Invest in Education with Your Social Marketing Software
A few weeks ago, I declared that we were in a new stage of maturity in the enterprise social marketing software space—that what our customers need now are social software solutions. But now that social marketing software can do more, solve more complex challenges and provide increased value across organizations, the right approach to education, enablement and training is more important than ever.
It’s On You
In the early days of social media, we relied heavily on the native social platform to provide the capabilities necessary to achieve success—which, at the time, was usually defined as increased engagement and follower growth. There were also an emerging array of different tools solving distinct, narrow social marketing problems, all of which had a low barrier to entry, both in cost and time investment, for usage. Typically, a user sought out the specific tool because they had encountered a challenge where a free solution wasn’t available or the platform native options weren’t robust enough. They likely had a strong understanding of what the tool did and how they would implement it into their existing workflow. It was a very personal decision, and was usually just a few mouse clicks—and dollars—away.
In many ways, this is the decision process we go through when we download an application in for our mobile phone: apps are usually not pricey, an app’s description or a review of what it does is enough to convince us to buy it, and apps include either a basic how-to or a walkthrough upon initial use. As a user, I am expected to train myself or use basic documentation to start seeing value. The ultimate test of a software tool is whether or not it helps me solve a distinct known problem better than a free alternative. If that’s the case, the app merits the upfront financial and time investment.
The ultimate test of a software tool is whether or not it helps me solve a distinct known problem better than a free alternative.
We are fickle with these types of tools though—when another option comes around with an attractive new feature or the cost simply doesn’t deliver the value when compared to free options, we aren’t scared to drop an app and try something else. This doesn’t bode well for user retention, but it does make it easy to add a ton of users at very little cost to the software company. We know, though, from my previous blog post that tools aren’t designed for the enterprise, so when a company decides to purchase a software platform, norms change: there is an expectation that enterprise-level software costs something to onboard, and with that cost comes more hands-on training.
Adopt or Die
Companies that utilize software platforms expect more structured, hands-on training from their providers and they happily pay a moderate percentage of the software costs to ensure that their teams adopt the software. While there might be distinct siloed teams using the software—and there will inevitably be varying levels of software and domain sophistication amongst the users within those teams—education requires users learn not only how to use the software but how to maximize the impact of the software on their social efforts. For software platforms, adoption is the ultimate measure of success. Where these platforms run risks, though, is user turnover. Through no fault of the software provider, inevitably there will be user turnover at customers and, as such, an ongoing demand for software training (along with continued domain training). Answers to this challenge might take the form of periodic optimizations throughout the term, web-based training, or detailed “how-to” documents. It might also ultimately rely on in-person training by their customer partner or account manager. The other challenge, specifically in our space, is that platforms constantly add new capabilities alongside the social networks’ own innovations, so continuing education is key to reap maximum value from the platform. Platforms also can suffer from fall off of adoption after the honeymoon period, which requires software companies to be keenly aware of usage patterns and address decreased usage.
For software platforms, adoption is the ultimate measure of success.
Ultimately, adoption won’t matter if a company’s business objectives and priorities change. That’s why configurability and flexibility in software, coupled with the ability to train and educate various departments within an organization on the value of social, has become an imperative in the new solution-oriented social software world.
A Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes
As we head full on into the world of social software solutions, the paradigm of moderate investment in relation to software costs for onboarding, training and enablement will inevitably change. No longer is usage and adoption enough. Social software must make a broader impact across the organization outside the traditionally siloed social or digital marketing teams.
When deploying a software solution across an organization, software providers must embed themselves to more deeply understand how organizations operate on a day to day, hour by hour, and even minute by minute process. This includes not only understanding how users behave in the platform but how their managers track business impact and how other departments leverage social insights akin to how they traditionally see value in data. Without walking a day in the shoes of a customer, social software platforms cannot expect to configure and map software and social value across these interdependent teams.
Social maturity across your organization will continue to be a challenge but by providing people who have unique expertise and experience in your world, software providers won’t simply prescribe workflows. Instead, they must able to talk your language, empathize with your process and meet you where you can see the most value. First-hand knowledge also prepares software companies a better opportunity to anticipate and address ever-changing business needs. In doing so, they become more than simply a vendor, but an integral partner in your success as a company. Together, we can collaborate to achieve success across your organization, in the process moving the business impact of social beyond likes, shares, followers and fans in order to solve your most important business challenges.