some time check out the following:

You’re probably asking, why Glassdoor? Isn’t that a job review site? It is, but you are buying a platform that needs constant development and there is no better place to get some insight into how things are going with the product development team. There’s gold in those reviews and you just have to look for it. If you see reviews describing product teams as a disorganized mess then there’s a good chance you are going to see some major issues with future development or lack thereof.

Social Media Tools

Let us not forget the analysts, Gartner and Forrester Research. Gartner provides a report called the “Magic Quadrant” while Forrester provides “The Wave”, fancy huh? Both of these reports evaluate social platforms based on criteria in which they select and determine to be relevant and “where the industry is going”. Basically, they send vendors a questionnaire and if they like your responses you’re invited participate to demo your product against a handful of use cases they select.

Review these analyst reports but take them with a grain of salt. Gartner and Forrester both provide paid consulting for some of the vendors that make this list and magically those companies seem to score the highest, go figure.

There are more things for you to consider when reviewing these platforms but this should give you a good start as to where to start looking.  I will be covering much more very soon to help you dive into the details and identify things that you want to look for. If you have questions or thoughts be sure to share them in the comments below!


By – Adam Lazzara


How to Begin Evaluating Social Marketing Efforts

7 Jun

How can we better evaluate our social marketing efforts and find ROI for our organization?

It’s the question that always comes up, social media ROI and how can it be measured? Nowadays when I hear this it just means something different to me, it’s a marketer asking in a roundabout way where do I begin to measure my social media marketing initiatives?

Let’s establish a baseline so we can build a foundation that takes a look at multiple areas of your business.  This way we can begin to look for metrics that give us a complete picture of what is going on instead of just narrowly focusing in on a small subset of metrics.

A few years ago Forrester Research had identified four perspectives for you to consider when evaluating your social efforts, these four values still ring true today.

Social Media ROI

Four social media ROI factors

1. Financial Perspective – Has revenue or profit increased or costs decreased?

 As social media budgets increase we are afforded opportunities to invest in social advertising in addition to social media tools that are designed to make a digital marketers job more efficient and measurable. With all the dollars going out what factors should we take into consideration for measurement? 

Ask yourself:

  • What is the current goal or objective to achieve through social marketing?
  • Are you allocating dollars towards social ads?
  • If so are the available ad metrics supporting your marketing goals?
  • Can you directly attribute social posts or ads to revenue?
  • Do the social media management tools you currently use or are looking to use specifically make your teams more effective in social marketing?
  • How many people do you have dedicated to working on social?

Investing in the right social relationship platform can make your team more efficient and allow for you to measure those efforts. Look for a solution that is flexible and can be customized for each user to fit their specific role. Does your vendor offer services? If so, it’s likely that the platform lacks certain things that need to be made up for with professional services. Always be sure to test platforms out in pilot environments that mimic your working situations. 

2. Brand Perspective – Have the consumer attitudes of the brand improved?

Listening across the web is the ultimate focus group. At your fingertips you have the ability to understand how visible your brand is in comparison to your competitors. Look for gaps in the market with what your consumers are wanting that isn’t being delivered, identify what your customers like about your brand/products, and what certain types of people (teenagers, mothers, etc.) think about specific products/topics/brands.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you actively or passively listening across the web to see the context in which people are discussing your brand?
  • Does your listening platform give your entire team an easy way to set up  keyword based campaigns and easy to understand data?
  • What is the sentiment behind how people are discussing your brand or products?
  • How are you stacking up socially against your competition? Think growth and engagement in addition to listening to how their audience is talking about them.
  • Are there specific topics that your audience is passionate about and are you closely watching those discussions?

Invest in the right social listening platform not just the most powerful. Make sure that not only can your team easily set up keyword campaigns but filter out the junk that comes with listening.  Quality of data over quantity of data is what matters here. 

3. Risk Management Perspective – Is your brand prepared to note and respond to attacks or problems that cast you in a negative light?

Sometimes people go to great lengths to attack and troll your brand and you must be prepared with a strategy that your team can follow on how to properly handle these sometimes very emotional situations. Mistakes also happen, ensure that your community managers have the proper tools in place to prevent the accidental posting of a piece of content that was meant for another account. 

Red Cross Tweet

The Red Cross mistakenly published this tweet

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have a social crisis management plan in place?
  • Does the plan include an approach for the handling of social media content in times of a national tragedy or crisis?
  • Are all employees aware of such a plan in the event of a PR crisis?
  • Is there a general social media policy for employees to follow as a representative of the brand on their personal social channels?
  • What does employee access to your brands social networks look like? Can it easily be revoked? 

Ensure that your tools have the proper failsafes in place to prevent these types of of situations. Make sure there is an easy to use workflow approval system that reviews content by another user prior to it being made live. Also be sure to review how an employees access can be revoked if needed. 

HMV Twitter

Fired workers hijack the HMV Twitter feed

4. Digital Perspective – Has the brand enhanced its owned and earned digital assets?

With an abundance of existing and new social networks popping up it is important to understand where your consumers are spending their time. Focus on engaging and growing those networks and stay away from creating a presence on a network for the sake of “being there” to avoid having a dormant social channel that rarely gets updated. Invest in the channels where your customers are today but be prepared to make a shift if your customers find the next Pinterest. 

Ask yourself

  • What social networks are you actively using and have a relevant audience? 
  • Has the content shared on social channels evolved your brands voice into a genuine and authentic persona?
  • Do you have the tools to measure metrics by week over week, month over month, etc?  
  • Have you built any apps that your fans/followers actively use or engage with?
  • Have you collected data on fans through the use of apps or any other method?

Investing in the channels where your customers are just makes sense.  Fun contests, promotions, games, apps can all be things that cost money in the short term but if done properly the relationship and trust you build with your fans will be invaluable. 

While there is still no one magic bullet answer for social ROI you can still build a good foundation combined with strategy and the right social tools  so you can be confident that you are protecting your brand while pulling in the right data that you need to to extrapolate your the data that matters to you the most. .  

By – Adam Lazzara

The Problem with Social Media Coverage of the Boston Marathon Tragedy

24 Apr

Boston Marathon Police Scanner

I listened, shared and watched the details of the Boston Marathon bombing unfold via social media. It captivated a nation and through the power of social media we collectively stood together in unity seeing through every detail leading to the capture of the remaining bombing suspect which I will intentionally not make mention of by name. 

Amateur journalism was in full effect in 140 characters or less. Internet detectives used photos and videos that were shared across the web to piece together what they thought happened and who the suspects were. Mind you this all went down before the FBI officially released photos and video evidence of the real suspects.  People wrongfully were called out and immediately subject to scrutiny from these amateur web detectives, this is an unfortunate by-product of the digital social news age.  People now have access to a treasure trove of information in which they can formulate their own opinions and use social media to broadcast their thoughts to the world, good or bad. 

Reddit, a social news and entertainment website where registered users submit content in the form of a link or text post, struggled to keep up with the traffic even taking steps to turn off commenting on its live feed threads. These Reddit feeds where based off of an interpretation of what was heard on the Boston police scanner. People follow along and they share what they think is going down and naturally this leads to inaccuracies as that message spreads across social channels.  

There was even a UStream channel that was set up that focused in on a Boston Police scanner which UStream confirms that at its peak 265,000 users were tuned in at the time of capture. Over the course of the day a total of 2.4 million people followed along at some point.  

It has never been more apparent through the inaccuracies of reported information by countless “reputable” news sources how desperate these news outlets where to keep pace with the “breaking news”.  News sources such as Fox News and CNN need to realize that the breaking news business has changed and they shouldn’t be so quick to take this shared social media content and present it as fact.

People knock social media and say that this is the problem with using Twitter or Facebook as a viable news source. To a degree they are correct but isn’t the bigger problem turning on CNN and seeing coverage of a story that is factually incorrect? I count on CNN to get it right and I count on social channels to get it information to me quickly. 

After the FBI released their photos and videos of the suspect almost immediately the social media community on Reddit had discovered another photo of one of the suspects leaving the scene. This photo clearly showed the suspect in higher clarity then what the FBI had released to us. Now that is the power of social media. 



Are Publishing Tools Harming Facebooks Edgerank or is it Smoke & Mirrors?

5 Sep


Often I am asked that if by using a 3rd party publishing tool to schedule and publish posts to Facebook will it decrease the overall reach of the published post? Some users are saying that they have data that suggests that they get better reach and engagement by publishing directly from the Facebook platform and that the edgerank (Facebooks newsfeed algorithm for displaying content) is harmed if using an outside tool.  In other words, is Facebook punishing me for using something other than Facebook for publishing my posts? 

Lets dive into what the magical Facebook “edgerank” means to you.  

When we speak of edgerank we are really referring to the newsfeed algorithm that Facebook uses in determining what content appears in their users news feeds. Your news feed is prime real estate for brands wishing to share their message with you and the newsfeed algorithm is what determines what content makes it to your feed. The key takeaway here is that this algorithm helps determine what you are most likely to find useful and relevant specifically to you. If this algorithm didn’t exist then your news feed would consist of nothing but marketing noise from all those pages you haphazardly liked.

There are three factors that play into how edgerank is determined but first lets identify what is considered an “edge”.

Every status update, like, share, comment, tagging of a post, uploading an image and basically any type of content or interaction is considered an “edge”.  Facebook looks at all of these edges in a users news feed and uses the algorithm to determine which edges are the most important to you. 

This newsfeed algorithm uses a combination of three magical items in determining what content is of utmost importance to you.  

  1. Affinity – The score between the viewing user and edge creator, in other words the relationship between you and the creator of a piece of content.
  2. Edge Weight – The types of edges have varying weights to them or importance. For instance all photos, videos and links seem to garner the most engagement and therefore carry a greater weight in determining an edgerank score. Simply put these published items are more likely to be interacted when compared to a basic status update.  Edge weight also seems to have a snowball effect, meaning that as a post grows in comments, likes and shares it becomes more weighted and more likely to appear higher in the news feed.
  3. Time Decay  – Time decay factor is based on how long ago the edge was created. Basically, something newer is more likely to appear in a newsfeed then something older.

Something to remember is that while we do our best to analyze and identify the governing factors regarding this newsfeed algorithm the simple fact is that this is proprietary to Facebook and they really keep all of this behind the curtain. Facebook can choose to push something higher in a users newsfeeds for no other reason then them wanting to do so.  I warned you that this stuff was magical.

Smoke and Mirrors

So on to the question at hand, are the posts you make via a 3rd party publishing tool being punished by Facebook? The answer is, well, magical as well.

 These publishing tools are designed to help streamline publishing efforts within your organization across a multitude of social networks. Many of these tools allow you to creating engaging fan content such as custom tab design and contests, allow for better scheduling and publishing of updates, uploading content in bulk, repurposing older content and even measuring your social analytics beyond what the network offers you natively.

Looking at the following scenario you are using a publishing tool to schedule and publish status updates to your Facebook page(s) about a special event that you are having in roughly a months time. Thankfully you have purchased a tool that allows you to easily create a post and schedule it to go out on every Friday at 2pm leading up to your big event. 

Week 1 – You find that your post is successful you have great fan engagement and your post reach is very high.

Week 2 – You have some engagement but not nearly as much reach as the previous week. 

Week 3 – The results are pathetic you have no engagement or reach from your post. This causes you to take to Facebook and create another post about your event and like magic, your reach is better then what you received from weeks two and three combined. You immediately call your vendor and exclaim that the tool sucks and Facebook penalizes posts from it.

Week 4 – You forget you have this one scheduled and it goes out further diminishing how the newsfeed algorithm sees posts from this particular 3rd party tool.

So What Gives?

The edgerank algorithm over time saw your posts becoming less engaging to fans so it learned that when it sees a post that has been published via (insert any 3rd party publisher) to your Facebook page it figures that the content isn’t going to be very engaging to fans so it shows it to a lesser audience. Reach is diminished.

This is just one of many scenarios that could be effecting how Facebook is seeing your posts. We are quick to blame the technology when something goes awry but often it is the short cuts that technology affords us that causes us to be careless and lazy with our content.

 Features such as scheduling content in bulk, publishing to many pages and networks at once and repurposing old posts are all features that can be helpful when utilized properly but harmful if your not taking the time to craft your messages appropriately.  

 The moral of the story, technology tools allow you to move quickly and be more efficient with your social marketing efforts but you might just shoot yourself in the foot if your not careful. Create original, genuine and helpful content for your fans to engage with each and every time. Learn how to use these tools effectively and do not just look for the shortcuts that some may provide within their feature set. It may take you a bit longer to plan your content but the benefits will far outweigh the negatives in the long run. 

By – Adam Lazzara

Social Media Technology Acquisitions – Superpowers Unite

6 Jun Social Media Acquisition

Social Media Acquisition

The companies available for acquisition in the social CRM space just got a whole bunch smaller.

Corporate giants Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle are building a monster. Acquiring social media management systems Virtue, Buddy Media, and Context Optional these companies are poised to make a move to dominate the social marketing, listening and CRM space. With these recent acquisitions the space has been officially validated and now the real showdown begins. How quickly these giants can move to provide a simplified and effective social media tool for enterprise level brands to deploy across their organizations will be paramount to their success.

What do these tools do?

Enterprise level tools enable brands to create custom content, publish to social channels, provide moderation and allow for the measurement of performance from these social properties. Some of that custom content that is created can be anything from building contests to designing custom Facebook tabs and applications. In fact it’s these custom pieces that help drive fan engagement, which is what brands crave and easily creating them is key. Creating custom content that fans can interact with is what enables data capture, which is the holy grail of marketing.

The marriage of CRM and social marketing begins

Publishing, analytics and creation are necessary to have but the money is in the data, hence the common theme with all the acquisitions. These big CRM companies are trying to create the one stop social media nucleolus tool for enterprise brands. By doing so they will empower brands to not only publish content but also to create a CRM of social fan data that ties and tracks a specific fan to any actions they engage with on any of the brands social profiles. Knowing who your fans are and how that fan is engaging with you will allow the ability to better target your fan demographic through ads and other digital marketing mediums.

True enterprise level products are being built and a leader will emerge if usability and simplicity don’t come as an afterthought of the tools design. Many of these platforms are very complex in nature requiring advanced CSS skills to create many of the web app designs that drive the engagement and capture data.  The people who are using these tools on a daily basis need something that allows them to create content and publish that content quickly, this doesn’t look as “simplistic” as some of these platforms try to bill themselves as, does it?

Where do we go from here?

If the past several months are any indicator about what is about going to go down in the social media technology space we are in for one hell of a showdown between some major powerhouse companies.  It’s going to be the first company that can take a Steve Jobs like vision of simplicity and elegance and apply that experience to their platform. That company will lead this race and my bet is that its not going to come from any of these corporate giants listed above but instead from a company that can be nimble and move quickly with the nature of the industry to deliver an experience that is fluid, elegant and powerful to suit their needs.  

By – Adam Lazzara

How Does Your Company Handle Change in Social Media?

11 May

Cross Roads of Social Media

The concept of social media remains the same; leverage your networks to introduce content that creates engagement and encourages sharing of that content. It’s a basic premise but often gets complicated due to the changes that happen in this fast paced and ever changing landscape of social media.

How does your company handle and react to change?

At the crossroads where business and social media intersect, change happens fast. Technology changes, social networks change and new platforms emerge that all change how fans interact with their favorite brands online.

How quickly a company can adapt and integrate these changes are paramount to their long-term social media marketing success. Companies both large and small who are actively engaging in social media must find a way keep pace with this change curve.  

As companies navigate these social media waters industry leaders emerge but it’s often the companies who can quickly adapt and integrate with new changes that allow them to stay nimble and keep pace with change.

Here are some examples of change:

Established and existing platforms will change.

Facebook recently made changes to the entire way businesses present themselves and how they interact with their fans via the new timeline functionality.  

New and emerging platforms emerge, quickly. 

Platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are such a huge success that companies must now incorporate new ideas using these platforms into their current social media strategy.

The technology you use change

As social networks change so do the technology vendors that empower you to get the most out of all your social channels.  These social media management systems often have to quickly adapt to these changes and implement new and innovative ways for brands to utilize these system and leverage these social media networks to their advantage.

Its human nature to become comfortable in a routine and any change that gets introduced immediately is viewed as a negative. Instead of viewing these as a negative, learn and try to understand what these new changes bring to the table. By embracing change, your company can adapt quickly and learn to use any changes to your advantage. 

By – Adam Lazzara

Gamification in Social Media – What is it and why do we LOVE it?

31 Aug

Gamification Social Media Atlanta

Gamification is the concept that you can apply the basic elements that make games fun and engaging to things that typically aren’t considered a game. 

The hot social buzzword of the week is much more then just a temporary fad to make so called social media “experts” sound more eloquent in their efforts to baffle you with their “expertise” they are trying to sell you.

Gamification is not a new concept; most of you are familiar with gamification in the social media world from using the location based check in service Foursquare. Why did we start checking into places and sharing our whereabouts with the world? Why did we abandon privacy to let potential evildoers know that we were not at home? Well, that’s easy; it’s all about getting new badges! Those things are so freaking cool!

Of course getting a new badge is cool but now you need to become the mayor of your favorite places by checking in to them more then anyone else.  In no time you discover that somebody else wants to become the mayor of your favorite coffee shop and now the battle is on, day after day, check in after check in all for the prestigious title of Mayor. The winner? The coffee shop, you have just been there 72 consecutive days buying a cup of coffee and telling all your friends where their coffee shop is…

Ever hear of GetGlue? It allows you to “check in” to things such as TV shows, movies, music, and books as well as allowing you to see what other GetGlue users are doing in real time. With each check-in a user earn points and wins stickers from GetGlue and other major brands that they have partnered with such as HBO. This is all for the love of being rewarded with a sticker, despite the fact that the entire system relies on the honor system seeing that GetGlue has no way of truly verifying what you are watching on TV. Oh yea, as of April 2011 over 1 million people are using this thing.

Gamification has been around a long time and now it’s crashing through social media. Human nature dictates that people naturally want to one up each other, whether it’s on the playground in a basketball game of HORSE or it’s building the better farm in Farmville. People naturally want to progress through something and receive a reward for doing so.  

MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) such of World of Warcraft have players earning all kinds of in game rewards while leveling their character to the maximum allotted level as soon as they can get it done. With a subscriber base of 11 million users, it’s a right of passage for these hard-core gamers to achieve the max they can bring their in game character to and trust me people work very hard at achieving this. It is not uncommon for a player to put in 40 hours a week towards leveling their character. To them it’s much more then a game, it’s an alternative universe and they can dominate there.

Xbox and PS3 now reward gamers with trophies and achievements so players can track their progress and compare how they stack up against fellow gamers. Again, people take this to the extreme to best the other player.

Gamification has been around but its now pushing its way into your social universe.

Social media allows us to share so much more then ever before. We can check in, earn rewards and essentially bait our friends into doing the same thing. Creating engaging items for people to interact with and beat out another user plays into the hands competitive human nature.

We want to win, we want to be the best and while that may not be possible in our day to day real world lives and jobs a virtual world exists and in this world our virtual identity can be a level 70 Undead Rogue or the Foursquare Mayor of all your local favorite places earning you all the respect from the online community that you are active in.

It’s this competition that is reinventing business, marketing and our day to day lives so look for many new ways that major brands will be trying to incorporate gamification into their brand and image. If they get it right, it could be a big game changer for certain brands out there. 

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