In my role as Digital Content Manager for a New York City medical center, I organized the launch of the hospital's first Facebook Page and was immediately overwhelmed with interest from the center's clinical departments to have their own presences on Facebook. Should we acquiesce to these requests?
A Facebook Page requires a commitment to consistent content updates, engagement, and audience development. In order to avoid the chaos of each department managing a Facebook Page manually, I set out to find a solution that would satisfy the departments, while retaining control of our online brand presence.
Our solution was to license a suite of enterprise software applications that would allow us to create an array of departmental support on Facebook whose engagement with audiences will benefit the main medical center Page. This support would be in the form of a tab-based model.
Here were our criteria:
Budget-friendly: We needed a solution that was in touch with the downturned economic times—my initial budget for social marketing tools was around $3,000 for the year.
User-friendly: As our social media initiatives were just beginning, I needed a solution that editors and marketers without tech acumen could easily understand and leverage.
Development-friendly: Our website developers were already overtaxed and the last thing they needed was to help a bunch of editors install and figure out software.
With these points in mind, I looked at eight software providers to determine which license would be the best fit for our needs:
is a single tool that allows social marketers to monitor and engage with audiences on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. And it integrates seamlessly with Adobe's Digital Marketing Suite.
Adobe Social offers advanced analytics
, A/B testing and segmentation, as well as a People Are Talking About This (PTAT) score, campaign scoring, and the ability to compare and track competition.
The parent Facebook Page benefits from any engagement that tabs built with these applications glean. Functionality also includes danger keyword alerts and a way to expedite messages to the appropriate responder.
All this comes at a price (around $36,000 per year) and did not satisfy my first criterion (budget-friendly). However, for companies with larger budgets—and especially for those running multiple Facebook Pages—Adobe's is an impactful tool.
Additionally, larger companies would benefit from the product's included access to consultants for team training and to craft effective campaigns. As a time saver, Adobe Social would allow social marketers to hit the ground running.
Salesforce's Buddy Media
offers ProfileBuddy, a suite of more than 50 publishing tools they call "sapplets" ("social applications") that can be used to update your website with content and integrate with social media accounts on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Foursquare, and Amazon. With what Buddy Media claims is an "easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface," users can leverage social sweeps, contests, videos, photo galleries, and mobile.
For around $3,000 per month for a 12-month contract ($36,000 per year), licensees have access to support and campaign advice, as well as analytics that identify how your marketing efforts compare to those of your competition.
In addition to a high-end price, developer resources are needed to install the "sapplets" using cascading style sheets (CSS), after which editorial could easily manipulate the drag-and-drop apps. According to Buddy Media's website, installation using CSS allows for a customized brand experience across social media platforms.
ProfileBuddy, which includes location and language targeting, counts as its customers global brands Carnival Cruise Lines
and Virgin Mobile.
At 12 times my annual budget for this type of software, ProfileBuddy did not meet my first criteria (budget-friendly). In addition, I had not counted on needing internal developer resources, so my third criteria (development-friendly) was not met.
's Professional Subscription has no special requirements for installation, but, according to a representative, would still take about two weeks from the date of the licensing agreement to have the software "up and running".
At $18,000 for a 12-month license, up to three users can leverage more than 90 templates built according to the principles of responsive design in order to produce unlimited tabs for a Facebook Page, have access to tech support and an online knowledge base, and targeting.
Unfortunately, $18,000 was still outside of my budget for this project, so Wildfire did not satisfy criterion one (budget-friendly), although the price is low compared to rivals Adobe and Buddy Media.
I realized that it was not so much the price that made me nervous, but the year-long comittment these companies required. What if my editorial team struggled with the software? There would be no opportunity to switch tools.
I also balked at having to wait two weeks to start using the software. We needed to beef up our social marketing efforts yesterday.
Involver's suite of publishing applications
is a turnkey solution for publishers ready to dip their toes into the social marketing space, but are not ready for a significant commitment. Tabs can be built using Involver's array of apps, inlcuding Static HTML
(to start from scratch), Photo Gallery (to showcase images), and Social Catalog (creating user engagement through story sharing).
Involver's product was flexible and affordable at $99 per month
for a 12-month comittment, and included monitoring tools and the ability to publish on Facebook, Google+, and Wordpress. However, this basic solution came with limited support. Regardless, Involver's combination of robust tools at a low entry price were exactly what I was seeking.
As I was evaluating my options (and leaning toward Involver) my contact at Involver let me know that Oracle had purchased the company, and that changes were in the works. Several weeks later, Oracle introduced me to their Vitrue
software, with impressive functionality that allows users to, in addition to creating tabs on a Facebook Page, create apps and widgets as Wall posts. After all, how many people really click on those tabs, anyway?
Vitrue's technology is platform agnostic and allows users to build games, and pre-schedule posts to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Also baked into the software is a calendar manager, media library (to repurpose images), and real-time analytics that includes information about the best day and time to post,
top fans, demographics, impressions, reach, and module performance.
Hoping to create contests with multiple categories, I learned that Vitrue would allow me to create subtabs within tabs that could work for my purposes.
I salivated when I saw the demo for Vitrue, and am impatient to find out their pricing model. Licenses will probably start at around $1,200 to $4,000 per month, but will not be solidified until sometime in September 2012 as Oracle repositions its acquisitions to complement Vitrue.
As I evaluated more and more enterprise social marketing solutions, I became anxious to try out some free or nominally-priced options in order to fully grasp how the technology worked and how we could leverage it to grow and engage with our audiences.
I played with FanRX
, but was disappointed in the way the resulting tabs were designed. More importantly, I reached out to tech support with a question several times and never received a response.
Criterion two was not satisfied (user-friendly).
's Designer is another free tool to create up to 12 tabs on one Facebook Page, with a 2,000 Fan cap per Page. For as little a $15 per month, Shortstack's ads will be blocked from user' Pages.
The Product Widget
allows users to create slick buyer's guides, and the potential tabs a user can create have a lot of capabilities, but the software is not always easy to use.
My second criterion (user-friendly) was not satisfied. I was learning that you pay for what you get when it comes to social marketing software.
Then I spoke to GroSocial
and was quickly proven wrong in the assumption that inexpensive tools are difficult to use. For $20 per month ($50 to remove GroSocial's ads from your Facebook Page), GroSocial allows users to create tabs for their Facebook Page, a Facebook timeline cover, as well as a Twitter profile background. Users with Photoshop and Illustrator will be able to take full advantage of GroSocial's capabilities by creating images in the Adobe creative suite, and then organizing them with GroSocial's widgets.
GroSocial also offeres month-to-month licenses, so experimenting with the software does not come with a 12-month comittment. A I wait to find out how much Vitrue will cost, GroSocial is a no-strings-attached option for building robust Facebook tabs and other design elements.
4 Lessons Learned
Be transparent with the vendor about your budget. Licenses for these products are all over the place. You will need to set up time-consuming demos with vendors, and vetting products beyond your budget will be a time waster.
Identify your goals for using these social marketing products. Are you more interested in running contests, highlighting photography, or campaign measurement? Do you manage one Facebook Page or 10? Deciding on key goals will help narrow your search for a product that fits your needs.
Be prepared to have your legal department sign NDAs before scheduling some product demos, which can slow down your search. New, innovative software means vendors are keeping their goodies close to the vest.
If you find the perfect software for your needs and budget, jump on a license. Tech acquisitions like Oracle buying Involver can impact both functionality and licensing fees.