Social Tools – as a part of the ever-growing Martech landscape (short for marketing technology) – are growing all the time. Numerous different practices and technologies are used everyday by companies big and small to help them stay fully leveraged and maximize their ROI. And these practises are changing and improving all the time, along with new tools being made to cater to specific needs. It’s an exciting and innovative landscape that offers an excellent way to help businesses grow. As such, it’s clear that any business working with or using social media needs to keep up to date with these social tools.

I’m writing this post just a couple of hours after an intense day at Social Tools Summit Boston 2016. Unfortunately no, I’m not in Boston. Despite my earlier plans, and due to intense work preparing for the launch of the improved version of Sotrender (coming soon), I couldn’t make it. But since it’s the era of online video, I had a chance to participate in the conference thanks to livestreaming. Of course, it’s not the same experience as being in the conference room and networking during the breaks – but it was still a good decision. And now I want to share my insights on what I’ve seen and heard with those who might not have had the opportunity to be there.

And first of all I’d like to thank Brian Mahoney and Neal Schaffer, not only for their concept and possibility to watch it via livestreaming, but also for their quick reactions in social media. The conference was also widely discussed on Twitter and the organizers proved to be very social. There was a part in agenda – product speedcase (a sort of quick expo of tools) – which was not livestreamed. I regretted it, as I really wanted to see other social tools – so I tweeted to Neal about it and see what happened:

Neal was very helpful and, as he promised, he made a live tour with Facebook Mentions. That’s the real social media spirit!

View from the #socialtools16 center podium. Thank you all for attending and contributing to the convo! #socialmedia #socialmediamarketing A photo posted by Neal Schaffer (ニール • シェーファー) (@nealschaffer) on

The Corporate Social Tools Summit


Social Tools Summit is co-founded by Brian Mahoney and Neal Schaffer. This is the third iteration of the summit, which is held every 6 months; in Silicon Valley in autumn and Boston in the spring. The conference was quite big, with almost 200 people in the audience, and about 75 watching it live via livestreaming. The agenda consisted mostly of well-organized panel discussions, with some other activities. It had a very clear focus on social media marketers from big companies and tools providers and the organizers were pretty clear about it.

The selection of topics was heavily oriented towards the corporate world, which is very different than the world of startups and SMBs. Many of the topics covered were most suitable for big companies and often relied on the suitable corporate language to describe them. For example, a phrase “creating a programme” for your future actions was repeated several times and was for me the most typical of this conference. There was also mention of putting together a “measurement plan with executive sponsorship”, stressing the importance of having a plan before starting. Instead of creating a programme or putting together such a plan, startups and SMB’s pretty often just do (which might end in failure, unfortunately). Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this corporate approach. Big companies have their ways of doing things, and are quite efficient at it. It’s simply a different approach. I just wanted to stress it, as while the Social Tools Summit is a perfect choice for those targeting corporates, it might not be the best choice for vendors and agencies focused on SMB market.

What I will remember from Social Tools Summit


The conference was, unsurprisingly, focused on various social tools. They were consistently covered and discussed thoroughly, and not just SaaS tools. Platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn were also mentioned. As a context to tools, there was a good selection of topics – apparently repeating every year:

  • Employee advocacy
  • Content marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Social sales
  • Social media analytics and listening

There was also the very timely issue of visual marketing platforms and tools covered.

And finally – of course – a panel on social media ROI at the end, opening with the evergreen question: “How do we know that social brings any business results?” which was posed by Mark Traphagen.
If you’re a social media marketer you should give it a look on the agenda, as the topics suggest which areas you should consider when working with social media.

Many interesting things were said during the panels, as you can see in the Twitter feed. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Social selling – It’s really important and brings value, and it can even be a lot of fun, but often it’s treated / perceived in a superficial way. So remember that follows and likes aren’t leads yet, and automatically sent default messages on Twitter and LinkedIn – such as “Thanks for following” – are the fastest way to end a relationship before it has even started. Yet, social sales and integrating them into your business requires a separate conference.
  • Content marketing – The importance of testing different models and tactics, even considering shorter/longer forms or timing. For some companies, Friday evening newsletters perform best, which is in contradiction to what you might read in many E-marketing 101s.
  • The evolution of KPIs in social marketing – there is a clear shift towards business goals instead of vanity metrics like shares or retweets:
  • Social Media ROI – Even big brands struggle with computing it, but it exists and it’s measurable. For this reason, one should use the correlation of social media metrics concerning reach and engagement with actual business metrics (saving your money). On the other hand, still many companies perceive social media as a place where you need to be. As one of the panelists answered, when asked about the ROI of social media: “What’s the ROI of all the e-mails people are sending?”
  • From Innovation to Scaling – This energetic keynote was given by Christopher Penn regarding the process of going from innovation to scaling. His LEAD framework consists of 4 steps: Learn, Experiment, Adjust, Distribute. In fact, lean marketing principles were mentioned a couple of times. It’s important to remember that at the beginning, innovation is not scalable. Sometimes you start with very rough and time consuming activities that need to be tested and mastered (read this classic post by Paul Graham). It’s only later that you try to translate your experience into scaling. This reminded me about one of my favourite startup takeaways from Groove blog – an approach we adopted with Sotrender, while we were working on and testing Sombrero.
  • I personally liked the battle stories of panelists on working with influencers, including tactics to get in touch (like retweeting somebody for 6 months before approaching them personally) or the anecdote on a mum of a 17-year-old influencer who wanted to cut him off from the internet in the middle of a campaign due to school problems.

Social media analytics tools in 2016


Obviously, that was the part of the conference I was anticipating most. The importance of analytics was underlined several times, even during the panels on Content Marketing or Influencers. Many times the classic 3-phase approach to social media measurement was mentioned: reach/impressions, engagement, and conversion/pipeline metrics. I enjoyed it, as this is also the approach we adopted at Sotrender.
The panel discussion “Social Listening and Analytics– All About Data and What You Can Do with It” was a really interesting exchange of opinions and practices from people with different backgrounds and varying experiences. One the most interesting things we heard were about visual social media listening. This seems to be a big challenge – there are more and more pictures being posted on channels like Instagram or Twitter, and most of them do not reference their brand in words. Because of this, you need image recognition to detect brand related content. And, as we have been hearing for many years, we heard that automatic sentiment analysis, even for English, is still not good enough. As for social media monitoring, It was shown how it evolves from everyday mention detection – which is still useful – to a more strategic approach. This approach involves understanding what customers are saying and thinking, not only regarding your brand, but the entire category. In my opinion, this might be difficult, as most social media monitoring tools are still based on keywords, and the mentions identified might be difficult to aggregate on a vertical level without deeper semantic processing.


Live streaming #socialtools16 on #youtube , #facebook , and #periscope simultaneously. Zdjęcie zamieszczone przez użytkownika Neal Schaffer (ニール • シェーファー) (@nealschaffer)


Many social tools are in use. Some participants even admitted to using several tools for their social media marketing. When asked for preferred choices during the conference, every panelist mentioned something different. This abundance isn’t necessarily positive. As it was said, trying 10-15 social marketing tools at a time is a recipe for failure. One should rather start with 2-3 at the beginning.

Of course, we heard a few people mention the typical idealized dream of social media marketers: one tool to integrate all tools. To me this seems quite unreachable, as social platforms and social marketing are still moving forward, which results constant changing needs. Usually startups are fastest to react and innovate, while big, sophisticated tools may lag behind initially. Then the best of the new tools are bought and integrated into bigger platforms. But in the meantime, the need for another innovation arises.

On the other hand, many shortcomings of existing social tools were mentioned. The most popular choice and most beloved tool for social media marketing was – surprise! – Excel. Many processes, such as identifying influencers, are still done manually and by merging data from different sources in Excel. Basically, savvy marketers from the biggest companies are connected to numerous social tools, gathering up hundreds of data points, and then integrating them in a giant spreadsheet. And then finalizing the process with a big Power Point presentation, with the sheet in the back and screenshots of posts and mentions included. Now, in the era of hundreds of social tools for marketing, analytics, listening and management, doesn’t it sound a bit like XX century?

On that note, I’ll conclude with this – watch out for the new Sotrender coming soon! The Social Tools Summit Boston 2016 was an informative one that I greatly enjoyed. And now – time for another great event. I’m heading to Social Media Marketing World in San Diego in a couple of days. Hope to see some of you there!


Jan Zając

CEO of Sotrender

Psychologist & economist, experienced consultant & researcher, who speaks 6 languages and has cycled around 17 countries.