By Joe Dysart
Social Media Done Right
The Top Dashboards for Marketing With Social Media
Marketers looking to manage all of their social-media campaigns from a single dashboard have some good news from Forrester (www.forrester.com): The market-research firm did all the legwork for you.
Essentially, Forrester kicked the tires on all of the major social-media dashboards currently on the market and came up with a short list of those worth looking at:
Overall, Forrester found that social-media dashboards make it easier for marketers to manage dozens of social employees and accounts, said Nate Elliot, lead author of “Social Relationship Platforms, Q2 2015,” the Forrester report on social-media dashboards (www.forrester.com/The+Forrester+Wave+Social+Relationship+Platforms+Q2+2015/fulltext/-/E-res120645).
“Nearly every marketer we surveyed agreed that social media dashboards save them time,” Elliot said.
And while no one tool does it all, most go a long way toward pulling together and managing virtually all the elements of a highly effective and highly interactive social-media presence. Specifically, most of the products Forrester put at the front of the pack automate the scheduling and posting of text and multimedia across a wide array of social-media networks. And most also enable a company to monitor how its brand is faring on social media—both among casual users of Facebook and other networks as well as with more engaged influencers such
Dashboards in the top three are also best at helping marketers greatly automate the processing of messages, including reading, analyzing and sorting out who at the company should respond to a specific post. In addition, these “social relationship platforms” help marketers manage all of their social accounts as well as all of the employees permitted to post to those accounts. And most of the solutions can assign different permission levels to different employees and offer workflow tools for routing inbound posts to the right teams.
All told, Forrester evaluated social-media dashboards using a 41-point checklist. The company also surveyed each vendor about its product and asked for product demos.
Here’s how the top three programs stacked up, according to Forrester:
Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe, got a ho-hum review from Forrester for his dashboard product, Adobe Social.
This package is a good bet for users looking to integrate their social marketing into much broader marketing strategies, Elliot said. The drive behind Percolate was to “build a marketing system of record that lets clients centralize their operations across all marketing channels, streamline their workflows and governance, analyze their results and optimize their marketing programs,” Elliot said.
He also said that the platform boasts best-in-class workflow and content-creation tools. Percolate also has a rather nifty “Brew” tool, which tracks custom-defined lists of media outlets and influencers that marketers are monitoring, looks for topics related to a company’s marketing themes, and then prioritizes the specific topics on which the company should publish.
On the downside, Percolate has room to improve its current offering, Elliot said.
“Its analysis, prioritization and routing of inbound posts can’t compete with what the other leaders offer,” he noted. “The tool monitors only Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It can’t analyze for sentiment and, at the time of evaluation, it couldn’t route posts automatically. The product tells marketers when posts have performed best in the past but offers no scheduling recommendations. And its global capabilities are underdeveloped for a vendor with such grand ambitions.”
This package is best at offering users insights and advice as they work on a social-media marketing campaign, Elliot said. Specifically, it tracks comments and questions that pop up from customers and others that a marketer is trying to engage on social media.
Moreover, as social-media marketers use the package, “it recommends popular hashtags related to their content and suggests alternative wording that might generate more interest,” Elliot said. “Clients love Spredfast’s onboarding and support and like the fact that it partners with other leading social vendors such as Brandwatch and Kenshoo rather than trying to build an end-to-end social suite.”
On the downside, Spredfast makes it tough for social-media marketers to collaborate and share ideas via the package.
“And not only do clients think Spredfast’s own measurement tools are merely average, but also the vendor does little to help marketers share their social data into third-party measurement tools,” Elliot said.
“Consider Sprinklr if you have broad social needs and global ambitions,” Elliot said. “Sprinklr endeavors to offer clients every imaginable social tool—not just a full range of SRP features but also social command center displays, social ad-buying functionality and more. And anything its standard SRP can’t do, Sprinklr’s team can custom build using the product’s impressive rules engine.”
Especially strong with Sprinkler is the package’s monitoring and publishing features, Elliot added.
“But we question Sprinklr’s vision and focus,” he said. “The vendor’s recent buying spree finds it focused more on integrating a series of lackluster technologies into an end-to-end social suite than on helping marketers connect their social efforts to their broader marketing programs. And the product’s complexity—combined with its relatively poor ease of use—means that Sprinklr clients pay far more than average in services fees.”
Not surprisingly, there are also a number of middle-of-the-pack solutions on the market that could do the trick for a marketer in certain circumstances. Elliot said that these often have singular strengths, citing the following:
- Shoutlet (www.shoutlet.com): Good if you want a well-rounded tool at a good price.
- Expion (www.expion.com): Very good at customer support and measurement.
- Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com): Offers the best content and publishing automation available.
- Falcon Social (www.falconsocial.com): The perfect tool for marketers most concerned with responding to customer comments on social media.
Elliot also found a number of also-ran products that were less impressive than the industry leaders but still helpful:
- Sprout Social (http://sproutsocial.com): A competitive tool at a great price that outperforms market leaders for ease of use and scheduling.
- Adobe Social (www.adobe.com/marketing-cloud/social-media-marketing.html): A good tool for businesses that are marketing globally on social media.
- Oracle Social Cloud (www.oracle.com/us/solutions/social/overview/index.html): Another good global tool that can analyze social-media sentiment in seven languages.
- Salesforce Social Studio (www.salesforce.com/marketing-cloud/features/social-media-marketing): A decent choice if you’re already using other Salesforce tools.
Bonus: For marketers that want to dig deeper and do extremely detailed comparisons of the strong performers, Forrester also offers a “vendor comparison tool” that enables organizations to adapt Forrester’s criteria weightings to fit their specific needs.
Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.