The external systems like iContact or Constant Contact are good, but like many external cloud services, they require widget code updates, testing and maintenance on your web site side of things. Making payment to the provider can also be a good idea. The bean counters can switch simple things credit card information internally without notice and your entire e mail marketing program can go poof after 15 days of non-payment. This is where the whole conundrum manifests itself as the auto-notification e mail from the cloud provider goes to the admin who left a year ago.
So adding social channels to your mix requires a total communications overhaul. It's not a good idea to put a redundant set of channels all over your marketing materials and web site if you aren't going to answer them in priority with established protocols. In fact, I think it's a bad idea to assume that you can adequately delegate this task with messages coming and going all over the place.
A good example is a fitness club chain here in the GTA who added the slick Twitter and Facebook Logos to the web site, which when clicked took me to the respective main .com accounts. They had no accounts set up apparently and the basement dweller had crippled hundreds of opportunities to see the club, download a free visit pass and get positive peer references.
Each social channel can be managed with tools which integrate into your overall communications strategy.The traditional solution path is to look at call center software or CRM software. I would look at something like SalesForce.com with the integration of e mail and social channels to at least get inbound messages into a scalable process.
The best front line effort is web self service which can improve customer service scores dramatically and actually drive sales. The newest cloud tool is the "ask us a question" form on the main page of your web site instead of the deeply buried, FAQ static html page which, if you are lucky can be searched if your basement dweller had the inclination to use a CMS for your site-if not, the potential customer clicks and scrolls for way too long to find a partial solution.
The other FAQ issue is that once set up, the typical FAQ becomes like a sad time capsule with scores of ancient tid bits reflecting queries of 5 years ago or more. What is cool is the FAQ engine that actually works beyond simple keyword searches and adds a dynamic semantic based queries which are also syntax sensitive. The software learns dynamically and automatically finds new trends as they develop.
I will cover this application in a second post as there is much more benefit to social channel management like embedding the same widget right in your Facebook page so that people can actually accomplish something meaningful to them by visiting the page.