Five Factors for Selecting Social Media Marketing Tools

Ideally, marketing executives would not need to read this article. They would just set objectives, lay out their marketing plans and identify the right tools for the job. This rarely happens, however.

Ideally, marketing executives would not need to read this article. They would just set objectives, lay out their marketing plans and identify the right tools for the job. This rarely happens, however. Instead, you tend to hear such claims as, “We’re going to do social media marketing,” “We need to be on Facebook!” and “Our company has to go social.” What follows is the crafting of tactics around a baseless desire to use certain tools, with no relation at all to your overall marketing strategy.

It doesn’t work. If it does, it’s purely by accident.

When it comes to deciding which social media tools to use, the selection process should be made easier by the guidance inherent in your social media marketing plan and your corporate marketing strategy. Nonetheless, it helps to be rigorous when evaluating alternatives and making choices. So, let’s take a look at five ways you can make smarter social media tool selections:

1. Start with your strategy: as you develop tactics and action plans, take note of what you have to do to accomplish your objectives. Use this as a starting point for identifying the functionality you need. Sketch out a few scenarios, and think about how you’d like the tools to work. For those familiar with software development lifecycles, this is akin to writing your functional requirements doc and use cases.

2. Know the universe: you won’t want to evaluate every tool on the market, but you should at least have a decent sense of what’s out there. Do plenty of research to make sure you don’t miss a solution from a crazy little startup that may fit your needs exactly.

3. Look at more than the tools themselves: if you’re going to commit to a specific social media platform, you want to know it will be around for a while. There are no assurances, of course, and most of the companies you’ll deal with will be small and new. So, assuming some risk comes with the territory. Nonetheless, you can mitigate some risk by evaluating their product strategies, financing and management teams. You want to select tools from companies that are likely to be around for a while.

4. Kick the tires: even if you have to pay a bit for trial access, do it. The investment you’ll make in ensuring that a social media solution meets your companies needs is worth it, and the cost of making a bad decision is far higher than the cost of avoiding one. If you can’t try before you buy, buy just enough to try.

5. Consider your users: in addition to thinking about how you’ll use a social media platform, put some brain power into who will be using it. You want to make sure you choose the right tools for both the job and the people doing it. If possible, involve your likely users in the evaluation and testing process.

Do you have any other tips for selecting social media platforms and tools? Drop a comment below to share them with everyone!

[photo by ivanpw via Flickr]