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I spent Saturday afternoon hacking together a ruby script that pulled my Twitter follower list and matched it to LinkedIn accounts. I wanted to answer a basic question. Who is my audience? Where do they live? What do they do? What content do they resonate with?

I need a social media tool that is more than a unified inbox. I need a tool that tells me each week who my new followers are, who they influence, what they care about, how active they are, where they participate online and ultimately which ones I should contact. This problem is common to everyone with any type of public social media presence – anyone who markets themselves or their business.

We are in the first phase of social media management, shoehorning old tools to work with new media. HootSuite, ZenDesk, Desk.com and others have applied the inbox metaphor to Twitter and Facebook. In other words, these are second-hand, retrofitted systems handling novel data types: six-horse buggies, not Model Ts.

Like the walled gardens of 2000 (Aol, Yahoo, Geocities), Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, WordPress, and Tumblr have segregated users and data. Today, we have to hack our way through API fences to work across these gardens. We can’t combine user data from social networks about our readers, our community, our customers, disregarding the reality that conversations and transactions occur in many places across the web. Each network is a blind man feeling a different part of the elephant.

I’m not sure who will build the tools that grant users the power to truly leverage the greater social network. I expect this company will have many analogous characteristics to Google. This company will build a seemingly commodity product in an “uninteresting” space. But ultimately, it wont be one of the gardens. It will reach across them and be much, much bigger.

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8 thoughts on “The First Phase of Social Media Management

  1. I think you are right- and importantly so. These complex walled-up hegemonies won’t last. Someone will bust down the walls. Someone with a “beginner’s mind” who doesn’t understand what can’t be done.

    Thanks for a fascinating post.

  2. With Salesforce.com and Oracle buying Buddy Media and Vitrue, will be interesting to see if one of them adapts their newly purchased business-focused social management tool to create a social tool for individuals like you describe above. Since both already have products targeted to this user category, they seem to be likely candidates to take a crack at it.

    • I hope that’s the case but I think it’s hard for any company to reinvent their technology stack once in market. I suspect salesforce and oracle will stabilize the products and treat them as cash cows, motivating the sales teams to deploy these tools to as many existing customers as possible to increase margin.

      To really solve this problem, I think you would have to start from scratch.

  3. Tom – I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been developing a whole strategy around this concept for the last 4 years and have recently started implementation of it based on a Unified Inbox (www.unifiedinbox.com) but with the final aims of reaching much further. I’d love to have a chat with you: ceo@unifiedinbox.com

    • Thanks, Toby. But my point is that the unified inbox isn’t enough. I’m looking for aggregated information about audiences, instead of just one place to reply to communication.

  4. Please build this in your spare time- it’ll be awesome, so awesome I would pay for it. Just wading into social media for my startup, you articulated what has been nagging at me- who is (will be) the audience, how many duplicates will there be? Should I target posts to one outlet to reac A group, or are A, B & Q groups all seeing everything, so I am annoyingly redundant when I slap my message on every outlet?

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