Remember the early days of the Web, when publishing and managing content was a Wild West of HTML? Organizations soon went from asking, "What do we do with this thing?" to "What don't we do with this thing?" To maintain some semblance of control, management systems were developed and deployed.
The same thing is happening now with social media. As organizations find new and increasingly sophisticated ways to use social media, they are finding that they need a way to manage their efforts and measure the outcomes.
Enter social media management systems (SMMSs), which enable organizations to do things like publish on multiple social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest; schedule and stage posts; apply rights management schemes; aggregate feedback; measure effectiveness across channels; and report results in ways that are meaningful to specific departments and organizations.
There are many SMMS companies to choose from. Some offer stand-alone products; others are part of bigger customer relationship management and content management systems. All, however, are designed to help organizations apply order to social media marketing and engagement efforts. According to Social Media Explorer, there are eight functions of social media management systems. Each function is listed below, followed by my comments:
Monitoring. Monitoring allows your company basically to search on the Web for mentions of your company, your competitors, your industry, specific products, and so on.
Publishing. Delivering relevant content is a big part of any organization's social media success, and an SMMS should help your organization develop and effectively deliver that content.
Engagement. SMMSs make it easier for organizations to respond to and engage with their customers and potential customers.
Organizational management. Just as traditional content management systems enable companies to establish workflow, versioning, rights management, and content vetting, SMMSs let companies manage social content and reduce the risks of social networking. CMS and SMMS systems are likely to converge over time.
Lead and conversion tracking. SMMSs allow organizations to turn social media activity into business leads.
Measurement. What's measured matters, and what matters is measured. SMMSs enable companies to determine the effectiveness of current efforts and adjust future efforts based on actionable metrics.
Customer relationship management. Social Media Explorer predicts that CRM will be the next big thing in this space, and I think they're right. (See Salesforce.com's acquisition of SMMS platform Radian6.) Companies are already finding that social networks are a great place for effective customer service and help desk functions. Full-blown CRM can't be far behind.
Social advertising management. SMMSs help companies develop, manage, and evolve social advertising and marketing campaigns.
In this slideshow, we offer a look at 11 social management systems. They differ in scope and capability and represent just the tip of the SMMS iceberg. But we hope the list provides a sense of what's currently available and helps you see how these systems could benefit your organization's social media efforts.