Introduction

With the amount of consumers inundating social media channels with opinions, experiences, and recommendations, businesses can no longer afford to ignore this marketing channel. The proliferation of social media is undeniable.1

  • 52 percent of online adults now using two or more social networks.
  • Roughly half of Internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53 percent) use Instagram. And half of all Instagram users (49 percent) use the site daily.
  • 56 percent of all online adults 65-and-older use Facebook, representing 31 percent of all seniors.

Keeping up with so many channels and users — and measuring their impact on your business — is not easy. In a recent survey, CMOs overwhelmingly expect to interact with customers over social networks in the next three to five years, although 66 percent of respondents say they are unprepared to do so.2

If you’re struggling to bridge the gap between your marketing and social media efforts, your business needs social media marketing software. Sometimes called social media management software (SMMS), and closely aligned with marketing automation platforms, these tools help you scale your social media efforts, engage customers, and monitor mentions, or conversations about your brand.

SMMS platforms work best as an extension of your sales, social CRM, and email marketing efforts. When aligned correctly, marketers report the following benefits:3

  • Generated exposure for brand – 88 percent
  • Increased website traffic / subscribers – 72 percent
  • Improved search rankings – 62 percent
  • New business partnerships – 56 percent
  • Increased generation of qualified leads – 51 percent
  • Reduced overall marketing expenses – 49 percent
  • Improved sales – 43 percent

Social media marketing software varies widely between vendors. This guide will help you better understand the capabilities of various SMMS systems, how it can benefit your company, and how to choose the best social media marketing vendor for your business.

How to Compare Social Media Marketing Software

How do you know what your customers and leads are saying about your business on social media? How do you know if someone who tweets a question at your business is already subscribed to one of your email marketing campaigns? Does this customer subscribe to one of your competitors’ social media accounts?

If you only have a handful of clients, then this information isn’t hard to track, however, as your business grows, you’ll need a more connected view of your customers, and the history and nature of their relationships with your company. SMMS platforms help through integration with your sales or marketing database(s) to create rich, omni-channel customer profiles with information on previous web interactions with the company — page views, email opens, etc. — and their purchase history.

In addition to rich customer profiles, most SMMS platforms have advanced monitoring tools to help track specific keywords or contacts. Having real-time streams of relevant phrases can help you prioritize your social media efforts and identify how and when to interact with your customers. It’s all about being there to say the right thing to the right person — at the right time. To make it easier to monitor all of these channels, nearly all solutions provide a combined social media management dashboard so you don’t have to track mentions or interactions using multiple tools.

With all interactions centralized on a single social media management platform, it’s much easier to generate omni-channel marketing reports and perform robust analytics to determine the return-on-investment of your efforts. You can see the number of clicks per message, as well as the number of leads and customers you generate.

There are several ways to package SMMS solutions. They may come as a module of your marketing automation software (ie Hubspot), or as a standalone social media management tool that integrates with existing systems (ie Hootsuite). The best solution for your business will be the one that integrates your social media activities with any legacy systems. Features will vary from vendor to vendor, ranging from simple social profile access to sophisticated analytics and social media monitoring capabilities. Before your evaluation, determine which functions and criteria are important to you.

Social Media Marketing Features

Features of social media marketing software platforms are numerous, as social media platforms allow diverse forms of media, have varying levels of functionality, and wide-ranging options for social promotion, sharing, or paid media. Some common features of social media marketing tools include:

  • Publishing and scheduling of posts
  • Social listening and monitoring
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Keyword tracking
  • Automation (favorites, retweets, likes)
  • Enhanced customer profiles
  • Multi-channel management
  • Multi-account management
  • Campaign management
  • Reporting and analytics
Additional Considerations

Selecting a social media marketing solution is about more than just features and supported networks. In addition to making sure the system you choose offers the features your company needs, you’ll need to verify the system is scalable in functionality and price. You’ll also want to evaluate your options and decide on the importance of:

  • Team collaboration
  • User permissions
  • Mobile access
  • Available pre-built integrations to legacy systems (such as CRM software)
  • Customer support
  • Pricing model

Social Media Marketing Software Applications

No matter how large or small your business is, social media marketing software can help increase customer engagement, improve the response of customer support, boost sales, and much more. Creative companies leverage social media marketing strategies in a variety of ways; these are a few common social media marketing software use cases to help paint a picture of how you can use social media to improve your business.

Market Analysis:

Use the information gathered through social listening to gain a better understanding of customers and prospects. What are their questions and pain points? What are they sharing? Use social media data to draw valuable insights about your target audience, then use those insights to guide your efforts, inform your content creation, and gather customer suggestions for product or campaign improvements.

Publishing, Promotion, and Curation:

Social media is most commonly used to publish and curate content, but you can’t just blindly schedule posts without considering your audience. You want to create content based on your specific business goals; do you want to be a seen as a thought leader in your industry? Do you want to get more sales leads? Are you trying to garner more web traffic? In order for social media marketing to be successful, you have to have a goal to measure success against.

Social Listening:

Social media should be viewed as a dialogue, rather than a monologue. If you make it all about you, then no one will be interested in the message. One way to avoid this is through social listening. Social listening is a way for your business to scan for crises, identify industry trends, gather intelligence on competitors, and identify sales opportunities. For example, to help with social selling and lead generation, you can subscribe to mentions of a certain phrase. When these words are triggered, you can then connect with new opportunities. You can also use social listening for customer care. Almost half of all consumers who complain about a brand or product on social media expect a response in 60 minutes or less.4 SMMS tools can help you prevent and mitigate customer criticism, and retain customers through faster issue resolution.

Community Management:

Social media can help brands establish their voice by creating content schedules and identifying leading influencers in your market. Then you can nurture those relationships, which can help to improve the overall image and visibility of your brand.

Creating Executive Buy-In

Gaining buy-in from executives is a critical success factor for approval of any software purchase. At most companies, you’ll need to include data that shows stakeholders what kind of return on investment they can expect. To this end, present industry research, statistics, or relevant case studies like the one below. Additionally, consider tailoring your appeal to address the concerns of each member of the C-suite separately. Below are a few talking points to get you started:

CEO

Since CEOs are concerned with the big picture, they’ll want to know how SMMS can improve the business overall. Along with the benefits and strategies already mentioned in this guide, be sure to point out your competitors’ social media strategies. More than 80 percent of U.S. businesses are trying to leverage social media for growth, and have increased their budgets to accommodate new social strategies.5 If your business isn’t one of those companies, then it’s likely you don’t have the upper hand.

CMO

Your chief marketing officer already knows the importance of marketing, lead generation, and brand awareness. They’re likely already using analytics to measure these efforts. Be sure to mention the benefits that an omni-channel SMMS platform could bring. To make your case stronger, you can focus on getting approval for a small trial or proof-of-concept. Many vendors offer a free version or trial period. Use this chance to test social media marketing software on a small scale, and then leverage your findings to make the case for a larger investment.

CFO

Your chief financial officer ensures resources align with the organization’s priorities. They will want to know the funding requirements for a new technology investment, and how it will generate revenue, and how it will reduce costs. SMMS can reduce customer service costs by resolving issues quickly online, which reduces the amount help tickets created. It also provides a greater opportunity to identify areas of product and market growth. Again, a small proof of concept and software case studies that feature companies similar to yours can help CFOs understand the financial benefits of investing in this technology.

Social Media Marketing Software Case Study

Company: Tourism Jasper6

Solution: Hootsuite

Tourism Jasper is a destination marketing organization that promotes travel to Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Tourists increasingly want to hear opinions and real stories from other travelers. The company decided to take advantage of this by sharing user-generated content across social media and their website, which acts as an online hub to support conversations around Jasper National Park and Jasper’s many offerings.

This allows the organization to connect, build trusting relationships with travelers, and increase shareholder referrals that support business growth. Using Hootsuite, they launched an ongoing campaign that would build a community around the hashtag #MyJasper.

How Tourism Jasper Leveraged Hootsuite
  • Used social listening in Hootsuite to source, categorize, and share user-generated content on their own channels.
  • Used Hootsuite’s geo-location and geo-targeting functions, to source conversations in the area or share regional-specific content to users nearby.
  • Set up keyword and hashtag search streams to catch messages about their brand, campaigns, and the industry in general.
  • Set up the IconoSquare for Instagram integration in Hootsuite to source location-based photographs, which allows Tourism Jasper to find images from travelers who didn’t tag #MyJasper. Then they notify these contributors of the campaign and seek their participation for future posts.
Results:
  • Cultivated a highly engaged community that drives awareness back to Jasper’s many offerings and encourages travel, sharing, and referrals
  • 12,000 traveller-generated stories through instagram hashtag #MyJasper
  • 185 percent increase in social referrals to their website year over year
  • 211 percent increase in shareholder referrals from social media year over year
  • Turned social media interactions into meaningful relationships by sourcing customer stories and getting them in front of the right audience, at the right time.
  • Tourism Jasper continues to grow, seeing a 272 percent increase in engagement in continued quarterly growth.

Other Market-Leading Social Media Marketing Tools

Hootsuite is a social media management service with ‘freemium’ pricing, which makes it suitable for small or enterprise businesses alike. Hootsuite was the best software to meet the needs of Tourism Jasper, but another vendor may be best for your company’s unique requirements.

Browse more options by using our social media marketing Product Selection Tool or check out any of the following vendors:

Hubspot, Adobe Campaign, Marketo, Buffer, Microsoft Dynamics, Sprout Social

Choosing the Best Social Media Marketing Tool

At TechnologyAdvice, our goal is to help businesses connect with the technology that best meets their needs. We’ve compiled product information, reviews, case studies, feature lists, video walkthroughs, and research articles on hundreds of leading IT solutions, all to make the buying process more straightforward for decision makers like you.

If you’re curious about any of the social media marketing tools or features listed in this guide, we’d love to talk to you. Call one of our in-house specialists for a free consultation, or use the Product Selection Tool on our website to get a personalized recommendation.


Sources
  1. “Social Media Update 2014.” Pew research Center. January 9, 2015. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/social-media-update-2014/
  2. “The C-Suite’s Newest Power Couple: CFO And CMO.” Forbes. March 23, 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ibm/2015/03/23/the-c-suites-newest-power-couple-cfo-and-cmo/
  3. “How to Monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day.” Hubspot. Accessed June 18, 2015. http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/53/file-13221820-pdf/docs/ebooks/hubspot-how_to_monitor_your_social_media_presence_in_10_minutes_a_day.pdf
  4. Baer, Jay. “42 Percent of Customers Complaining in Social Media Expect 60 Minute Response Time.” Convince&Convert. Accessed June 18, 2015. http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-research/42-percent-of-consumers-complaining-in-social-media-expect-60-minute-response-time/
  5. Weiss, Geoff. “This is How Small Businesses Are Using Social Media.” Entrepreneur. Last modified February 13, 2014. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231515
  6. “Tourism Jasper Fuels Business Growth.” Hootsuite Case Study. Accessed June 18, 2015. https://hootsuite.com/resources/case-study/the-value-of-branded-hashtags-a-tourism-jasper-case-study
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