It's a great question – and something we obsess about.
While no one knows exactly how many 3rd party social marketing platforms are actively maintained in 2018 to manage community content across dominant networks (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest) – and certainly no reliable benchmarks of such platforms that focus specifically on influencing buyer journeys for e-commerce – a conservative estimate would put this number somewhere north of 2,500+. It's a noisy field and a mess to navigate for marketers searching for programs that can help them report effective gains over a 3-6 month timeframe.
So where do you start?
Understanding The Shopify Effect
Shopify changed the nature of e-commerce. Many 1-3 person ("micro") teams that had never run any business before let alone do any technical procurement of any kind were able to build significant revenue traction. The marketing landscape had to adjust to accommodate this new style of e-commerce. When this group turns to the app store in search of growth, they have very simple criteria: how much does it cost (relative to their shopify fees) and how simple is it to explain. Branding is everything for this cohort and a large % of the group lacks in-house tech expertise that much be interested in a more advanced use-cases and automation. Not surprisingly, this has lead to the growth of several "shoppable instagram" plugins that have north of 5K installs and, on the surface at least, appear to check many of the same boxes. Apps like Snapppt, Showcase, Covet.pics, SocialShopWave, and Foursixty all deliver simple and popular solutions for this group with very comparable capabilities priced anywhere from free to $10/mo and even $100/mo.
Social Listening vs. Scraping
As a marketer, our goal is to always strive for systems that work on their own and don't require heavy lifting behind the scenes to produce marginal gains day in and day out.
It can be really easy to impress on product landing page and even in a brief demo, but to understand the difference between social listening vs scraping, you have to ask some tougher questions:
- Does it actively backdate content, meaning pull everything posted or does it just sample recent posts?
- Who brings in new content? Is this triggered through a UI action (i.e. manual supervision) or is there an actual background process in place harvesting from social actively to not miss anything?
- Does the platform publish on its own or does it require an employee/contractor to approve/publish?
- Are social engagement signals like comments and likes brought in regularly so they can be used as filters or are these metrics sampled only during the initial import?
- Are users avatars updated regularly to reflect their changes on social (i.e. is their personal brand respected with proper attribution)?
- Are rights exchanged processed automatically or does someone have to sign in to trigger an update?
- Are images that are deleted on social automatically removed from your collection or do they appear on published displays as a broken image?
With close scrutiny around the above line of questions, it should be obvious who's scraping vs actually listening.
Many of these platform developers will argue that they don't need these features because their customers have never asked for them... and that's a legitimate perspective but it does take the "social" out of "social displays" that are intended primarily to celebrate and reward community rather than using Instagram and other channels as generic image repositories. A quick look at how fresh and accurate the shoppable overlays are can reveal a lot about the technical sophistication of the platform serving it..
So Why Candid?
Given this huge range of options, and given that content-management for social media is really still in its infancy, we wanted to take a minute here and describe in low-level detail what believe constitutes an "enterprise-grade" content engagement system for UGC.
So what separates "Indie" social plugins from the robust automation and workflows that deliver business results without requiring ongoing babysitting?
A content management system is much more than the published social displays consumers see, it's about workflow automation, flexibility and streamlining the daily experience of managing and publishing community content; a system that works for SMB brands is not necessarily one that works effectively for some of the most spammed hashtags on the planet.
What sets Candid apart is:
- Leadership (established in 2012, we have a 3-4 year lead on clones entering the visual commerce space in 2015/2016 both in functionality and data)
- Actual Social Listening vs Scraping
- Minimizing Management Overhead (all of our effort is focused around reducing management and manual tasks: if a new product is added, removed or sold-out on your store, that change should be reflected on Candid even if everyone's on vacation)
- Location-based Technology for Hotels & Other DMOs
- Machine Vision for Auto Classification
- Content Mapping Rules ("auto pilot" rules that determine which media is approved, what it maps to and where it's published)
- Advanced Content Filters
- Infinite Views (create filtered and personalized social displays throughout your property, all with their own custom orderings and layouts, but manage status/consent centrally)
- Team-based Management (involve multiple people in the moderation and mapping process with roles/permissions and audit trails)
- Flexible Rendering Engine (dozens of themes/skins to choose from and the framework to build custom experiences in minutes)
- Internal Notes (enable internal team-based discussion in the approval workflow)
- Multi-stage Approvals (loop in various stakeholders to move media through various stages of approvals, not just Pending/Approved)
- Drill-down Capabilities (zoom into media collections across dozens of dimensions, including keywords, locations, users, hashtag combinations, likes, comments, etc)
- Rights Management (secure full rights to copy/reuse media in ads or across other campaigns)
- Direct Messaging (easily identity, track and keep in touch w/ top contributors)
- Dynamic Image Handlers (for UGC in email and other applications where you need a dynamic image that refreshes on its own)
- Auto Responders to Improve Participation
- CRM Integration (for B2B marketing or high-priced luxury products)
- Predictive Alerts (what content are you most likely to approve based on previous actions)
- REST API for Personalization (serve different displays to different audiences, integrate with native iOS/Android apps)
We spend a great time of time obsessing about process improvements behind the scenes to better support marketing teams in their work to build and maintain stunning community displays. If you have any suggestions, don't hesitate to let us know. You'll be surprised at how quickly feedback finds its way into the product.
DAMS vs. CMS
You may often see the terms DAMS (Digital Asset Management System) and CMS used interchangeably which leads to some confusion about what each one is and how they are used. Content Management Systems were initially created to improve productivity and personalization around web publishing, their core focus is the presentation and publication of information in the most effective manner. DAMS, on the other hand, deal primarily with digital assets and the rights surrounding their use. Increasingly basic levels of DAM functionality are being incorporated into Content Management Systems and Candid is a great example of this. Within our CMS, we provide the infrastructure for preserving and managing digital assets, with search facilities to help marketers identify and retrieve the ones that are most relevant to their needs.