Sunday, April 15, 2012

Who owns a broken Social Media TOOLbox? - If your fault not the tools

Dawn is becoming morning....

Companies recognition that they need to bring social media into their everyday workflow is accelerating rapidly.  As I have stated in the past, 2010 brought people still thinking about it and even experimenting with it.  2011 brought action-based choices as to what tools they would make work for them.

2012 is about what?  Its about market maturity.  How do we know?  My previous post discussed it briefly, but I predict 2012 is going to be a war on content.

Social media tools are really about three things (I figure I would reiterate here and maybe add some more depth as I am learning what this means with each passing week).  It is about FEATURES, CONTENT AND ACCURACY.

What do I mean by these categories?  see the definitions below...

Features - This is all about my tool looks better than your tool.  It is about how a tool looks when you use it, what types of charts it can produce for you, what types of languages you can make it work with, what types of measurements it can calculate for your...etc.  It is the candy of social media tools.  Many have been lulled by features.  It makes sense.  Features are what the car looks like, but not necessarily what is under the hood.  And for the past 18 months, many organization have been absolutely enamoured with what they see when trying to get their program off the ground.  And you know what?  That is really important.  If you are trying to use something to help you run your business it needs to give the user three things:  control, confidence and efficieny.  And from a feature prespective if it doesn't do this then you are screwed (a topic for another post). 

Content - This is about my data count is better than yours.  Once you sit in and drive the car, you need to worry about how your fuel is making the engine work. This is content.  I believe the battle of features will continue, but it is getting pretty clear what are musts to run a social media program. And while you can continue to improve how you view and measure your data, the amount and quality of that data is important.   Content is only now really becoming a robust discussion.   I guess more simply put when you get a 1,000,000 sound bites is that a real and accurate number of what should or shouldn't be counted as data.  Sadly, most people fall in love with big a scientist it is true that there is no bad data only data, but in social media getting enamoured with junk content is dangerous.  Why?  Because if you run the new metrics that will develop using inaccurate counts you are making mistakes that can lead to major issues.  I would be asking my social media provider how they calculate their content?  Even if they have everything are they taking time to make sure that the stream includes the most meaningful information or simply recounting crap? 

Accuracy - This is all my sounbites are better than your sounbites.  This is about how the engine runs.  The car can look pretty, the fuel can be top notch to give great performance, but if the engine isn't tuned so all its parts run seamlesslly the car will eventually breakdown completely.  Accuracy is about the algorithims that process the data.  There are many debates as to what the best way to do this is: natural language processing, text analytics, keywords???  That doesn't matter.  Accuracy does.  I am sure there are functions that require prefect creation of the data set to make sure it is 100% right.  This is an ongoing discussion and one that will make its way to the forefront later, when real social media metrics are created that must be right all the time to win the war on the battlefront...

How do I think of these definitions together???  See below

 Market research metrics junky - I need a tool with boolean features to enable great control of the
search with the ability to nail the content very accurately...this could take weeks but it will be right. 

Agency creative owner - I need a tool that enables me to very easily input my search terms with as much accuracy as possible but not critical.  I need to be able to easily navigate the data to uncover fast consumer insights.  These insights will be used to create neat ideas having nothing to do with the data to drive consumer behavior. 

Marketing manager - I need a tool that someone else can set up for and enable me to see the data I need.  It needs to be able to allow me to understand my business AND uncover insights that I can have others look into for me.  I don't use tools

I could go on...but this shows that every tool has different stakeholders.  So am I off track right now?  No.  Here is why.  Everyone is so focused on getting their tools in AND are holding those who create the tools accountable for their ability to solve the problems.  And frankly, I have seen many customers and talked to many industries and I still hear the same crap.  These tools don't work.

I would submit which TOOLS aren't working.  I believe that there are companies out there that have very smart people buying really awesome tools to put in a toolbox, but they are putting the onus on everyone to make them successful.  The challenge for the busienss world?  Application!  Process! Human methods!  A tool is just that a tool.  You don't pick up a great hammer it just puts the nails in does it?  No!  You need to learn how to best use it for what you are doing to make it work.  You may have a strange way to get nails out of a board, hell you might even use your teeth, but  it is your ideas on how to solve the problem that get things to work.  Same things goes with business tools.  They can only have so many features, so much content and be only so accurate.  And while this will certainly evolve in coming months (and I mean months in most cases), you can win on the playing field by recognizing you have to take the bull by the horns and figure out how to put all this together to work for you!

If your social media program sucks and you are pointing the finger at your tool provider, remember there are three fingers pointing back at you.

I would start to ask these questions...

1.  Does my leadership understand what it really takes to have a social media program?
2.  Are we thinking holitiscially about what problems need to be solved by our program?
3.  What functions need to be integrated into my social media program to prevent lost time?
4.  What should I hold my tools responsible to provide and what do I need to provide?
5.  Are my processes rudimentary internally? 
6.  Are we recognizing that creating online programs is only part of it?   Shouldn't we really know the effectiveness too?
7.  Do I really have the right people doing the job or are they just person who was there?  What have my resources delivered?
8.  Are my people blaming the tools and not looking for ways to blame ourselves to solve the problem?
9.  Am I supporting my people who are crying out for help internally? 

These are just a few questions of leadership who wants a social media program that functions.  Too many people are blaming the vendors.  And while the vendors are responsible for making great products for dealing with all that content, as with any change it is up to the organization to fight itself to become a successful enterprise.

I would is our job to give you control, confidence and efficiency in how these tools provide value.  It is your job to create methods that take these technologies to their greatest heights.

Otherwise you are wasting your money and time in trying to compete with a Yugo when you need a Ferrari....