As most tech business folks know, social media marketing long ago became mainstream. If you’re not doing it in some form or fashion today, you’re not missing a differentiation opportunity. You’re ceding valuable opportunities to your competition, because they’re almost certainly engaged in social media marketing. So the question isn’t WHETHER to engage in social media marketing; it’s how to go about it, and what tools can you use to support your efforts. So let’s get started on that:
What are your goals for social media marketing?
This, of course, should be the first question that you ask yourself before embarking on ANY marketing activity, especially one that will use up significant resources. Do you have a consumer product (B2C SaaS, example: Spotify or NetFlix) that you need to get the word out on as broadly as possible? Or are you selling high-end products or services to a very specific, smaller vertical audience ( extreme example: software for nuclear power plants)? In each of these cases, the optimal types of content, social media activities, staffing resources and social media management software tools will be very different. I’ve written a number of articles on social media marketing goals, strategies and tactics if you’d like to get a more detailed discussion. The key here is to think things through before taking any definitive steps in this process.
Prioritize your social media platform targets
So after considering your strategy and appropriate tactics, it’s almost time to move on to social media tool selection. But first you need to make sure you’ve done one last thing, if you haven’t already considered it in your goal and strategy development. That’s prioritization of social media platforms.
Now, I am biased with respect to social media platform targeting: I start from the point of view that I’d like to be “everywhere”. I find that there is something to offer most tech companies by being on all of the major social platforms. And with the available social media automation tools, even a startup should be able to have at least a skeletal presence on every major social platform.
But having said this, that doesn’t mean that this makes sense for YOUR company. And even if you do decide to have a presence everywhere, that doesn’t mean your efforts should be equal everywhere. For example, if you are selling art or something else that is very visual, Pinterest might by your main focus and where you spend the bulk of your time. But for many B2B software companies, your approach on Pinterest might be limited to some automation of posting pins and maybe following and liking accounts with target keywords.
Many B2B software and hardware companies will have a LinkedIn-centric strategy, but shouldn’t forget about Facebook, as well. Remember, there are 3 Billion+ Facebook accounts. That’s billion with a B. So nearly ever everyone you might want to reach in the industrialized world has a Facebook account, giving you the possibility of finding and targeting them on that platform.
On the other hand, if your product focuses on a very young demographic, Instagram and Snapchat are platforms where you will likely put considerable efforts. If that very young demographic isn’t important to your business, you may spend little or even no effort on these platforms. You get the picture; your mileage on each platform will vary considerably with your business focus. But in general, more platforms are better than less.
The following are the two most important questions to ask yourself to avoid formulating a strategy which isn’t “executable” for lack of resources:
- How much staff do you have that can either be dedicated to social media marketing or will at least actively participate?
- How much money do you have to spend on tools as well as staff or outsourcing?
Different tactics for specific social media marketing strategies
A boot-strapped startup SaaS company is in a very different situation from Microsoft with respect to resources, to use a very extreme example. These two ends of the spectrum will likely be using different social media strategies, so tool selection criteria will likely vary considerably. In addition, market size and composition can vary considerably. These considerations are also true for the vast number of companies in the middle as well.
It may be that you don’t have (and can’t afford) the staff to do all that you want to do with your social media marketing. In this case you will want to lean very heavily on automation tools. I’m actually a fan of the approach of using significant automation, anyway. Why dedicate (always scarce) staff to do repetitive tasks on social media (of which there are many)? Automating repetitive tasks where a human isn’t important allows you to dedicate more staff time to the social media activities where human interaction makes a BIG difference.
Lastly, you could decide to outsource some or all of your social media marketing activities. While this can certainly work, I’m personally not a fan heavy outsourcing in this area. Why not full outsourcing? First of all, I believe that social media marketing has risen to be a core marketing activity in a SaaS, mobile software or hardware tech company. While many tasks can be automated or outsourced, it’s important to retain a “personal touch” in your social media interactions. This is after all, about your brand. Ultimately, success in social media required humans interacting with humans. It’s usually best to have employees, or at least well-integrated consultants/contractors providing the human face of your business on social media. But if you do decide to outsource, one positive is that you may not to need to worry about social media marketing tool selection, because your outsourced partners have already done this for you.
So your social media overall strategy and social media management tool selection should be a function of the following:
Staffing levels: If these are inadequate, can you outsource or automate your way around it?
Budget levels: Can you hire any required additional staff, or in an extreme case even afford the appropriate social media automation tools?
Outsourced or internal: Will your approach to execution use external or internal resources?
Target platforms: Not all social media marketing tools cover all major social media platforms. Even if they list a platform as “supported”, functionality varies from tool to tool.
Planned activities: Will you be posting proprietary content or relevant external content, prospecting, connecting and interacting with target prospects, etc? Your strategy and tactic planning will drive your optimal tool set.
Try before you buy
In this software category (with any software purchase, actually) I almost NEVER buy without a trial. Luckily, most tools in this category of software include some sort of free trial. But I have run across some products which offer only a “money back guarantee”, or require you to put a credit card in to get a free trial. My tendency is to avoid this products. Most products are from relatively small software companies, and many may be located offshore from your location. It can be hard to get your money back in these circumstances, and in general there is plenty of competition and therefore many available choices. So unless you find a VERY unique product that you can’t live without which won’t offer a free trial – try before you buy is a best practice.
Key Social Media Marketing Software features
There are of course a wide variety of software applications with differing feature sets that fit into this software category. Some are quite dissimilar from others. What’s important is to evaluate each application with respect to what YOUR company needs to accomplish. But I find some important features to be the most useful, which you will find in many (but not all) of the most popular products:
- Ability to post content and to schedule it across platforms at specific times and possibly “best” times as determined by your software.
- Ability to add evergreen content in a repeating Queue, which continuously posts the content across many possible posting locations
- Social media engagement reporting & analytics to measure how your campaigns are performing
- Content curation, which enables you to find relevant and high performing external content to mix in along with your own proprietary content
- Master Inbox for engagement, which allows you to efficiently see and respond to all social media interactions across all platforms from a central console
- Auto prospecting & connecting, which automates the upfront aspect of contacting prospective customers or partners
- Auto posting to groups as well as personal feeds, which allows you to greatly increase the number of people likely to see your content
- Auto liking/favorites, which automates a popular tactic to enhance connection growth
It’s quite likely that it will take multiple products to be able to accomplish all of the above activities, across every one of your target social media platforms. Maybe all of these functions won’t be required, depending upon your strategy. There are also many other features available in the market which may be more important to you. But I thought it would be useful to post a list of the features that I’ve found most useful for social media marketing campaigns, across a variety of companies and strategies. You can use it as a starting point to decide the sum of features important to achieving your particular goals.
What NOT to do
- Don’t give up if the situation isn’t “perfect”. It rarely is. Just because you don’t have the ideal time/staff/expertise, you can still get started toward accomplishing your goals. Get started somehow; nearly everyone can afford a simple social media marketing app for automation along with stealing a few hours a week from existing personnel. Once you see benefits, it may be easier to find additional resources to invest in this important activity.
- Make a long term commitment to a tool without trying it out adequately first.
- Spend scarce human resources on social media activities which can be easily automated without any real downside.
- Start spending “real money” without first adequate developing your goals and overall strategy.
- Focus on just a single social media platform, UNLESS you’re certain it’s the only relevant one for your business.
Those are my tips on selecting social media management software which best meets your specific needs. You may have noticed, I have been necessarily general on some of these points and haven’t made specific tool recommendations, because tech company scenarios can vary dramatically from company to company. There are many summaries and reviews out available via a simple web search . But 33 Social Media Marketing Tools That Will Give You an Unfair Advantage and A beginner’s guide to social media marketing tools are a couple of good places to begin your evaluation.
How did you go about selecting social media management tool? Use the comment field below to let us know your favorite tools, as well as your considerations for their selection.
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