Business software is increasingly easier to buy, more approachable and more cost effective; so many organizations find themselves with a growing number of software applications in any given category. Employees have the flexibility to select and use the tools that suit them best and a 'Bring Your Own Application' business environment is emerging. In this scenario, progress is seemingly the winner, but there is danger ahead without strategic consolidation and standardization.
Social Media Management is a particularly good example of how the multiplication of internal tools creates mounting problems for businesses. Consider this: the average business uses more than 10 different applications to post content to Twitter (1) alone. In the absence of standardization, the number of distinct apps within an organization continues to climb. The use of multiple applications in some situations is perfectly normal, and there is no magic number by which to abide, but a flagrant BYOA mentality presents major challenges.
How We Got to BYOA
Most popular social media networks and applications were built with one person in mind: the individual user. They inherently don't have the business layers (like multiple accounts support, collaboration tools, workflow automation, audit trails and measurement) necessary for commercial use. Additionally, many third-party social management tools were also built for the individual and can be clunky and difficult to adopt at scale.
Companies now have dozens of tools in use across departments with no shared process, data or visibility. This BYOA mentality will not be remedied overnight, but until companies take a hard look at their current state and make necessary changes, both business and consumers are seeing diminished value from disparate tools. Asorganizations continue to incorporate social media as a mission critical business objective, the most urgent problems that must be addressed are:
· Measurement: No effective metrics across channels, departments and objectives
· Experience: No consistent, seamless experiences for customers
· Collaboration: No visibility or data sharing across users, teams and departments
· Process: No consistent workflow or process and a lack of security
Inconsistent Measurement Adds Confusion
It is impossible to accurately report the metrics required by today's marketing, service and community teams when everyone accesses and posts to social networks from different applications. Popular social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn were not originally designed to require or accommodate multiple users or a complex social presence. Now, as dozens if not hundreds of people within an organization take to brand accounts, it is extremely difficult to identify who performs actions, who last spoke with a customer or which behaviors prove most effective.
Social media management and marketing tools offer analytics and reporting capabilities, but, in many cases, each is blissfully unaware of activity that takes placeoutside of its jurisdiction and individual platforms.
Customer Experiences Usually Suffer
Without a standardized platform and complete historical records, each social media interaction can be, in essence, like talking to a customer for the very first time. As a brand, you have no access to past conversations, no awareness ofthat person's relationship to the organization or any context for thatconversation (except in the rare case that the interaction is confined to ashort period of time). It's like 50 First Dates -- bad ones -- with your customers.
The BYOA mentality also leads to delays in response, division of workload issues and many other issues that result in your customer -- the most important person in the scenario -- being less than thrilled if not downright annoyed. No customer, fan or follower wants to feel like a data point, or as if they're back at step one, with each interaction.
Zero Visibility Blocks Collaboration
In many cases, your team is already limited in effectiveness due to a lack of standardization. If one team member is currently replying to a customer issue on one platform, another team member may be viewing the same message on a mobile application, unaware that there is currently a response in progress. Who will respond? Will you respond simultaneously? Who's equipped to answer the question?
Similarly, it's problematic to capture past interactions and complete customer history data when most social tools were built for fleeting conversations or personal interaction rather than high volume customer interactions. Without this context and history, your team is limited in their ability to deliver a remarkable customer experience in the environment where it matters most.
Lastly, in terms of an internal audit trail, the lack of individual user information in traditionally shared social profiles becomes problematic for many organizations because there is no way to judge efficiency, effectiveness and opportunities to be more socially productive as an entire organization.
Varied Workflows Debilitate Scale
Comprehensive Social Media Management apps include features for tasking, drafting and internal discussion. Yet when teams are on disparate platforms, those tools become worthless. If Sales creates a task to follow up on an inquiry and Support has no visibility to that task, or if publishing calendars aren't shared across the entire organization, there are far too many opportunities for inefficiency,mishaps and flat out misses.
Security is also a concern. Employees can too easily confuse their personal and worktools and we've all heard of unfortunate situations when a personal opinion has carelessly made it's way to a brand's profile, caused backlash and necessitated crisis control. Managing dozens of users across many platforms is an additional issue that is just not worth the security risk.
So, What's the Solution?
Consolidation and standardization are necessary to effectively manage social channels and the social layer of business. While there are thousands of applications that interact with social networks, most are intended as point solutions. As youmove towards a more centralized environment, and I encourage you to start yesterday, a few important factors to consider:
· Use tools that were designed for multi-user and multi-department environments and have internal collaboration, routing and shared data
· A viable solution should include web and major mobile platform support as appropriate to serve the needs of your team
· Avoid tools where record keeping and workflow are not fully developed
· Shop for value, but not bargains. A viable commercial solution is expensive to build and support, and while free tools can be tempting, they will not deliver when it comes to solving critical issues.
Standardization of tools will be absolutely essential to sustain the value exchange betweenbrands and customers -- and to further the application of social media to all existing business objectives. Be a change agent within your organization: ask tough questions about the logic of disparate systems, examine the plethora of tools currently being used, analyze alternative ecosystems and start conversations to help stop the BYOA boom.