This week I was very lucky to interview Ian Cleary, an expert in social media tools. Ian runs the very popular Razor Social website, which provides independent reviews and advice on social media tools. During our discussion Ian shared his insights into the tools market and his top tips for evaluating and selecting social media tools.
What first strikes you when talking to Ian, other than the soft Irish accent, is his passion and enthusiasm for social media. Ian knows social media tools inside out; he started on the supplier side building Facebook Apps before he turned to reviewing tools.
Ian's background in technology development and quality assurance means he is well placed to review and assess tools. He has built up an appreciative audience, as well as relationships with many of the key influencers in social media. He launched the Razor Social site in August 2012 and it has built a large following in a very short space of time.
Ian is recognized globally as the guru on social media tools and he regularly leaves his native Ireland to speak at conferences across the world. In addition to regular reviews of social media tools, Ian and the Razor Social team also provide consultancy and training services. Ian recently launched a blogging course and over 900 people registered for the first webinar. He is clearly a man in demand.
The Social Media Tools Market
Ian's seen a lot of change in the social media tools market in recent years. Many tools have been launched but not so many have survived. Some have been acquired whereas others have gone out of business, most recently Argyle Social.
Ian commented, "We will continue see more change in the market including more consolidation through mergers, acquisitions and business failures." Ian cautions that even popular free tools may disappear unless they can find a suitable revenue model.
The implications are clear: companies need to choose their tools carefully. No one wants to invest time and money in implementing a tool that subsequently fails.
Ian segments the social media tools market into the following categories:
Social Media Management
Social Media Analytics
Social Business Software
Social Media Marketing including competition apps
Social Influence Marketing
Ian sees some exciting developments taking place particularly in areas such as marketing automation. Marketing automation is growing and in Ian's view they haven't done enough to date to address the social media space but this is changing "the bigger automation players are starting to add more social capability and social automation features."
Despite many hundreds of social media tools Ian sees a number of underexploited areas. For example, there is a lot of potential for employee advocacy in social media and Ian feels not enough companies are exploiting the potential. I found myself nodding in agreement with Ian as many companies are fail to use their own staff as advocates, even simply sharing or liking their content.
Influencer marketing is another area where Ian sees a lot of future potential and where we may see the larger tools add this capability to their toolset.
Top Tips on Selecting Social Media Tools
Ian advises many companies on the social media tool strategy including selection and implementation. Ian's top three tips on selecting a tool are:
- "Start by picking three of the key players within your price range and take the 30 day trial. Ian advises you to use this period to really evaluate the core functionality of each of these three products and test them out."
- Understand the value of the tool. Make sure you include the value of your own time and what you may save. Ian's key advice is "Don't buy on price. It may be worth spending twice as much on a tool because it delivers more value."
- Evaluate the company behind the tool. "What are their financials, have they raised funding, what is their client base, how active are they on social media, etc. In essence do some due diligence on the company."
A Common Mistake To Avoid
One of the most common mistakes people make in Ian's view is not investing enough time in understanding tools and using them effectively. For example, if you are using a tool such as Hootsuite, have you set up your streams correctly? Are you aware of and using the Hootsuite apps?
According to Ian "One of the best investments you can make is to spend some time and money on training to ensure you are getting the most benefit you can from your existing social media tools."
The Tools in Ian's Personal Toolkit
Ian uses the following tools each week to manage his own social media activity:
Hootsuite for the general management of social media activity
Postplanner for the Facebook side of things
SEM rush for evaluating other sites
BuzzSumo for finding most shared content and influencers
Group High for identifying bloggers
Hittail for content suggestions
Tailwind for Pinterest analytics
My key takeaways from the interview with Ian are:
The social media tools market is an exciting space with interesting developments in areas such as marketing automation and influencer marketing. However, it is changing quickly and there will be further mergers, acquisitions and business failures.
You need to select your tools carefully based on value not cost, also check out the company behind the tool.
After selecting your tools ensure you invest time in understanding the tool and in training. Make sure you get the most out of your investment.
If you want to know more about social media tools then Ian is your man. I can strongly recommend the Razor Social site as a great source of independent reviews of social media tools. Also look out for the Razor Social webinar series.