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Goodbye Social Media Management Platforms, Hello Customer Experience Suites

Omar Akhtar
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If all you’re doing with your social media management software is listening and promoting content on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, consider its days numbered.

The top vendors for social media management tools are developing features that go well beyond listening and publishing, and may even shed the “social media management” label altogether.

As both consumers and brands get more savvy about social media and its capabilities, the focus is now moving away from listening and publishing at scale to providing real-time, personalized engagement through content, and not just the promotional kind. Social media is no longer just the playground of the communications or marketing department. It’s a way for every part of the brand to have a two-way channel of communication with the customer. Sales, service, marketing, PR, HR and even product teams have a stake in social.

As a result, the makers of social media management software are responding by expanding the capabilities of their platforms to serve multi-functional teams within the organization. If you pay close attention, you’ll realize they’ve stopped referring to themselves as social media management platforms, preferring instead to be seen as tools to centrally manage all content, and ultimately, the digital customer experience.

Sprinklr set the ball rolling earlier last year when it announced the launch of its Experience Cloud, a suite of products built on top of its flagship publishing and listening tools that included a CMS for web content creation, a planning calendar, and even an integrated email solution. Sprinklr’s intentions are clear, it doesn’t want to sell to the head of social anymore, it wants to sell directly to the C-Suite, positioning itself as a platform that manages the entire customer experience through strategic content delivery.

Following Sprinklr, Lithium Technologies just launched a brand new content management platform Lithium Reach, whose features include a content calendar, digital asset management, and a content curation and recommendation tool powered by Klout’s predictive algorithms. By offering Reach, along with its well-regarded social media listening and community engagement platforms, Lithium is now selling an integrated suite for managing the customer experience at the pre-purchase and post-purchase stages of customer engagement. That’s a compelling offer for companies who have multiple teams within the organization using social, giving them a single, standard platform to operate from.

There are a few reasons social media platforms are evolving this way. For starters, if you're not spending money on ads, marketing on social has become pretty difficult. Organic reach is limited, and so is access to customer data. In order to stay relevant, management platforms can either offer integrations with social advertising platforms, (ala Hootsuite) or they can do more than just listening and publishing, and offer useful features for content creation, curation and governance. But the really ambitious vendors know that social isn't just for teams under the CMO, and are adding features to serve other customer-facing parts of the organization.

Sprinklr and Lithium’s new offerings are only the tip of the iceberg. While we’re not at liberty to disclose particular names, we’re expecting several top social media management platforms to reinvent, or reposition themselves as total content management/customer experience tools. What this means is that content marketing specialists like Percolate, Kapost, Contently and Compendium are going to suddenly find themselves challenged by the Sprinklrs and Lithiums of the world. Whereas before, both those groups could comfortable occupy their own fiefdoms within an organization’s digital engagement budget.

For brands, this is a welcome development. On paper, it means greater coordination between different teams, efficiency and cost savings. Imagine being able to centrally manage content creation, governance and distribution through one platform, which could also serve all manner of social media engagement, whether it’s marketing or customer support. It’s an attractive proposition, but deploying technology with this vision is usually the last piece of a very complicated puzzle, which begins with creating a unified content strategy to serve the needs of the customer and give multiple stakeholders within the company a common blueprint.

For vendors like Sprinklr and Lithium, the one thing they must be wary of is going the way of the enterprise marketing clouds, Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle. Each one of those companies made the claim that their integrated suite of solutions for web, social, email and analytics would offer users greater value than if they were to buy point solutions for each of those functions. While the marketing clouds have made great progress in integrating their platforms, point solutions have often won out based on their greater functionality, focus and willingness to integrate with existing tech stacks. Sprinklr and Lithium, who started in the industry by creating top-notch point solutions run the same risk of offering multi-solution suites that do a few things very well, but might be sub-standard in other functions, making it harder to justify the purchase of the entire stack.