Social Management and the new breed of content management tools

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Need for better management [caption id="attachment_3006" align="alignright" width="424" caption="The Conversation Prism is an excellent visualization of the hundreds of publishing channels marketers have to consider supporting."][/caption] Remember managing websites before Content Management Systems (CMS)? Remember when CMSs first came out and they were crazy expensive and difficult to use? Well, the CMS market has matured and it made web marketing significantly more efficient. Now we can’t imagine life without them. We’re going through the same cycle for the new social platforms. Publishing content for your website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, Flickr, etc. is really time-intensive. It’s even more difficult to manage things like message segmentation, version control, style guide updates, moderation, and more. Now, a new breed of tools are emerging to address the distribution and management problems for the Splinternet.

Social Management

Having watched the emergence of this space, I’ve been using two names for it: Social Platform Management Systems and xMS (the idea is that the “x” is a variable representing new and emerging content distribution platforms). Mashable is now adopting the term Social Management and I like it. Kinda. Systems that support content management for websites, social, and mobile should have a name that is channel agnostic. Content Management Systems works, but it’s historical use is so strongly associated with websites that it may confuse more than clarify. So, Social Management works for now.

The New Vendors

A few vendors have been addressing this problem from primarily two different directions. One group is focused on Facebook. The other group is focused on multiple social networks, but only manages messages. The Facebook Group Context Optional, Involver, and Vitrue offer Social Management solutions that support Facebook. Their solutions are built with marketing challenges in mind making it easier to publish, moderate, and manage your presence on Facebook. They offer features like audit trails for the regulated industries, multi-page publishing for faster syndication, and workflow features such as escalation. Beyond managing the communications, these systems also offer apps for marketing campaigns. Apps range from quizzes and polls to coupons and product samples. Vitrue’s latest announcement extends their management support to plugins, which includes the Like button. [caption id="attachment_3007" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Facebook provides marketers with four sets of tools."][/caption] Facebook focused Social Management increases the efficiency of Facebook marketing by providing support for three of the four marketing options in Facebook. I imagine it won’t be long before these systems support all four areas. If you’re still using the built in UI on Facebook to manage your marketing efforts on their platform, you’re not going to be able to keep up with competitors who are using a Social Management system. The Client Group Another set of tools that are working on the splintered publishing tool problem are focused strictly on the messaging portion of the equation. Vendors in this space include Tweetdeck, Seesmic, HootSuite, CoTweet, and more. These tools are multi-channel communication clients that make it possible to have a single inbox married with a common message composer. Most vendors support Facebook and Twitter, but some are now supporting LinkedIn, Foursquare, and more. While Tweetdeck and Seesmic are aimed at the consumer space, HootSuite and CoTweet are focusing on the challenges businesses face. They have workflow support for activities like delegation, supervision, and escalation. They’re also working on integrations with business systems like CRMs and analytics. This group will be interesting to watch as they will penetrate the entire enterprise, not just marketing. Again, companies adopting mutli-channel clients will be a step ahead of anyone relying on the built-in UIs from the various platforms.

Adoption Now

The question now is about adoption. When is the right time and which vendor(s) to go with. My take is that Social Management tools are mature enough now to begin using. Multi-channel clients are also mature enough to begin rolling out across the enterprise. Adopting now does mean that you’ll have to learn best practices on your own and you’ll likely need to switch a vendor or two before finding the right set of tools for your company. Waiting is not a smart move. While you could avoid some of the bumps from the market being young still, you’ll end up behind competitors who aren’t afraid to be agile. It could mean being behind for a decade or more before the next set of tools emerge. My recommendation is to evaluate from the list of vendors I link to in this post and then start by rolling them out to a single department, like marketing. After a month or three of use, decide if you need another tool or if you’re ready to share your learning experience with the broader organization.]]>

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