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An organization that has hundreds of social media accounts may well have too many--particularly in the absence of any coordinated scheme for tracking who has access to which accounts--and which accounts have access to specific resources like Facebook business pages. Particularly in the early days of social media enthusiasts establishing a brand presence, many accounts were established by a lone individual trying to make a point. Even when managed with more discipline, social accounts tend to proliferate because they are associated with different brands or marketing campaigns.
While social media management products make so many overlapping claims that they can sound like they all do the same things, only a handful of products target this kind of scalability. Sprinklr and Spredfast are a couple I've spoken with recently. A recent Altimeter Group publication, "Buyer's Guide: A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation," puts Sprinklr at the top end of its ranking of products with the most capability to serve large organizations, with Spredfast close behind.
The report also notes that no one product addresses every need. For example, Buddy Media's social media management platform is used by some very big brands because of the strength of its Facebook page management and Facebook applications, even if those organizations don't use Buddy for other aspects of their social media management strategy, such as publishing posts across multiple social media platforms. There are also other dimensions of scalability. Hearsay specializes in helping corporate organizations coordinate with field sales representatives or franchisees to distribute messages through social media, while monitoring or filtering those messages for compliance with corporate policy or industry regulations.
Where products like Sprinklr and Spredfast stand out is in their ability to coordinate social media publishing and customer response across large teams and many social media identities.
[ Are CIOs missing something important? Read How IT Can Reclaim Social Relevance.]
Altimeter gives higher marks to Sprinklr for "intense customer response" to social media comments and queries and rates Spredfast as the better "social broadcasting" platform, but both have strong scorecards in general. Other vendors at the high end of the scale include Alcatel-Lucent / Genesys, Comufy, Shoutlet, and Attensity.
At the other end are social media management platforms like HootSuite with a freemium business model that gets them a foot in the door with many small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and agencies. HootSuite recently added enhanced workflow for processes like reviewing and approving posts prior to publication as it tries to stake a claim to more enterprise business, but it's still viewed as more appropriate for departmental use than for managing all the social activity of a major corporation.
"We're doing what HootSuite does, but for very large companies," Sprinklr CEO Ragy Thomas said.
"When we come into an organization, invariably it's HootSuite and CoTweet we're replacing," agreed Jim Rudden, chief marketing officer at Spredfast.
Altimeter reports that 140 global corporate social media managers surveyed said they were tracking 178 social accounts on average, including about 30 on Facebook and 39 on Twitter, plus more across LinkedIn, YouTube, and Foursquare, as well as blogs, forums, and message boards. In the absence of an organized program for managing these identities, Altimeter warns a corporation can be stuck with the harder problem of social media "sanitation"--cleaning up messes after the fact.
Sprinklr claims to be working with "more than 100 globally recognized brands," although some of them are shy about being identified. However, you can see posts labeled "via Sprinklr" on the Dell Facebook page and Virgin America serves as a reference customer.
A social media manager at a national retailer, who asked not to be identified, said that Sprinklr is not the only social media management tool in his toolbox "but it's the most used" and likely to take over more functions as Sprinklr expands its functionality. "We depend on it pretty heavily for publishing and scheduling," he said, relying on the workflow provided by the tool to govern the retailer's social media presence. For this retailer, one reason social media management gets complicated is that, in addition to promoting its own brand, it deals with thousands of manufacturers who are constantly clamoring for the creation of social media promotions associated with their specific products, he said.
"We've designed it in a way that addresses the needs of today's large enterprises, which are managing hundreds if not thousands of Facebook pages--we have a customer right now where we're migrating 1,200 Facebook pages over," Sprinklr's Thomas said. In addition to having multiple brands, large organizations often have a country page for each market, he said. With the addition of its Social Application Suite, Sprinklr is also entering the Facebook application management segment of the market.
Sprinklr also overlaps with social media monitoring vendors, although it doesn't claim the breadth of coverage of specialists like Radian6. Instead, Sprinklr is specifically geared for capturing and following up on the reaction to a social media campaign, Thomas said. For example, with a single campaign, one client recently generated 130,000 conversations on social media over four days. "This firm has 60 community managers, but compared with 130,000 messages, 60 managers is no match," he said.
Reading all those messages would be impractical, but Sprinklr makes it more manageable by applying natural language processing techniques to identify the ones that really require a response, presenting them prioritized and color-coded by content and sentiment "to make the best use of the community manager's time," Thomas said.
Spredfast says a typical customer manages 15 brands, geographies, or groups within the platform, and that large brands typically manage 100 accounts--some, as many as 600. Rudden said that many of his customers use monitoring platforms from Radian6 or Crimson Hexagon "for a 10,000-foot view" of their business, but his company concentrates on being better at helping them manage "the day-to-day engagement on social networks."
Austin-based Spredfast started out in 2008 as a services organization working with agencies and brands, then launched its software-as-a-service platform at South by Southwest in 2010. "Our early customers tended to be agencies serving multiple clients, but in the back end of 2011 the switch flipped, and a lot of enterprises decided they needed to bring the operational side of [social media] inside the company," Rudden said.
Spredfast works primarily with marketing departments, although often marketing personnel become "accidental care agents," providing the first line of response to customer questions and complaints, Rudden said, or routing them to the appropriate customer service / customer care personnel. "Increasingly, someone in the care group will participate on a team with marketers."
Spredfast is also developing a version of its publishing and monitoring console "for simplified interactions out at the edge," targeted for release in July, Rudden said. A sample application would be for Whole Foods, a Spredfast customer, to provide the tool to its 350 store managers to help them "do social in an organized, hour-a-day way," he said. "The question is, if you have someone out at the edge of the enterprise who has an hour a day to do social, how do you make them really efficient?" Rather than taking the time to scan all potentially relevant posts, those people are more likely to want to only be alerted when something specifically requires a response from them, he said.
"Whole Foods isn't even our biggest customer--we have one that has us helping 1,500 users do social at 400 locations," Rudden said.
Such plans can also lead to a proliferation of social media accounts, but the trick is to do it in an organized way.
Social IQ Networks, which has created a tool for identifying, auditing, and monitoring all of a company's social accounts, said many of its scans routinely turn up more than 200 company or brand accounts--often including orphan accounts for which the password is unknown and the owner is not easily identified. "Most enterprises and brands have no idea they have that many accounts out there. The trouble is, there's no barrier to entry to creating another account," said Devin Redmond, co-founder and CEO.
Sprinklr's Thomas said one audit his firm conducted for a services firm "showed 4,800 social media properties with their name and logo on it around the world--I'm not sure they can identify even half of it." If the accounts are inactive, and there's nothing embarrassing or inappropriate posted to them, they can often be safely ignored, he said, "but at least you're aware of them." When the social posts pose a real problem, often the account owner can be tracked down "with a little detective work," or Sprinklr can use its connections with the social media services to get the account taken offline, he said.
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