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4 Reasons that Social Media Services should Offer People, Not Software

When I was asked last year to develop a social media marketing service, the first question they asked was whether I already had software in mind or if it needed to be built. I told them that the software had already been developed and it was free. This didn't go over well at first; they’d always used premium social media software in the past.

“How good could it be if it’s free?” they asked.

I told them that it’s not only free, but it was also the best software available. I took the computer, typed in f-a-c-e-b-o-o-k-dot-c-o-m, and proceeded to explain why it wasn’t just about me being cheap, but that it’s also better to post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest from facebook.com, twitter.com, plus.google.com, and pinterest.com.

Here’s why:

 

You Don’t Need a Shell on Top

With search engine marketing, there’s an argument that can be made that pulling in third-party data is a benefit. The sheer amounts of data available through the search engines and from outside sources makes it conceivable that there are benefits to using software to manage campaigns, track keywords (particularly for SEO reasons), and monitor results. Then again, the Google Adwords UI has become pretty darn slick in recent months, so I don’t think I’d even use software for that.

At least it’s debatable with search and other marketing arenas. On social, there’s simply no debate necessary. There is no software out there that makes posting, monitoring, and reporting results easier than the actual websites and mobile apps themselves. Are there benefits? Sure. There are also major drawbacks and too much room for error that makes them worthless.

A couple of years ago, they were effective because Facebook and Twitter hadn’t matured. Today, they’re doing just fine handling their own data, controlling their own posts, and making it easier to monitor.

It almost sorta kinda makes sense with a taco.

Don’t get me wrong. I use tools. I love Buffer for scheduling posts on Twitter to keep them spread out and on Facebook when I won’t be available to post myself. I like the multiple views available through software like Hootsuite. However, there are too many high-dollar shells being put on top of the interfaces that do nothing more than make the reports look pretty.

What’s worse is that many of them attempt to prove their value by offering features such as content suggestions and automated posting. Scheduling and automation are two different things and there’s simply no need to take content suggestions from software (more on that later).

 

Social Plugins Hurt Websites

This one might make some software companies really upset with me, but it has to be said. You should never, ever, ever, ever, ever add plugins or wigdets to your website without two things: a really good reason and the backing of a major software company. Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – their plugins and widgets aren’t perfect, but at least they’re safe. Everything else – dump them.

The native widgets are all you need. It always amazes me when I see Facebook plugins, for example, that weren’t built by Facebook. There was a rise in popularity of the little ribbon at the bottom of pages for a while. Thankfully, most realized that they slow the page load times down and can cause errors on certain browsers. They also realized that they didn’t do anything useful other than give the marketing manager at the company something to show the boss and put unearned cash into the pockets of the company that sold it to them.

They don’t work. They aren’t effective. They do much more harm than good. Unfortunately, those are the best-case scenarios. In some cases, they can actually do true harm to a site as can be seen in the image to the right.

There’s a reason that social media companies develop software. It’s less expensive for them to support software than to employ the people necessary to make social media actually work for their clients. It’s sexy because it’s visual, tangible, and seems to be sophisticated. In other marketing arenas, software is often all that’s needed. In social media, it does nothing other than make people feel good.

 

Social Media is Creative. Software is Not.

As I hinted at before, when software is used to find content or determine what to post, the battle is already lost.

I’d put my team of specialists up against IBM’s Watson if it did social media management. Until a piece of software is able to craft a Facebook post or Tweet that has the ability to reach the minds of the audience rather than just reaching their feeds for the sake of reaching their feeds, software is not the solution for this.

Some would argue that it saves time from having to look for content to post. I would argue that the technology to do that has been around for a while. It’s called Google. There’s also RSS feed readers (NOT to post automatically, of course) that gives any industry plenty of content in just the same manner as the social software provides. This isn’t new technology.

The biggest challenge with this is that it takes the human eye out of the equation in many circumstances. Software, for all the good that it can do, does tend to make us lazy. It’s laziness that turns good pages mediocre. Manual vetting of content and inspiration that only comes to humans can turn a good page into a fantastic one.

“But, it saves time!”

That’s what some will say. I would argue that the five minutes it saves a day isn’t worth being half as effective.

 

Dashboards are Completely Overrated

The data is there. Facebook Insights aren’t perfect, but they present the data in an acceptable manner. Dashboards definitely do make things prettier. They also speed up the reporting process for marketing companies. However, they don’t understand nuance.

I’ve seen both sides. I’ve seen gorgeous automated reports and dashboards that didn’t tell the whole picture and I’ve seen manually-created reports and native dashboards that deliver the real results. A dashboard doesn’t know that the picture of a local attraction that received 50 likes, 15 shares, and 10 comments is less successful of a post than an inventory item that received 20 likes, 10 shares, and 5 comments, particularly if that inventory item was sold the day after it was posted.

The information provided by the social sites themselves manually gathered and analyzed by humans gives a much more accurate picture of the effectiveness of a campaign than any dashboard or report. It doesn't matter how pretty the graphs are. It’s still only numbers being provided in a different format. Reports need to say more than just the numbers. They need to demonstrate success.

Views: 260

Tags: Dashboards, Facebook, People, Posting, Social, Social Media, Software

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Comment by Alexander Lau on July 8, 2013 at 6:13am

For those of you not using HootSuite to manage your Social Media, I'd definitely give them a second look. RSS integration is a breeze.

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 20, 2013 at 12:42pm

Agreed Ryan, you're correct in the features. I just found SD's social manager to be less efficient and supported than HootSuite. HS is far less expensive (we're saving literally thousands a month). Lack of Google+ and Pinterest options also probably also another lacking feature, you're right (those were being developed though). Again, I'm sure your concierge options with your internal team managing the publishing are great. As for reputation management, I've found a very good resource and it had come down to price, again.

For the record, J.D. brought up Social Dealer, not I. :-)

Comment by Ryan Gerardi on June 20, 2013 at 12:08pm

Guys you both know that I am with SOCIALDEALER. I just want to be transparent about that here in my comment for others that do not know. I am not here to argue for or against 3rd party social software, let alone ours, but I do feel compelled to chime in for the sake of others reading in hopes to contribute to the conversation. 

When I was first introduced to SD back in 2010 I struggled to see its value. To JD's point, nothing beats publishing your posts directly to the social sites themselves. Posting directly gives you complete and total control of what you are posting whereas using a 3rd party tool often has limits.

But there are also advantages to using software such as scheduling posts, buffering posts, content libraries, reporting, analytics etc. You still can't schedule posts on G+ so you actually need software for that.

These kinds of features will become increasingly more available and arguably important in 3rd party tools over time. I think it should be noted that 3rd party software can often add value to the mass media software that is Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.

I will find a constructive way to provide examples of this. Doing so as a comment probably isn’t the best approach.

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 19, 2013 at 8:01am

And when I say DealerRater below, yes, the same 3rd party they use for Reputation Intelligence and Brand Analytics. Their offering isn't proprietary. 

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 19, 2013 at 6:47am

I'm referring to a full-fledged forum, not the basics you see here: http://wordpress.org/plugins. That doesn't do the need justice. Imagine a forum dedicated to specific themes and the compatibility or incompatibility of plugins across the WP developer universe. Theme A, the various plugins are known not to work with this theme. Plugin developers are forced to support this initiative. Money to be made.

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 19, 2013 at 6:37am

J.D., a far as social widgets on Automotive sites, YES, most of them are a bungled mess and either never worked in the first place correctly or haven't been updated. The problem in general and this is a niche someone will one day make a load of money from, compatibility. Themes / Templates with 3rd party plugins and widgets. In the WordPress world, no one is truly doing a goo job at documenting what works with what. As far as WP, themes broken by various plugins, plugins competing for the same space (breaking the theme or various plugins), updates to the core breaking the plugin or vice versa, etc. It's a huge mess! I've already talked to potential investors on a solution, but it would take a lot, testing and contributions from developers of all types. 

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 19, 2013 at 6:32am

I've used Social Dealer for about six months and was unhappy with the results. I'm sure through their concierge service, it's probably well equipped to do the job. However, for their DIY tools (Social Media options) I thought it was far too expensive and not worth the money and dumped it. I went back to Hootsuite for $9.95 per month and it works like a charm. I feel as if this is an important statement, just because something is dedicated to the Automotive Retail world and it's niche doesn't constitute a good and reliable tool. Their Reputation Management side of things was well done, but again, nowhere near the high costs. I moved on from that as well, using the same tool that DealerRater does through sheer luck, but far less expensive.

Comment by J.D. Rucker on June 19, 2013 at 12:51am

I should also note that the one social software that I haven't had the opportunity to learn about and the one I haven't had complaints about is Social Dealer. I've heard some good things about them and we're still trying to set up a demo (we tried to go through sales and the contentious rep rightfully denied us as a competitor). Joe, Phil, Ryan, Brent - let's chat!

Comment by J.D. Rucker on June 19, 2013 at 12:46am

Thanks a ton, Manny. I didn't even realize it was Father's Day when I posted it.

Alexander, it's irresponsible for me to make a sweeping declaration. Sure, there are definitely ones that work - I use them on Wordpress all the time - but the vast majority that I've seen on dealer websites have done more harm than good. It should have been an entire post rather than a section of one to better explain it.

One of the advantages we've been blessed with by doing SEO on 54 different web vendor platforms is that the data shows performance drops when they use those social toolbars. Speed is everything and they can slow down page loads. A page that crashes over a plugin or widget is a potential lost sale. Most importantly, having the ability to share a service appointment request form on Facebook or Twitter is silly. It fills dealers with false hope that, "yep, I've got a widget and a dashboard, so I have my social media marketing covered."

Comment by Alexander Lau on June 18, 2013 at 6:27am

J.D., I agree with most of this article, especially the comments on Facebook Insights (weak analytics / metrics reporting tool, piss poor insights into your overall ROI), your better off using a 3rd party application to measure your Facebook data. Additionally, the need for a human social network management is definitely warranted. No robot or application can be as a creative as someone that understands the industry and the need for smorgasbord automotive content. 

However, I respectfully disagree with your assessment on 3rd party social plugins. I've used many quality 3rd party social plugins, specifically for the WordPress framework, that integrate nicely. Just because a social plugin is nonnative to Google, Facebook or Twitter doesn't mean it's poorly designed. Obviously, a seamless and streamlined installation is the name of the game. No user wants to experience broken plugins, but that's entirely up the site / content owner and the manner in which they plan to embed the plugin. As we've both agreed upon, user experience is everything. Not only to the user, but to the way Google, etc. will analyze your site. That day is approaching fast, if not already here.

:-)

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