The Paradox of Social Media Tools
The Paradox Of Social Media Tools
The Paradox Of Social Media Tools

For the better part of the last five years, companies, agencies, consultants and managers have been sifting through all sorts of different platforms, softwares and programs, looking for that one social media tool that will solve their company’s or client’s problem. I have personally wasted about 57 aggregate days of my life sitting through hour-long demos on everything from Twitter clients to social media monitoring platforms and CRM solutions to WordPress plugins.

For the record, and for all you sales and marketing tools out there … er, um … people who sell and market tools, let me give you a few suggestions for your demos. First, keep it to 15-20 minutes. We’re busy. Second, get rid of the company background slides. I don’t care who founded or funded you. I care about the thing your stuff does that I can’t do better without it. Third, show me a real use case using a real client that outlines their problem and shows how your tool solved it. If I can’t connect your tool to a real solution, I won’t remember it.

But then there’s the age-old paradox of tools. They really become useful when someone figures out a different reason to use them.

Standing Ground Hog
Image by tcd123usa via Flickr

It’s like my Cousin Johnny’s method of getting rid of a ground hog. To rid his backyard, garden or farm of a pesky ground hog, he uses three tools: a shovel, a five-gallon bucket and a six-pack of beer. Think about those tools for a moment and make assumptions on how he would use them.

To get rid of a ground hog, Cousin Johnny places the bucket, upside down, beside the ground hog’s hole. He drinks the six-pack of beer. By the time he’s finished, the ground hog pop his head up. He whacks the varmint on the head with the shovel.

Social media tools, too, can have a paradoxical nature. Social media purists have claimed for years that you blog to engage your audiences. Compendium Blogware (a client) has proven time and again that you can also use a blog to win search results and drive leads to your business, even without any measurable level of engagement. Those same purists claim Twitter is a conversational platform and one-way blasting of messages doesn’t work. Still, many mainstream Twitter users enjoy the fact they can follow feeds of companies or media outlets to just get the news of the day. (See @cnnbrk, @NBA, @MarthaStewart or @GStephanopoulos, all top 100 Twitter accounts, or even a feed like @BayerUSNews, which keeps media and pharma industry folk updated on the corporation’s goings on.)

More importantly for brand managers and companies buying tools, there’s the paradox of expectation. You expect a social media monitoring tool to monitor the Internet and take that burden off your shoulders. But the tool monitors nothing. It only presents information in an organized fashion so that you may monitor it more efficiently.

You expect a market research firm to tell you how to run your brand or make marketing decisions for you. But it only presents information about your audience, brand, market or competitors that enable you to make smarter decisions. An enterprise management system like Valuevine will not manage the Facebook and Twitter presence for the 150 separate locations for you. It will give you a mechanism to manage them, however.

The tools, in and of themselves, are not important. What you do with them is.

So the next time you’re suffering through a product demo, listen through the sales pitch and propaganda and ask yourself, “How can I use this tool? Who will manage its use on my team? Can I afford it in both fiscal and human resources?”

Those answers will help you pick the right tools for your social media marketing efforts.

NOTE: No actual ground hog was harmed in the writing of this blog post. While you’re welcome to complain about the violence Cousin Johnny uses to get rid of ground hogs, he hunts deer, too, so your concerns will probably fall on deaf ears. Sorry if his methods offend you. For good measure, here’s an article that explains more humane ways of ridding your property of a groundhog.

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at
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  • lol the cousin part was funny :P

    You're right Jason, its quite difficult for us (the small companies) to choose the right tool needed for the monitoring of our Social Media campaign, and in the end with all that hard-work and dedication it took for us to research on that tool, it all was a PARADOX :)

    Great read Jason! Thanks for sharing! :)

  • Pingback: What Is More Important? Social Media Tools or Being Social?? | Social Media Dudes()

  • Socialmeds

    While abreviated, sage advise on the expectations of these monitoring tools. Regarding groundhog eradication, do you have any suggestions for the pesky ground squirrel? I have them borrowing like tunnelmaniacs in my flower and shrub beds. The poison peanut nuggets didn't work, and my neighbor is shreaking at the use of smoke bomb sticks recommended by the hardward store guy, Doug, that resemble small sticks of TNT….

    • Sorry, dude. I'm not the right guy to ask about varmints. I'm sure my
      cousin Johnny would just shoot 'em. More humane extrication is
      probably available with a good Google search. Good luck.

  • Suckit

    What a terrible article.

    • You'll have to do better than that. Why?

  • Marissa Krupa

    Gee, I was hoping for a more dazzling usage of the beer, bucket & shovel for the groundhog. Like putting the beer in the bucket next to the hole, then the groundhog would drink it, get tipsy, fall in and… hadn't quite put the shovel part in there. Maybe _then_ whack the groundhog with the shovel?

    Excellent points & I concur. One thing I'd add is, what is actually being monitored? Tools shmools, if there is no content.

    Sadly, if the people you mention question a tool's usage or how to interpret the data it produces, then likely they haven't fully articulated their value proposition to the marketplace. A well-executed campaign with clear high-level branding as well as tactical value to the audience will naturally unveil what to track, how, and relevancy of data. A well-executed campaign will have assets that lead back to ROI & other milestone metrics with which to determine campaign success.

    How does your cousin measure groundhog removal success? 2 groundhogs per day? A clean yard within 1 month? Defining success and how to measure it must be baked into every marketing plan. Then tools like you mentioned can enable capturing those measurements with less hassle.

  • It's so funny because it reminds me of organizations that run weekly or daily reports that no one looks at. I looked at a number of the Social Media monitoring applications and while I've decided on the one that I will eventually use I get the distinct feeling that many organizations spend a ton of money to get these tools because it makes them feel good inside, not because they're actually going to put the work in and use the tool.

    The part where you paraphrase Social Media purists reminds me of Chris Brogan's “You're Doing it Wrong” post. As if something that's existed for 6 years is really all that full of rules.

    Great post Jason.

  • Great article…very true indeed. Check out – Actionly, Social Media Monitoring platform. On Actionly you can monitor your keywords on various social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Flickr, Youtube, News and Google Buzz. We even have a Free account.

    Sam (

  • Really great article and a nice read. It is all about what you do with the tools that will determine the success of your strategy and likeliness that your brand will stick. Keep em coming.

    Who do you think uses their social media tools effectively to engage their clients? Who actually uses the information to make decisions for their business instead of asking someone else to enable them?

    Tell Cousin Johnny I said hello. LOL.

  • Great article. It is all about having a sound stratey with a combination of media that works for your business – and sending the message that interests consumers. Then good execution and follow-up are key.


  • I wish all the companies trying to sell me these tools would read this post first. Meanwhile, I still believe the best social media tool that money can't buy is an army of friends.

  • Gina Gotthilf

    Love it Jason, will def. pass it on!

  • This is a great article Jason.
    Working for a social media monitoring company I get asked questions like the above ones a lot. People use our software to pull in all kinds of data and then ask me “so what do I do with it now?” Then I almost feel bad when I have to respond to them with: “Well, what were you looking for? What were you trying to report on?”
    I fully believe that our software is top of the game, but people need to know what they want to do with it before they start using it. Social media monitoring software will get you a ton of information, but the real magic is in the synthesis that the user uses to change all that data into a real report. We can get you all the numbers and data from across the interweb, but if you don't know what you want to do/show with those numbers they're kind of meaningless.
    While software can help you do many wonderful things you probably couldn't do on your own, people have to remember that they're just programs and can only do so much. It's how the user works with and interacts with the tools that really make them work.


    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • To each their own, I suppose. I like to keep my mind open to other
    perspectives, even if I don't agree with them. But you're welcome to
    discard on your own criteria. Thanks for reading.

  • To each their own, I suppose. I like to keep my mind open to other
    perspectives, even if I don't agree with them. But you're welcome to
    discard on your own criteria. Thanks for reading.

  • Irrespective of the disclaimer at the bottom of the post I can not take your article seriously now. It's ethics over content for me.

    • To each their own, I suppose. I like to keep my mind open to other
      perspectives, even if I don't agree with them. But you're welcome to
      discard on your own criteria. Thanks for reading.

      • She can't be serious, right? It's just an analogy.

        Great article. I liken it to those who question why I'm involved in social media at all, claiming that Twitter is a place to tell people what you ate for breakfast and YouTube is for videos of people dancing badly. They're correct when they say that – but that's just one way to use the tools.

        The medium is NOT the message. The medium is just the medium. Your message is the message. You can use Twitter for spam or you can use it to change a young boy's life (like Scott Stratten did – ). You can use Facebook to write movie quotes on your friend's wall (I do that often) or to gather a community of like-minded fans around your brand.

        It seems like whenever a social media tool (or any technology tool for that matter) is created, the most interesting uses are never the ones they were intended for. There will never be the catch-all solution that companies use to solve their social media problems. Any tool that claims to do so is lying. It's all about how YOU use the tools to better your brand.

        Jon Thomas

  • michmski

    What an analogy :D
    Social media adoption and usage varies by country, though, of course. Businesses in Europe, for example, seem more accepting of social media monitoring solutions that prepare reports and analyses for them, while the US seems to lean more often towards do-it-yourself solutions (at least in the blogosphere). Either way you're absolutely right that there is legwork to be done all throughout the project i.e. before, during, and after.
    I'm passing this on ;)

    Michelle @Synthesio

  • A valuable post, Jason. We often forget to ask ourselves where we'll find the time to look after the stuff our tools are monitoring for us! This is great. Thanks.

  • jchutchins

    Loved the post, Jason — lots of verve and killer info, as usual. Hate the fact that you anticipated getting troll grief re: Cousin Johnny's pest control methods and had to include a disclaimer. :)

    • Been doing this long enough to know someone will get their panties in a wad. Sad, but true. Thanks for the props, my man.


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