When regular people post on Twitter, they normally use something like Twitter’s website or one of its official clients, or possibly a third-party Twitter client like Tweetbot or Echofon. Many large companies, however, have a more organized approach to social media and use special tools to manage their social presence.
The fancy name for these tools is SMMS, Social Media Management Systems (or social media management tools, but we’ll use SMMS throughout this article). They are often able to manage more than just Twitter, including support for other platforms like Facebook as well, plus other more advanced features.
Out of curiosity, we decided to examine which tools the top 100 brands are using on Twitter. Which are the most widely used SMMS out there?
How we did the survey
We used Interbrand’s top 100 global brands list as a starting point. It’s filled with big corporate brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Intel, Google, Microsoft, HP, IBM, Sony, Panasonic, BMW, Ford, McDonald’s, etc. For the full list of brands, check out Interbrand’s website.
We couldn’t find Twitter accounts for all of them, so this survey only includes the 96 brands we could find an official presence for. For each brand, we settled on one Twitter account (some have more than one). This is the same list we used for last week’s survey of brand presence on Twitter. Also, you can find the data for this survey in this Google doc, which includes the Twitter accounts.
We extracted the last 20 tweets for each of these accounts, then examined which tools had been used to post them. After that it was just a matter of summing everything up. (We used a small script for this, it would have been way too arduous to do manually.)
The SMMS top list
The most popular social media management systems used by the 96 brands included in this survey are:
- HootSuite – 20 accounts (20.8%). Used by @hm, @tiffanyandco, @gap, @hp, @ebay, @porsche, @ibm, @ups, @panasonic, @niveausa, @kelloggcompany, etc.
- TweetDeck – 16 accounts (16.7%). Used by @reuters, @yahoo, @audi, @louisvuitton, @sony, @heineken, @dell, @hyundai, @gillette, @xeroxcorp, @nestle, @smirnoff, etc.
- SocialEngage – 9 accounts (9.4%). Used by @blackberry, @cocacola, @htc, @ford, @toyota, @honda, @sprite, etc.
- Vitrue – 4 accounts. Used by @oracle, @americanexpress, @harleydavidson, @designbyikea.
- SocialFlow – 3 accounts (3.1%). Used by @burberry, @hp, @mbusa.
- Sprinklr – 3 accounts. Used by @intel, @ciscosystems, @dell.
- Tools used by fewer than 3 accounts: Sprout Social, Spredfast, Context Optional Social Marketing Suite, Seesmic, Involver, Astute Social, Buddy Media Suite, SocialOomph, Socialware, Crowdbooster, Twitterfeed, and a couple that seem to be custom made.
Twitter bought TweetDeck back in May of 2011, but all the other tools listed above are third-party tools.
Note that we could only find out which tools are used for posting to Twitter. We can’t reliably say what these companies use to consume Twitter content. The only one who has that information is Twitter since they control the API access.
The 3 biggest pieces of the SMMS pie
Interestingly, some brands don’t use these specialized tools, at least not for posting content. Out of the 96 accounts in this survey, 28 didn’t use a SMMS (29.2%).
This leaves us with 68 Twitter accounts in this survey that actually use a SMMS. If we only count these, we can roughly approximate the SMMS market share for these tools:
- HootSuite: 29.4%
- TweetDeck: 23.5%
- SocialEngage: 13.2%
So almost one third of the top brands using a SMMS are using HootSuite. This is admittedly a rather small sample to base such a statement on, but it should be a decent estimate of how the SMMS market is divided.
While putting together this survey, here are a few other things we noticed:
- Twitter’s website is popular. Even for big brands, Twitter’s own website is the most common way to post tweets. Of the 96 accounts in this survey, 67 accounts had at least one tweet from web. We were a bit surprised by this, but those were the results. It mirrors the general Twitter population, where Twitter’s web client is also the most popular by far.
- There is a lot of overlap. Many accounts post tweets from more than one tool (including Twitter’s website). One example is @ciscosystems, which tweets with Crowdbooster, TweetDeck, StockTwits, Sprinklr and via the website. Another is @hm, which tweets via the website, HootSuite, Instagram and Twitter for iPhone. This, at least to us, indicates that there isn’t any one tool that fulfills all needs.
- There is a lot of diversity. We found a total of 42 different apps used to post tweets.
- Regarding Twitter’s official mobile clients: Twitter for iPhone was a popular posting alternative, with 14 accounts using it. Twitter for iPad had 3. One account used Twitter for BlackBerry (developed by RIM, though). None of the tweets we collected were from Twitter for Android or for Windows Phone 7.
- Even among corporate brands, Instagram has made an impression. Five accounts used Instagram.
For those of you who would like to dig into this data on your own, we have a summary of the raw data collected in this Google doc.
HootSuite is the most widely used social media management system among the 100 brands included in this survey. If this is representative for Twitter in general, as many as one in five brands on Twitter are using HootSuite.
Twitter’s own TweetDeck comes in second, ExactTarget’s SocialEngage third.
As we noted, 28 of the 96 accounts did not use any SMMS at all. It would seem that these tools have not yet been fully embraced by these big brands, regardless of how useful they can be.