What we have collectively learned from social media interaction is that not every issue can be treated or responded to in the same way. Traditional marketing execution and monologue do not work in the online space. The hammer may have worked in the beginning, but as organizations mature with their social media thought and execution, one method or tool does not suffice. As organizations become more aware of social media opportunity and how it aligns with overall business objectives, we will begin to see a shift from singular tool focus to platform solution thinking.
Tools vs. Platforms
Oh, the number of choices can be agonizing! There are shiny, new tools coming on the market daily, but it does not have to be confusing to wade through the number of tool versus platform options available, if you understand your motivation for use and evaluation. Before entering into the difference between a tool and platform, it is helpful to understand how your organization is currently engaging (or not) across the social web and how this function will evolve.
While a tool or combination thereof may solve your immediate needs, determine the investment of time, solutions, and human capital that may be spent and lost without taking the future into consideration. Getting your feet wet in social media is inevitable, avoid sacrificing future gains, by evaluating the needs of other departments across your organization (i.e., call centers, business intelligence, sales and human resources, just to name a few).
Utility, a Means to an End
Stop for a second and take a look around you. The mouse you are using to scroll though this post. It is a tool. Your computer is functioning with the support of an operating system – this is a platform. You see, Most tools are created with a singular purpose. When an indirect issue arises or need to scale response across the organization, this tool or combination of tools may be used to provide an adhoc response and analysis, but with some manual work and effort required.
Of course, you may argue the existence of a multi-purpose tool…like a Swiss Army knife. But have you ever tried to use any of the other tools besides the knife? Do any of them work well or for long periods of time? Unlikely. This tool is awesome for an annual camping trip, but if you tried to use the tool daily for several functions, you would become very frustrated very fast.
Graduating to a Solution
A platform is a foundational, multi-pronged and solution based. It should be permeable and evolve as your strategy shifts and the need arises to collaborate across the organization.
Features you want to look for in a platform:
- Depth and Breadth of Coverage: ensure you’re capturing all relevant conversation from across the social web
- Analytics and Metrics: Determine the specific media metrics you can track, filter and analyze via report
- Collaboration and Workflow: As your social media strategy matures, you’ll want the option to share data among your team
- Engagement: Determine if you are able to coordinate, track, and measure all outreach from within the platform (avoid wasting time jumping back and forth from inside and outside a tool to capture valuable information)
- Scalability: Check the availability of integrating your social media monitoring across other areas of your organization
- Provider Growth and Longevity: Determine how the provider will grow and improve with your needs; how the platform will deliver on long term solutions and/or if the provider will require resources from your organization to upgrade
Monitoring, observing and actively listening takes time. As you build traction in social media, the time it takes to listen well and execute actionable insights found in observation, is going to increase. Ideally, you want to spend your time acting on the gold nuggets you find instead of manually gathering information across various ad hoc tools. If you are spending more time gathering and analyzing results than acting on community feedback, you may be ready to graduate to a platform solution.
Stop looking at every challenge as a nail. Unless, of course, it is a nail.
What would you add to the distinction between a tool and a platform?