• Most companies rely on multiple social media tools to support their social operations
  • As a company grows or changes, audit how the current social media tools meet the company’s needs
  • A regular “checks and balances” approach helps ensure the social media tools are being optimized

When asked what type of pet she would like, our four-year-old was pretty matter-of-fact: She wanted a baby unicorn. “A little one,” she offered, as though this made it a more reasonable suggestion. Great. Totally manageable. Even our older daughter laughed. This was going to be a doozy. Where would we even begin? We could not fulfill on her basic request. 

B2B organizations are on the hunt for the magical, or baby unicorn, type social media solution that can address all their social media woes and needs. Many organizations first try to get by with free or cheap tools to solve an enterprise-size problem. At the surface level, these inexpensive tools may provide some support for basic needs, but they should not be seen as replacements for enterprise-level solutions. At the same time, these organizations may be struggling to manage numerous social media tools, either run through a centralized function like social operations or scattered throughout the organization in different regions or business functions. It can be a logistical nightmare just to identify all the tools the company already utilizes, how they are being managed and the potential redundancies.

For this reason, it benefits social operations to be part of all social media tool purchasing decisions as the owner or a key stakeholder. The reasons are simple: Social operations can determine how a new solution can address a need for the organization in a way that the current solutions cannot. Social operations also looks for ways in which the new solution can integrate with other solutions or be leveraged more fully within the organization. Lastly, social operations can reduce company spend and improve optimization by identifying where an established solution can already support the new request.

The challenge with purchasing social media tools is that often the vendor sales pitch makes it sounds like they have everything you need. Social programming? Yes. Workflow? Yes. Measurement? You betcha. The list can go on and on, but once you get into the actual tool, you may find that it is not performing exactly as expected. You know you need a social media tool, but do you know why? Do you know how many people will need to use the tool? How do you expect to use the tool for collaboration, measurement or planning? What do you consider the “standard options” for your purchase vs. what is optional or nice to have? It is important to have your questions and list of requirements available before conducting any social media vendor discussion, or you may end up with a whole lot of nice to haves and not enough standard options.

To determine the company’s social media resources, social operations needs to:

  • Conduct an internal audit. First and foremost, social operations needs to have a clear understanding of all social media tools the company currently utilizes. For larger organizations, a good first step is to work with marketing and procurement to create a list of existing contracts and internal owners. The next step is to cross check this list with different functions – from HR to recruiting to marketing – for potential additions.
  • Map solution use. The next step is to detail how each solution is being used. Many social media tools are designed to support specific functions of the business. How is this solution currently being used today? Is the solution being utilized to its fullest extent? For instance, many social media tools are purchased for a particular region but have the capability to support global operations or needs. Social operations can identify those gaps or opportunities in the company’s current landscape of social media tools.
  • Inquire about changes with social media vendors. Social operations conducts semi-annual or annual review sessions with each social media vendor to review the organization’s current usage of the tool, a review of changes to the solution’s features and functionality, and potential integration capabilities with the other tools within the company’s social media portfolio.
  • Administer solution training. Social operations should regularly conduct training for all users who have access to the tools. Training should focus on how the company is using the tool and allow the vendor to review new features and capabilities. Training should increase user knowledge and introduce any changes to the solution from previous years. The solution may be the ideal fit for the organization, but those who are given access must actually utilize it.

Social media tools are always evolving. What once may have been a tool to support your social programming needs may now also have the capability to support your measurement or advocacy needs. Alternatively, you may find that your organization has outgrown certain tools. Social operations needs a checks-and-balances approach that ensures all the current tools are serving the company as needed and intended, as well as identifies when it may be time to switch vendors. At the end of the day, I have one little favor to ask: When you’re on the phone with your social media vendors, ask if they have seen any baby unicorns. A little one, of course.