If you’ve ever conducted research on social media engagement platforms, I’m sure it didn’t take you long to realize there are several options available. But with so many options, how do you know which platform is the best for your business?
I too was in that exact situation and found there is really no perfect catchall solution out there. Rather than give up in the name of frustration, I decided to take a step back and gather and prioritize my requirements so I could use them as talking points when interviewing potential vendors. Below is my must-have feature list and explanations for each.
1. View Unlimited Conversation History
This is especially important for businesses who use Twitter as a channel for customer service. Not only is viewing unlimited conversation history important for regular customer interactions but also for legal reasons just in case you ever need to reference past conversations.
The tool SocialEngage by ExactTarget (formerly CoTweet) does a great job logging all Twitter mentions and direct messages for each person’s Twitter profile. What I like most about it is the user interface. It resembles a email inbox so it’s very easy to follow conversations. Also, all messages are distinctively labeled, timestamped and located in one place.
Tip: Some engagement platforms say they provide “unlimited conversation history” but be wary of that statement. For some vendors, this can also mean unlimited conversation history for all conversations started within the platform itself. You ultimately want to be able to see all conversation history regardless of where they originate from.
The best way to confirm how the social engagement platform handles conversations is to not only ask the sales person you’re dealing with, but also take the platform for a test drive. Start conversations within the platform but also try using the web based versions of the channels you want to use. For Twitter especially, make sure all DMs, RTs and mentions appear in the customer’s profile of the solution you are testing. (ExactTarget’s solution does support this functionality.)
2. Schedule Content
This feature is very common for almost all platforms now, but it is still important to mention *just* in case. If you’re a lone wolf trying to navigate the social media terrain like me, you will want to schedule content ahead of time. The “Marketing Hub” by Awareness supports multiple platforms for scheduling content including, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, Flickr and even a WordPress blog.
3. Post Assignment Workflow Functionality
This function is essential for collaboration with other members of your organization. Having a workflow function allows you to “assign” or forward mentions to other members on your team. This is obviously a no-brainer for customer service activities, but don’t forget about other departments such as product development, corporate communications and market research teams. The second half of this feature is probably the most valuable, the post notification.
4. Email Notification Capabilities
Let’s face it, you’re an important person. You have meetings, content to write, strategies to build, family to spend time with, lunch to eat and Draw Something to play. The point is, you don’t need to be Siamese twins with your engagement platform to be “available.” There are platforms out there that provide email notifications for each post made on your social media properties. SocialEngage and Awareness both notify you of activity on Twitter and Facebook.
5. Content Measurement
Believe it or not, this feature is fairly new to social engagement platforms and is found mostly in paid tools. Some have more bells and whistles than others but they all provide at least one important metric, they help you measure the effectiveness of your content.
Assessing your needs for analytics is really important in itself here. For instance, Hootsuite recently came out with an update to their platform that integrates with Adobe Omniture through the Genesis platform. It’s more robust than the average tool but it is extremely useful especially if you use Adobe Omniture as your company’s website analytics solution. If you’re not running a huge ecommerce website, you won’t have to worry about integrating with that part of the product and it might save your organization some money.
So what do you care about when you’re measuring your brand’s content, you ask? Well, I could do another whole post on social media measurement, but that I will come at a later time. The short answer is how much engagement your content receives. This will help you identify what’s working and what’s not for your community.
Now I turn the microphone to you…Does your organization have a social media engagement platform? How did you select your vendor? Are there any other requirements you wanted when you did your search? Leave a comment below!