A company’s technology decisions help set them on the path to meeting their social media goals and objectives. If multiple systems are cobbled together and require lots of manual work to create reports, guess what people will spend their time doing? Creating reports, rather than analyzing them looking for patterns or ways to improve. What if there is not standardized tool set? Incompatibility can add another level of complexity to growing social media across an organization. The following stages show how a company expands their social media tool usage.

Stage 1: Free Tools or None

When companies start social media accounts, they don’t think about technology decisions. They also don’t usually think about tracking appropriate metrics. This leaves many social media practitioners choosing their own tools based on their own personal preference. This also means that people could use no tools at all. If a company posts directly on Twitter.com, there are no additional metrics available besides follower counts without paying to advertise on the platform. The native Facebook platform has some statistics available. If you are tracking followers and likes, there is no need to use anything beyond these websites. But once you start trying to look at the impact of your activities, some level of tool is required.

It is easy to see how the choice of tools relates to your measurement needs. You should determine what types of things you want to measure before picking your social media tool to make sure it serves your needs.

Stage 2: Some Free and Some Paid Tools

Many free tools operate on the freemium model. This means you get limited functionality for free, but you can pay to upgrade your features. Team access to accounts is a typical example of a paid enhancement. Another one is access to data that is older than three months. There are many examples of social media measurement web sites which offer very basic tracking, but if you want anything more you have to subscribe.

Companies in this second stage are starting to standardize their social media tools. While it may not be one standard, it could be that an official list is provided for departments and the teams can pick from the list. This at least removes the oddball tools from the mix when it comes time for reporting. The other thing that starts driving this stage is the expansion of social media beyond a core team. As business units and other functional departments start planning their own social media activities, the tool use expands. Companies need to start to rein in the selection before it gets to far afield.

Stage 3: Paid Tools, Official

Just like the other stages in this category, companies that have reached this stage in their maturity have been driven by things other than technology. To get to a place where a company has standardized their social media programs on one paid tools means they have a clear understanding of their goals, but they also understand the needs of multiple users. Marketing may need one thing, while customer service needs another. And the European team has a different set of needs altogether. It is impossible to come together on a technology solution without this level of understanding.

Consider what this means in your organization. Does technology drive decisions or do functional requirements? It is easy for the marketing team or the social media team to standardize their social media tools around a paid solution, but what does it take to roll this out across the organization? Discovery of social media activities even becomes part of this. Who knew this team of engineers was so active on social media?

Stage 4: Social Integrated with Other Systems

And finally, the perfect ending for this whole discussion of integrating social media across an organization wraps up with an understanding of integration across technology systems. We’ve seen plenty of possible silos within social media efforts and one of the clearest ways to break those down is to bring social media activity into your other business systems. Want to start making your sales team social? Bring social media conversations into their house, the CRM system. You can do this on a Tweet by Tweet basis and open cases or leads with each post that comes in, or you can connect your customers’ and prospects’ system records to their social profiles. This will let sales reps see all of their social activities to warm up their conversations. The same is true for partners, vendors and even employees. Recruiters can discover new employees on social media sites long before they ever read a resume.

Companies that focus on bringing social data into their business systems can respond better, faster and with more knowledge to their customers. At the end of the day we serve our customers, and anything that allows us to do that better is worth exploring. Look at every system in your organization and determine where and how social media can be incorporated.

How your company manages their social media tool selection and usage is part of the Marketing Cloud Social Maturity Model. Answer 10 simple questions to see how your company ranks across all of the categories.