(NOTE: Based on today’s The Daily Post writing prompt)

There are all sorts of tools out there that appeal to content marketing and social media professionals by selling the ability to anticipate either problems or success. Some vendors will make the pitch that their systems will be able to identify what kind of content will succeed on social media. Others claim to be able to identify potential problem areas of social media conversation before they blow up into major crises.

My experience with these tools is spotty at best. Meaning the performance of those tools is less than consistent or stellar. Most fail right out of the gate because no one can agree what kinds of inputs to put into a monitoring/triage system, meaning the results are of little to no use. And the few content success anticipation tools I’ve been exposed to do their job well, assuming you’re willing and able to completely abandon your unique editorial mission in an effort to publish the same stories your competitors are also chasing.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but neither completely replaces human operations. You still need someone searching social media conversations manually and making the necessary recommendations. Only then do you get the perspective you need to accurately respond. And if you’re doing something that is going to become a crisis moment, you’ve got other concerns than your monitoring tools. And you still need a human editor and content lead with a team capable of making gut calls about what’s going to work, what’s part of the mission of the publishing program and more.

These kinds of tools can only anticipate so much before the weaknesses inherent in outsourcing either task is exposed.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.