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?”

How to Choose the Right Social Media Management System to Scale your Social Media Marketing

We’re all familiar with HootSuite, TweetDeck, and other tools that are consumer or SMB-focused and 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 a lot of sense for you.

At SCALE, however, the picture is quite different. What works very well on a small basis will often times fail miserably when numbers grow by an order of magnitude.

How Scale Changes Priorities and Requirements

Before we jump into Social, perhaps an example will help illustrate the point.

Let’s say you have 3 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 totally 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?
  • Pallets?
  • Boxes?
  • Forklifts?
  • 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 completely 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 Three 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, 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 multi-column 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:

  1. A Natural Language Processor to quickly score messages for sentiment and intent, highlighting the most excited and most angry messages immediately.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 100′s or 1000′s of users (aka Users@Scale), again, the requirements change. You would need:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. A federated governance structure so you no longer share passwords by Excel or email and when a user leaves the organization, her access is turned off globally to all social accounts.

There’s a lot more behind this. In fact, Forrester Research put out an entire 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 sub-optimal.


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. We performed an audit for a Fortune 50 client and found over 10,000 accounts. That is an Accounts@Scale challenge and, an entirely different set of feature requirements.

For example:

  1. Reporting by account type would tell you if you are performing better on one network vs. another across the entire organization.
  2. Multi-channel support would make it possible to integrate new channels rapidly as they come online.
  3. 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 helpful: 6 Must Haves for Every Enterprise Social RFP.

Either way, I hope you’ll add a comment below to share your thoughts.