How Should Marketers Buy a Social Media Management Platform
By Sapir Segal
In the B2B realm, social media marketing cannot function effectively and efficiently without technology. The right social media management platform can set your marketing team – and organization as whole – up for success.
So where to begin when buying a platform?
With a myriad of social media vendors out there, it can be an exciting but also overwhelming process when choosing “the one”. While most marketers start with Googling the “Top 10 Social Platforms” and picking one from there, relying solely on this list won’t necessarily help you find the right technology that aligns with your existing marketing stack or business needs.
One of the challenges in buying a platform is that with 16 years of schooling and summer internship experience behind you, no one ever teaches you “how to buy technology”, let alone how to speak with vendors or write business cases.
So, rather than spending hours gathering irrelevant research, we’re here to bridge the gap between school and the real world.
This article will help you take a thoughtful and logical approach to understanding internal processes, communicating with vendors, handling company bureaucracy, and choosing the best social media management platform for your organization.
- Understanding your Internal Strategy and Goals
One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make when researching a social media management platform (or any technology in this case) is failing to consider their company’s strategic goals and needs.
Beyond posting about your latest blog, social media represents a much bigger chunk of your organization. In fact, the perfect social platform provides capabilities which do two things: firstly, power existing marketing stack with additional data; and secondly, improve the internal processes of other teams.
Whether it’s social selling, customer care or recruitment purposes, social media plays an integral role at every stage of the B2B funnel, including awareness, consideration, evaluation, and loyalty. Ideally, the more the platform fits into your company landscape, the more it’s going to add value to existing processes, and the more inclined your leadership will be to invest in this platform.
Hence, you need to understand what this landscape currently looks like. The best way to do that is by keeping an open line of communication throughout the entire buying process.
Speak to the people that have the most marketing influence in your organization, including your CMO and VP. Inform them of your search for a social media management platform and don’t hesitate to ask them relevant questions that will help you make an educated decision. Consider some of the following questions:
- What defines success in marketing as a whole (said differently, what are our marketing KPI’s)?
- What are the top three goals of the marketing department this quarter or year?
- Which marketing technologies are we currently using? Marketing automation, lead gen, lead enrichment etc.
- Besides marketing, which departments play a role on social media (e.g. sales for social selling and advocacy, HR for recruitment and job postings, and customer support for communicating with clients)?
Take this as an opportunity to study the in’s and out’s of your marketing ecosystem. With more knowledge, you can better choose a social media management platform that benefits your whole company, in turn making you look good in front of upper management.
For example, make sure that the platform has a solution to:
- Help marketingexpand their lead database with additional information on how prospects behave and interact across the social channels – what content topics are they interested in? What types of content makes them convert? A social media solution that integrates with marketing automation can give your demand generation team access to more data that helps them better target their audience.
- Help salesimprove their social selling by providing them with a simplified way to share relevant content and industry news on social that strengthens their personal brand. This is where you can look for a platform that has an employee advocacy
- Help customer supportimprove the way they engage with customers and provide immediate responses. Choosing a platform that has a social response management or social customer care solution is essential for delivering an exceptional customer service.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this stage in your buying process. By taking the time to understand your company’s needs and interests, you can do a better job as a junior marketer or social media manager to adopt the best possible platform, and ultimately take credit for building the foundation of a strong B2B brand. In doing so, you’ll set yourself up for success in your next role or job.
- Researching Vendors
The next step is research.
In order to successfully assess your own needs, vet social management platforms, and choose the right one, you need to develop your own knowledge base. That means demoing your selected platforms while keeping abreast of independent research and industry insights.
Although it may sound dull, this is perhaps the most interesting part of the buying process because it’s where you get to see the social media platforms in action. Without getting a product demo, it’s difficult to imagine how well the technology can work for your company and also for you.
But before you request a demo from a particular vendor, make sure you come prepared.
Remember the information you gathered in step 1? Based on this information and research that you’ve done independently, create a list of questions that will serve as formal criteria for evaluating different platforms. Here’s one that we’ve already created for you – download it here.
The next question you may ask is who to include in the demo?
Every technology provides features or functionalities that are relevant to different people in the organization. Think about all the team members who could see value in a social media management platform (such as the CMO or even the digital marketer) and have them join the demo.
Once you have a grading chart and the right group of people, it’s time to go into a demo.
Remember to stay open-minded.
Having a conversation with a vendor is not about keeping all the information to yourself. The more you have an open dialogue with a salesperson, the better he or she can answer your questions. Use the salesperson to help navigate you in the right direction and align your organizational goals with the platform’s solutions.
- Building a Business Case
Like any technology, buying a social media management platform should be treated as a formal process. Often times, your manager or director will ask you to prepare a business case.
At first, you may be thinking…
A business case is an official document that is intended to show the decision maker at your company the research that has been done, and the reason for this purchase. In this case, you’ll need to back up your choice of social media management software with a clear path to securing your ROI.
As a general rule, business cases highlight the benefits, value, and potential risks that are associated with purchasing the platform. Next, they require you to state the timeline, scalability, resources, teams, and costs involved in implementing the technology. Writing a stellar business case can take time, which is why you can easily use this template as a guide.
- Handling Legal & Procurement
Unless you went to law school, you might find company logistics and contract management to be a little mind-boggling at first.
For example, a lot of companies have rules enforced and budgets in place for a specific product or service. They may also have regulations and policies that dictate buying procedures for solutions like social media management.
Another technical and sometimes complex internal process is managing the budget. It’s your responsibility to know your marketing team’s budget and the correct way to ask for it. Both are extremely important skills to have as you climb up the marketing ladder.
Each department in your organization gets allocated a specific sum of money, which they can use to purchase technology. This budget is usually handled by a procurement team or manager. The procurement’s role is to ensure that team members secure the best deals and don’t waste the company’s money.
Marketing budgets (or any budget for this matter) are typically guided by a unique buying cycle or a time period called a “fiscal year”. When approaching the sale, you need to know the start and end dates of your fiscal year so that you can align it with the vendor’s timeline.
When asking for a budget, your job is to get to know the procurement team and be friendly with them. Understand how your chosen social media management solution fits within the frameworks of existing procurement processes. Being friendly and social with procurement will make it easier for you to get their thumbs.
Great Job Navigating Through This!
As a junior marketer or social media manager, this is your chance to shine and impact the rest of your organization. Taking a careful and educated approach to researching vendors, communicating with teams, and understanding your internal structure will ensure that the chosen social media management platform fits your company strategies, goals, and budget.