Get control now of proliferating social media activities: Altimeter report

Posted on January 5, 2012 10:10 am by | Business | Marketing | Research | Social Media

A few years back, in working with an organization to organize its social media efforts under a strategy, we found that the company had over 50 Facebook pages and groups. Most had fewer than a dozen or so fans, most likely because nobody was supporting these pages with content and interaction. Ultimately, we winnowed the number down to the five or six pages that had amassed some genuine interest and to which the organization was willing to commit the resources required to maintain and build momentum.

Today, 50 pages no longer seems like all that big a deal. According to a report The Altimeter Group released today, global corporations manage an average of 178 business-related social media accounts—and that doesn’t include accounts maintained by individual employees for work-related purposes. These include blogs in addition to accounts with third-party networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and dedicated communities.

Proliferation of Social Media Accounts

Worse, according to the report—authored by Jeremiah Owyang—most companies don’t have a complete list of all the social assets they’ve set up.

Mature organizations will coordinate social media

This lack of coordination is a recipe for disaster. The inability to coordinate effort, maintain a consistent customer experience, monitor accounts, ensure legal and regulatory compliance and act quickly when an issue arises are all consequences of a fragmented approach to managing social media.

To underscore the situation, the report points out that 70 percent of organizations responding to the study said that social media efforts are meeting busienss objectives, yet only 43 percent had a formal strategy for ensuring social media efforts meet business goals. You have to wonder how they know their social media efforts are meeting goals if they didn’t define them in the first place.

Fewer than half of the organizations Altimeter surveyed have a coordinated approach to social media deployments across the organization. Those that did spent an average of $272,000 trying to cobble together the systems to coordinate them.

The fallout from this lack of coordination is most likely to hit larger organizations with multiple business units and brands. Accustomed to decentralization for other forms of marketing and communication, these large, global organizations will ultimately find themselves at risk for failing to better coordinate their social activities.

In response, a category of business has emerged that Altimeter identified back in 2010 as Social Media Management Systems (SMMS), which Altimeter defines as

A software tool that uses business rules and approved employees and partners to manage social media accounts…This system contains features such as governance, workflow, intelligence and integration capabilities across the enterprise.

If you wonder whether your organization has a need for an SMMS, take a look at the cases for adopting them identified in the study:

SMMS Use Cases

More than 30 companies have entered the space, and 64 percent of the companies Altimeter surveyed have adopted some form of SMMS. Yet at only about two years old, these services aren’t yet mature and come with their own set of problems, notably a lack of all the capabilities larger organizations require, such as monitoring and analytics functionality.

Altimeter analyzed the services and ranked them based on their ability to serve both small businesses and large enterprises. HootSuite emerged near the top of the small-business end of the spectrum, while Sprinklr rated tops for big companies. (Sprinklr CEO Ragy Thomas was the subject of a video FIR interview a few weeks back.) The ranking was based on five SMMS capabilities: intense customer response, social broadcasting, platform campaign marketing, distributed brand presence and tailored service and support.

A role for agencies

In addition to SMMS adoption, Altimeter sees roles for three levels of social media agencies. traditional agencies like Edelman and Weber Shandwick provide community management services that serve larger marketing efforts. Boutiques (like Maggie Fox’s Social Media Group) can offer focused social engagement efforts. And business process outsource providers like Cap Gemini can provide a call center staff that has been trained to handle community management issues.

Case study

As a case study for managing the proliferation of social channels, Altimeter points to the restaurant chain Applebee’s, which now has some 1,200 Facebook pages, the vast majority of these for individual restaraunt location.

To equip itself to manage that kind of distributed effort, Applebee’s implemented training at a number of levels: for the social media strategist, the field marketing team, and restaurant managers.

The company introduced a governance structure with corporate populating a content calendar with monthly brand-wide messages. Corporate employs an SMMS to analyze engagement data and hone in on the kinds of posts that produce the best results. Corporate shares that data with franchisees, allowing local managers to adapt them into their own, locally-relevant popsts. “This top-down process provides consistent branding, yet feeds distributed restaurant owners with relevant content and information to engage effectively, locally,” according to the report.

Regional franchisee groups and individual restaurant owners make up the second and third tier of Applebee’s governance structure.

“An intuitive user experience, training, and executive backing have contributed to high adoption rates for such a distributed organization,” Altimeter reports.


There’s no question that organizations—particularly large ones—need to treat social media as a business process. Getting ready, according to Altimeter’s research, requires three key steps:

  • Prepare the company by setting business goals, conducting an audit of current assets and accounts (and making the tough decisions to drop those that won’t get company support), map permissions and document workflow, and develop a content strategy
  • Undertake a process to select the right SMMS vendor
  • Roll out the process across the enterprise

As usual, Altimeter is releasing the study free of charge. You can read it here:

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