There are a lot of social tools out there and many of them make claims about their ability to gauge public opinion with precision and accuracy. Like so many other decisions about buying business tools, it really comes down to a simple business question:
What are we getting from your software in exchange for our money?
It's a great question with a simple answer.
Purchasing access to any social intelligence tool should provide you with the ability to efficiently evaluate a brand's creative portfolio, supplement or inform existing research efforts, and capture new business by uncovering key insights or finding pain points that hinder brand engagement.
In our experience, there are simple answers and suggestions to many of the common objections to adopting social tools, but these are a few of the most frequent points of friction:
- "Social tools are expensive."
- "We don't have enough analyst resources available to really use the tool."
- "Can we trust your analysis? Why?"
- "It's difficult to align the tool's metrics with our current KPIs."
- "We're unclear how to translate insights from the tool into effective recommendations for our clients."
1. "Social tools are expensive."
I'll come right out and say it: you're right. Social tools are generally expensive...
...but they're also incredibly worth it.
Face it -- they're part of the cost of doing business or even getting your foot in the door for some conversations -- every industry continues to add more and more social media market research to their standard information gathering process.
Social data informs everything from ad campaigns and researching the best hashtag to political campaigns and election reports.
Don't believe me? Let's test my idea.
Any agency or market researcher that doesn't have access to a social tool is already at a competitive disadvantage. In this world, even a bad social tool is better than no tool at all, a reality that marketers, copywriters, publishers, agency teams and c-suite executives all over the world readily acknowledge and accept.
More commonly, though, businesses prefer to pay for tools that fit their needs best instead of going without a tool at all, which explains why a great many of our sales conversations feature a compare-and-contrast section between our tool and the capabilities of their current tool:
- "How does your tool measure sentiment and describe consumer analysis?"
- "Are there any mechanisms to look at the psychographic profile of query participants?"
- "What kind of reporting or exporting solutions do you have in place?"
Questions like these that are focused around the specific mechanisms of social tools are educational because they tell us that a potential client is more concerned with the accuracy of social data than the value of having it at all, which is a very different conversation.
2. "We don't have enough analysts or other resources available to really use the tool."
This is another common objection, but isn't it counter intuitive? You're paying for access to a research tool--it would be natural not only to make sure you have someone available to use it, but also to ensure that same person is fully trained on every aspect of the tool.
You definitely won't get any productive insights from the tool if nobody's using it, right?
You're also probably contracted to pay for the software access for a certain period of time. Paying for access to the software means you're also generally entitled to support with learning and using the tool, too.
Maintaining communication about your concerns with the tool is great practice; you'll generally be presented with one of two scenarios:
- Chances are they'd prefer to help you find valuable insights using the tool and social data, or offer to help get another member of your team up-to-speed on how to use it for you.
- On the off chance that your vendor's support staff is less than helpful, you'll know your time would be better spent with a different social tool.
Bring your concerns up with support staff as soon as possible. The support gurus I've met are generally positive, helpful people whose primary driving motivation at work is to help support customers in their own success, however they can.
There's an old saying in programming and software -- garbage in, garbage out. If you don't even understand enough about the tool to know where your knowledge gaps are, you need the most support of all.
3. "Can we trust your social data analysis? Why?"
A little skepticism is natural when you're evaluating any social tool. But consider this: it's possible that the old data you were using is actually less reliable than the data you'd get from a new tool.
Challenging the data should provide your salesperson an opportunity to explain how the tool works and, more importantly, give you an opportunity to interact with the tool yourself.
If you want to validate anything 'beyond the numbers,' get into the details underneath your data. Stop talking about buzzwords like sentiment, engagement, or impressions and look at the actual content behind your query.
Ask lots of questions, too--here are a few of my favorites:
- Are there any export functions available that will let us see the raw data?
- Do you have any mechanism to hook your data up directly to our system?
- Can we see any of the content contained in the query results?
Functions like looking at post verbatims are excellent ways to demonstrate not only how a social intelligence tool works in terms of scoring and analysis, but also the types of data they collect.
Suspicious-looking posts should be a red flag, too: something's either not right with your query or the tool itself, but in both cases you should probably try again, and ask for support if things still don't look quite right.
4. "Aligning your tool's metrics with our current KPIs is confusing."
I get the hesitation here: you have clients to whom you're already expected to report, with expectations you've already set for what you'll be able to deliver, and adopting or adjusting to a new tool and its accompanying growing pains is the last thing on your mind.
In a new social intelligence tool, the data you have is not wrong because it's different than what you're used to seeing. It's just different.
Here are a couple reasons we've seen data change between tools:
- Differences in normalization algorithms
- Different source channels where a tool pulls post data
- Differences in how a tool might score a post
- Differences in operating the tool
It's better to ask how your vendor would identify the metrics that align with your KPIs instead of trying to take on that work yourself.
First, salespeople are generally more familiar with their own data than you are. It's easier for someone familiar with a dataset to explain where things are as you need them instead of forcing you to take the time to scramble and locate things for yourself.
Second, there's a transition period when adopting any tool. Maintaining open and clear communications with your vendor's support team will help this process go more smoothly.
5. "We're unclear how to translate insights from the tool into effective recommendations."
One tool does not meet all needs; first, ask about the specific functions you require to do business. The specific functionality you require should be among the first questions you ask when evaluating a new social intelligence tool.
It almost goes without saying that purchasing a tool that doesn't meet your needs is a bad idea. You're doing yourself a disservice, almost guaranteeing you'll have to have this headache all over again. Try these tips first:
- Propose a specific scenario so your vendor can mock up data for you.
- Ask for a demo or trial account to experience the tool for yourself, firsthand.
- Ask about the tool's best features and/or core competencies.
If you're still unclear about how the data translates into effective recommendations for your clients, see if your vendor is willing to do some legwork for you and dig up a couple of insights. Representatives more familiar with the data can show you an example of how they would translate that data into client recommendations you can present with confidence.
Again -- if you're at all hesitant on some functionality or any given feature, ASK!
Your salesperson should be the expert on the tool in question, after all, and they should be able to demonstrate exactly how their tool meets your needs.
You can even ask for a demo or trial account to experience the social tool for yourself and a firsthand, individual validation.
The bottom line is: if you have questions or hesitations, don't be afraid to ask for more.
Software vendors have a vested interest in your success. The best vendors behind social tools do want to sell you something, but not at the expense of having you cancel your contract if it's not a good fit. Remember these suggestions the next time you're evaluating social tools:
- Businesses prefer to pay for tools that fit their needs best instead of going without a social tool at all. Every industry continues to incorporate more social media market research into their standard information gathering processes. Social data informs everything from ad campaigns and hashtag slogan research to political campaigns and election reports.
- Make sure you're communicating the right use case to your salesperson. They don't want you to cancel your contract and you don't want to have to shop for social tools all over again -- make sure you ask your vendor to explain exactly how they can meet your needs.
- Get a trial or demo account in order to test the tool for yourself. Sales demos are often rehearsed presentations that show off the strongest pieces of the tool you're seeing. Getting into the tool yourself will help generate more questions you can ask about the tool as you're exploring, as well as offering you the freedom to test your own questions with actual data.
More to the point, these salespeople are the experts on social tools in general; they want to get a better idea for your needs so they can make the case for their tool as tailor-made to your particular use case as possible.
Asking more questions is really just a request for more information, signaling that you're not quite ready to buy.
Your salesperson will likely love talking to you about the software, you'll get some additional information about the tool in question, and you might even get some of your proposal work done for free.