When you are confronted by the challenge of managing your organization’s social presence, it’s natural to first think, “What are the features, functionality and user experience that I value most?” We’re all familiar with HootSuite, TweetDeck and other tools that are consumer or SMB-focused. We bring our frame of reference and biases to the process.
Now, if you are responsible for the social presence of a small organization, have a small social team (with no plans of growing), don’t have many social accounts on many channels or don’t get much volume in the way of social messages, those tools will make sense for you.
At scale, however, the picture is quite different. What works well on a small basis will oftentimes fail miserably when numbers grow by an order of magnitude.
How scale changes priorities and requirements
Before we jump in, perhaps an example will help illustrate my point.
Let’s say you have three bricks and you need to move them across town. Your questions are relatively straightforward: Is it better to carry the bricks or put them in a small bag?
Regardless of your choice, any number of simple tools will do the trick for you. Further, the logistical questions are relatively simple:
- Is it more comfortable to carry them or put them in a bag?
- What’s the fastest route to get from A to B?
- Should I walk, take a bike, ride the bus or drive a car?
On the other hand, let’s say you have 3 million bricks and you need to move them across town. Now, your hands or a small bag is inadequate for the job. You have to start thinking about a different set of feature requirements.
- Do I need a truck? If so, how many?
- People to help move them?
- Maybe an assembly line to package them?
Similarly, your logistical questions change.
- Do I need a loading dock?
- Is there enough height for the truck?
- How much weight can each truck carry?
- Do we need to close the street off?
- Can we do it during the day or do we need to move at night?
- Do we need insurance if the bricks spill?
You get the idea.
The point is when you hit scale, the feature requirements that you had for your smaller operation and the logistical considerations are different. You don’t just say, “Well, I guess I need bigger hands or a really big bag.” No, the entire game has changed.
Social media management is no different.
The 3 vectors of scale in social media management
For any organization, there are three pivot points that push you into the world of scale. These are conversations, users and accounts. Let’s take a look at each and what you need to be successful at scale.
When you are handling a small number of conversations (or let’s just say you can manage your entire flow of inbound and outbound messages without ignoring any of them unintentionally), your requirements might be a basic multicolumn layout to track all conversations along with the ability to respond with one click.
However, when the number of conversations exceeds your ability to handle them and you move to Conversations@Scale, your requirements change to include, among others:
- A natural language processor to quickly score messages for sentiment and intent, highlighting the most excited and most angry messages immediately.
- Message queuing and automated workflows so teams and groups in other functions, divisions and geographies can be notified, even if you don’t know the people by name.
- Global content calendaring and content suggestion capabilities so you can ensure that you have message discipline and that the most engaging content is shared in other areas.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but without these, an organization will not have much of a chance of handling a large volume of social conversations. What’s more, the company risks losing out on all of the benefits of participation (which you don’t need me to explain).
Now, let’s take a look at the number of users, that is employees, contractors, agencies, vendors, etc., who have some responsibility within social (be it directly or as contributors).
If you are managing social yourself or with a few team members, you just want to log in, set up and get going.
But, at scale, it’s just not that easy. With hundreds or thousands of users (aka Users@Scale), again, the requirements change. You would need:
- Compliance and audit trails so you can track behavior across your accounts and ensure that your any employee with access to a social account does not put your brand at undue risk.
- Global responsiveness and activity analysis to ensure that SLA’s are met and groups or teams are held accountable for delivering a satisfactory experience to the social customer
- A federated governance structure so you no longer share passwords by Excel or e-mail and when a user leaves the organization, her access is turned off globally to all social accounts.
There’s a lot more behind this. Forrester Research put out a report just on security issues (plus, here’s a list of 22 must haves for secure social media deployments). At scale, a large organization simply cannot function without these types of capabilities. Otherwise, the risks to your social infrastructure and operations are significant and your effectiveness will be suboptimal.
Finally, let’s look at the number of social accounts or profiles which your organization manages.
If it’s only a few, you want to be able to rapidly switch between them with one click.
But most large organizations don’t have a few. Altimeter Group found that, on average, large organizations have 178 accounts. My company, Sprinklr, performed an audit for a Fortune 50 client and found over 10,000 accounts. That is what we call an Accounts@Scale challenge and, an entirely different set of feature requirements.
- Reporting by account type would tell you if you are performing better on one network vs. another across the entire organization.
- Multichannel support would make it possible to integrate new channels rapidly as they come online.
- Account permissioning to enable (or disable) entire teams, groups or divisions to access, post, moderate, etc., a given account (or any combination thereof).
If you don’t have these capabilities, the risk to your brand (fill in social media wildfire/disaster story here) are significant. Even if you don’t have a huge problem, things like branding inconsistency will plague you.
There’s social and then there’s Social@Scale
We all love social and the possibilities it provides for us as individuals and for the organizations in our lives. We’ve seen the potential. However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that what works for us as individuals will most definitely not work for the large organizations in our lives.
There’s a big difference between being social and being social at scale. Cutting-edge innovators at the world’s most social, global brands understand this when choosing a social media management system for their large organization.
If you’re at that point, you may find this post helpful: “6 ‘Must Haves’ for any Enterprise Social Media RFP.”
Either way, I hope you’ll add a comment below to share your thoughts.
Jeremy Epstein is vice president of marketing at Sprinklr. Ranked “most capable” social media management system by Altimeter Group and Econsultancy, Sprinklr enables more than 200 household name brands to be Social@Scale. Connect with Sprinklr or Epstein on Twitter or anywhere else on the social Web.