It turns out that marketers aren’t very happy with the social relationship platforms that help them manage their Facebook and Twitter accounts; in fact, most would recommend you not choose the technology partner they did.

There are lots of reasons for this dissatisfaction, but the biggest is that most vendors just aren’t solving the problems that social relationship marketers face. Yesterday we published a new report detailing social relationship marketers' top challenges:

  1. Measurement. Most just don't know what impact, if any, their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have.
  2. Content. Marketers struggle both to decide what type of content to publish, and then to find good content assets to use.
  3. Staffing. Many say they just don't have enough human resources to handle the every tasks of social relationship marketing.
  4. Scheduling. Marketers don't know when to post their content for maximum impact.

The good news for marketers? All four of these challenges can be solved through the smarter use of data. For instance, most leading social relationship platforms already use sentiment and influence data to help marketers analyze which customer questions and comments require attention.

And some social vendors are now going a big step further, harnessing data to ease (and even automate) additional social marketing tasks. In the process they’re both reducing social marketers’ workloads and improving their output. Today a new breed of emerging social vendors use what we call “data in, data out” practices:

  • "Data in" means bringing data into social platforms — and it will innovate social publishing. In the past 18 months, social sites have let marketers import third-party ad targeting data, and the result has been improved ad performance. Vendors that replicate these data import practices to power better organic posts will give marketers a big leg up.
  • "Data out" means pushing social data to other platforms — and it will innovate measurement. Measurement isn't just marketers' greatest social challenge; it's social vendors’ greatest opportunity. The vendors that best help clients port social data into the measurement tools marketers trust (like attribution and marketing mix platforms) will emerge as measurement leaders.

So which social vendors are effectively leveraging data to help marketers succeed? There are many in the market — but most are companies you've never heard of, rather than the biggest names. Some of the "data in, data out" vendors we find particularly impressive include:

  • Percolate first identifies which social topics matter to brands’ audiences, then finds matching assets in those brands’ databases.
  • SocialFlow tracks how many of a brand’s social followers are active throughout the day, then automatically posts the brand’s content at the best possible moment.
  • Brand Networks taps historical sales and weather databases to tell retailers which products will generate the most social interest, based on local forecasts.
  • SimpleFeed helps brands’ affiliates automate content selection — dynamically publishing social posts that have worked for other affiliates in the past.

And how can established social relationship platforms make their clients happier? Well, they can either develop the kind of innovative data-driven functionality we’ve detailed here, or they can acquire the emerging vendors that have. But they have to do something. They’ve got dissatisfied customers and hugely innovative competitors — and that’s a recipe for trouble.