Cat Fraser is an ambitious Social Business Innovator and MD/ Founder of Fourinsight Ltd. Fourinsight partners with forward-thinking agencies and brands to design and deliver Strategic Social Reporting across six core report areas: Best practice; Benchmark; Performance; Investigative; Trending and Real-Time Planning. In this article she discusses social media monitoring and how to understand it’s potential.
Let me start by saying that I have used and worked with all the key Social Media Monitoring players at one point or another over the last few years – and in the case of BrandWatch who are based in my city in Brighton UK, I have briefly worked for them on a report project several years ago. Recently I have been involved in a comprehensive investigation of the landscape that interrogated Social Media Monitoring Companies and their products to encourage full transparency, for which we found challenged assumptions and questioned the validly of some Companies’ own product information.
I therefore urge you to question the product, data and service before buying so you can understand the benefits and critically, its limitations.
A Few Years Ago
In general I have found that Social Media Monitoring Companies are very responsive to taking on-board feedback over the last few years from their customers and adapting their technology to suit their end-users. The end-user’s being me and you – the agency consultant and the brand owners who require above all – speed, quality and usable platforms where we can get at social data without having to subscribe to an MBA degree that teaches how to create complex and multi-level query strings, or are forced to hire a middle-man to do it for you. This is especially true when each Social Media Monitoring Company demands a different technique and set-up methodology, and I suspect a key reason why many gave up on social media insight at the first hurdle.
Whilst technology-led start-ups may have got carried away with technology and forgotten their marketing-led audience (and hence lacked a simple, intuitive and easy to use interface to begin with at launch date), it is fair to say that they have very quickly made up for this. Now more than ever we are seeing continuous product releases of new features, products and tools that will make life that little bit easier: such as the Sales Force/ Radian 6 new Social Hub which by all accounts will change the face of social CRM by marrying social and sales together.
However the new wave of sophisticated tools and platforms has also created a confusing landscape that needs better categorising, standardising and product scrutiny.
I was recently involved in a project that took on this task in order to investigate which was the best Enterprise Social Media Monitoring tool out there for a Global Auto client’s Social Business Hub that was being set up, alongside researching free tools for their ‘toolbox’.
Through internal surveys and client workshops that involved both HQ and local Social Media Champions, we were able to establish the key priorities based on in-depth analysis of the types of projects and local market needs (which of course depending on each local market’s Social Business Maturity level differed dramatically).
At the point that we started investigating the Social Media Monitoring Companies however we were met with all sorts of push-back and questions as to why they were required to complete a 10 minute survey initially, followed by a demo of their product and for our short-listed companies, a final telephone in-depth interview, before finally being offered the chance to pitch for a project which would open doors to future work with our client.
They were shocked to see how hard we made them work for our client’s account and to prove their worth.
The second reason for the lengthy process was down to the fact that to glean the exact information that was required to fill out our set of 10 criteria from just their websites was an impossible task. Uncovering key factors such as accuracy percentages that they offered their customers but also benchmarked themselves on, was not something they were willing to give away easily.
Our focus for this project was comprehensive and we took into account and received demos from both current players and up-and-coming technology start-ups coming out of the US, Belgium and India. At each stage we checked them against our list of client’s priorities and finally whittled down the tools to a final short-list.
A key priority that we identified early on was at their early stage of Social Business adoption, the client only had resource and a need for listening to Social Media Conversations. As a result, any engagement functionality within the tools was left-out of our analysis.
During the course of the investigation, new product releases affected our scoring however the exercise was worthwhile to understand the landscape better and build robust recommendations.
Here are a few findings that I can share:
- One-to-watch – Whilst they were put on the backburner for this particular client, Social Media Monitoring Company NM Incite (the Nielsen & McKinsey partnership) could quite easily have a brilliant product that rivals the Big Players this time next year
- Best value – Went to Sysomos for its MAP flagship product that offers uber-fast trend analysis and unlimited data tracking
- Language coverage – American-led Companies are further behind on offering good local translation and automated native language analysis. Radian6 therefore did not fare so well when interrogated on this score, whereas Synthesio and BrandWatch had recently stepped up their efforts as a more European-friendly service
- Customer service – Standards were variable and this was partly down to the mix of employing account managers who clearly understood business and were able to offer strategic insight, against others who focussed on hiring purely sales people.
Finally, there are several key points about the Social Media Monitoring landscape that I would like to make.
- Social Media Monitoring Companies are all using the same data source – be it Twitter, Facebook, Forums or Media, it is the platforms themselves that provide the raw data
- For this reason, Social Media Monitoring Companies should have to work hard to earn your brand account and projects. They need to prove clearly what they can deliver over and above V’s other Social Media Monitoring Companies – as at the end of the day they all offer the same service even if the packaging, jargon suggests otherwise
- There is no one exhaustive tool that is better than the others, it is all dependant on the specific criteria that is unique to each project
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