Home > People > Taxonomy Wanted: A New Way To Categorize Social Media Tools

Taxonomy Wanted: A New Way To Categorize Social Media Tools

This was originally posted on oneforty.com, and it generated some great feedback. Have a look or add your feedback here. As always, thank you for showing up!

Liza Sperling


Taxonomy Wanted: A New Way To Categorize Social Media Tools

What is wrong with this question?

I am evaluating MeltwaterHubspot and CoTweet.  Which one should I choose?

 The question makes the incorrect assumption that the three options are comparable. Meltwater Buzz, Hubspot and CoTweet are not competitors but complimentary tools.

I hear similar questions from community managers, marketers and product managers.  It’s clear that this nascent space is lacking the taxonomy necessary to group and define tools’ core functionality. Buzzwords like “dashboard” and “platform” are used to describe any tool with data and a graph or two. As a result, social business professionals with a mandate to evaluate and select a “tool” often end up comparing a wrench to a hammer.

There are hundreds of social media tools out there vying for your attention, but few do a great job of defining what they actually do and do not do. Some are similar to one another and compete with each other, while others have zero overlap and can supplement each other. Of course determining which tools are right for you requires a clear definition of your objectives, but without knowing which tools do what it is impossible to know which tools will meet those objectives.

Let’s group the tools by function, or “what they do”. Of course, we can expect that this will change constantly, some tools do not fit neatly into one category, and other tools that emerge as soon as I publish this post will be overlooked altogether. Rather than overwhelming you with exceptions and complicated matrices, I chose to classify tools according to their core area of expertise. The intent here is to give some intelligent structure to an unstructured space.

Social Medial Monitoring (SMM) tools, often called listening platforms, are where most social media strategies begin – monitoring and tracking mentions of your brand, products, competitors and industry issues. SMM tools offer countless ways to analyze, measure, display and report findings…The features vary by vendor as does cost, so one typically selects one SMM solution or provider and supplements it with tools in other categories.

In general, SMM tools rarely compete with tools in other categories, but there are some SMM tools that over lap with the 2nd category of tools, Social Media Engagement (SME) tools. For example, Radian 6 is an SMM tool that offers an Engagement console, but Radian 6’s core expertise is SMM.

Social Media Engagement (SME) tools are communication platforms where users take action and can respond, engage, interact or communicate directly on social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, etc…Users provide the login credentials and offer OAuth permissions and can Tweet, comment on a blog post or respond to a question in a forum without leaving the SME platform. These are real-time, highly customized dashboards and often offer multiple accounts, a shared workspace for many users and the ability to respond in multiple places with one click. SMM tools differ from SMM tools because they are primarily where activity occurs rather where one analyzes activity.

Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) tools aggregate dozens of types of information from multiple social networks to give users the most complete view possible of each customer. 

Social Media Specialized (SMS) tools fall into a handful of buckets.  These tools are not stand alone tools or comprehensive platforms, but specialized tools focused on on analyzing and optimizing one aspect of your social media efforts.  The intent is to use these tools to supplement, not replace, other tools. Some of these tools are available on SMM or SME platforms, for example, you can view Klout scores within Seesmic Desktop. These tools can be broken down into the following categories:

Social Media Content Management (SMCM) tools facilitate the creation, distribution, optimization and management of social media content.  Each tool facilitates at least one specific activity.  For example, Timely posts your tweets at a future time to achieve the most reach.

What did I miss? How do you break down social media tools? I look forward to hearing your thoughts. 

Liza Sperling 




  1. Helen Sventitsky
    April 5, 2011 at 9:56 pm
  2. erinkoro
    April 26, 2011 at 5:51 am

    Well done. *bookmark*

  3. Steve Levine
    May 12, 2011 at 12:51 pm
  4. Steve Levine
    May 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    You captured it in my mind. Of course, as we go on this evolutionary journey, adjustments will be required along the way. 🙂

  5. britmorse
    May 13, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Thanks for the mention of Sprout Social, Liza! Great breakdown of social media tool categories.- Brittany Morse, Online Marketing Specialist at Sprout Social

  6. July 4, 2016 at 2:27 am

    I can see you have posted a big list for SMM tools.But I want to confirm that what tools are comfortable for B2B organization ?Please explain it for me .I will be happy if you explain that for me.

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