Choosing a social media management tool can be one big headache. Matt Dunn, digital and creative comms lead at Wirral Council, shares lessons he learned from running his own platform beauty pageant.
We’ve all been there: that dawning realisation your social media management tool isn’t all it was cracked up to be. You reach out to your comms peers for recommendations, but there doesn’t seem to be much to choose between them. What now?
I’ve picked social media management platforms for public sector organisations for nine years and on a basic level most of these platforms do have the same features. Finding a single ‘best’ solution from there is entirely subjective but this piece isn’t really about comparing the obvious stuff.
Instead, I’m sharing four things you might not have thought about that WILL help you make a better decision.
But first: what were you up to in Jan 2018?
It’s a social media Stone Age ago but some social media managers learned they could now schedule and publish Instagram posts directly through their social media management tool, the same way they’d always done for Facebook and Twitter. Game changer!
Fast forward to the present day. Yes, there are still tools that can’t publish your Instagram posts without some fiddly workaround. Annoying.
Not all tools are created equal: future-proof yourself
So, if you want your social media management tool to keeps pace with the latest features from all the big social networks, dig into their relationship status. You’re looking for ‘Marketing Partner’ credentials displayed on their website. It’s a little badge that goes a long way to setting the great tools apart from the good.
If you can’t publish directly to Insta through your social media management tool yet, there’s a decent chance they don’t have Marketing Partner status, It’s not that they don’t know how to do it, it’s that they can’t. A glimmer of good news though: in February 2021 Instagram announced API changes that may finally bring these social media management tools in from the cold.
Check the spec list fine print
Not all headline features are equal and it’s important to sweat the small stuff too. You’ll want to check how regularly your social media management tool syncs data with Twitter, for example. It can be anything from the blink of an eye to hours and you might not even realise. If you rely on your tool to deliver efficient customer service, can you afford to wait an hour for your messages to filter through?
When you’re picking a new tool, make full use of free trials and pepper your sales rep with questions. Ask about their development roadmap to check what features they’re working on and gauge their commitment to keeping their product up to date.
Don’t underestimate the look and feel of the tool. A well thought-through design can be a breath of fresh air, speed up processes and make everyone a little more motivated to use it.
Keep your friends close, keep your Procurement team closer
If you’re limited to finding a provider from a procurement framework or through a tender exercise, you’re almost certain to eliminate some excellent and big-name options who won’t indulge form-filling requirements or a tender process.
To get the tool you want and not fall foul of contract rules you’re going to need to engage your procurement team early and make your case heard.
Value for money is vital so this is the time to re-think how many users will *really* need access to the new tool. You may find premium options suddenly become far more affordable.
I’d recommend structuring your research process: make a wish-list of the features YOU need from a social media management tool and compare your options against it. There are two big benefits to this: firstly, you are giving evidence to your procurement team that only one provider may meet your exact requirements. Secondly, a scoring exercise helps view your options objectively and removes any unconscious bias.
Plot twist: what if you don’t need a tool at all?
Social media management tools are a great way to centralise all our activity, but are they really the best way to manage your social media?
I’m not convinced they are the best way to manage content publishing. Yes, it saves time when you can write one post and publish it to Facebook, Linkedin Instagram and Twitter but you’d want to optimise your post for each platform anyway, right?
Posting natively (i.e directly on the platforms) takes more time but offers some compelling advantages including:
- More variety of post types and creative formats (hello, stories!)
- Direct access to new features as they become available. Waiting three years to schedule Insta posts? No chance
- More immersion in features like Facebook groups
- Less immersion in your own organisation ecosystem and more visibility of what else is happening on social that day
Matt Dunn is digital and creative lead for Wirral Council.