Keeping an Ear Out on Social Media: Solutions That Deliver
By: Joe Dysart
Veterinarians looking for an extremely robust tool to monitor their social media marketing should take a close look at offerings from Crimson Hexagon (http://www.crimsonhexagon.com/), evolve24 (http://www.evolve24.com/) and NetBase (http://www.netbase.com/), according to Forrester (http://www.forrester.com), a market research firm.
All three social media dashboards “excel in their data processing abilities,” says Zach Hofer-Shall, an analyst with Forrester – a firm with a long-standing reputation for objective market analysis.
“Social media is changing the way companies learn from and understand their consumers,” says Patricia Gottesman, Crimson Hexagon’s CEO. “Crimson Hexagon is dedicated to helping our customers harness the strategic value of social media and use this data to make meaningful business decisions.
Adds Lisa Joy Rosner, NetBase’s chief marketing officer: “We are breaking new ground with benchmarking, insight and analysis tools developed at the ‘speed of social’ and co-created with some of the world’s leading brands. For the first time, marketers and researchers are adequately armed with on-demand insight into how their brands are perceived online when they get the scorecard, including the popular Brand Passion Index, delivered to their inbox.”
Business interest in tools that monitor company image on social media -- as well as conversations and other interactions on social media that trigger sales, is intense, according to Web Liquid (http://www.webliquidgroup.com/) -- a digital marketing agency.
In a survey released in July, the “Marketers & Social Media Marketing Survey 2011” (http://www.webliquidgroup.com/social-media-monitoring-survey) Web Liquid found that nearly three quarters of 237 senior marketing executives queried are actively monitoring social media, using both free tools and paid tools.
Plus, a full 62% said they planned to increase their investment in tools that monitor social media during the coming year, according to the study.
As social networks like Facebook and Twitter have risen to become household words, Forrester’s Hofer-Shall says monitoring tools have evolved along with them. These days, the most sophisticated of those tools have moved well beyond simple tracking of key words and keyphrases.
Instead, the tools are now able to track social media using natural language analysis, offering companies insight into the deeper meaning of posts and interactions on the social Web – rather than glimpses at sentences that contain certain keywords.
Currently, Hofer-Shall says social media monitoring tools break out into three groups:
1) social dashboards
2) multichannel analytics providers
3) listening service partners.
Dashboards, the least expensive of the lot, are best for companies that are already hip to social media, crave the raw data in the form of charts and graphs those dashboards can offer, and are adept at interpreting that data to tweak marketing campaigns.
Multichannel analytics providers, meanwhile, are more for veterinarian marketers and others who are looking to integrate social media monitoring into other monitoring tools their already using, such as customer satisfaction surveys and customer support chat transcripts, according to Hofer-Shall.
But there is a caveat: while these traditional analytics providers have added social media, they still have some catching up to do before they can be cast as providers who can offer truly robust social media monitoring, according to Hofer-Shall.
“Although these platforms best address the most technologically difficult aspect of listening – text processing – they most improve their social data outsourcing abilities and continue to build out functional social reporting, outreach tools and overall dashboard interfaces,” he says.
Meanwhile, companies completely new to social media may want to turn ‘listening service partners,’ or outside consultants who know social media cold, know the tools cold, and can do all the monitoring and analysis for them.
Adds Hofer-Shall: “Many of the listening service partners, such as Converseon (http://converseon.com/), Cymfony (http://www.cymfony.com/)or Sythesio (http://synthesio.com/corporate/), offer dedicated consultants for the clients’ ongoing social intelligence strategies.”
In addition, at least one firm best known as a dashboard provider is also getting into the act. Dashboard provider NetBase, for example, has partnered with EmPower Research (http://www.empowerresearch.com/) to offer customers seasoned analysts who can help them monitor and analyze social media using NetBase’s dashboard.
"The process of kicking off a successful social media insight program requires quite a bit of legwork," says Debjani Deb, managing partner at EmPower Research. "NetBase's Supplemental Analyst program enables customers to 'rent' a fully trained EmPower Research analyst for as long as needed to educate them on the NetBase Insight Workbench and keep them ahead of the curve with the latest social media trends."
Says Peter Caswell, NetBase’s CEO: “By partnering with EmPower Research, our customers now have a valuable resource of more than 350 analysts to aid them in the implementation and use of our social media analysis services.”
Unfortunately, the downside with this kind of outsourcing is that such services can be very pricey, or even overkill for some firms with basic social media listening needs, according to Hofer-Shall.
Interestingly, Synthesio, mentioned by Forrester, also popped up as a recommended listening service partner in a September report released by Web Liquid, “Social Media Monitoring Tool Buyer’s Guide” (www.webliquidgroup.com/social-media-monitoring-tool-buyers-guide).
Other tools and services recommended in Web Liquid’s buyers guide were Alterian (http://www.alterian.com/), Brandwatch (http://www.brandwatch.com/), MutualMind (http://www.mutualmind.com/) and Radian6 (http://www.radian6.com/).
“Whether you’re using platforms like Facebook and Twitter to manage your online reputation, or leveraging a blog to achieve social media PR objectives, monitoring the online conversation and mining the data made available by social media monitoring tools presents brands with an unprecedented opportunity: to build more meaningful relationships with customers,” the report’s researchers wrote.
Long-term, Hofer-Shall sees major tech players like IBM and Microsoft becoming ever-more-potent presences in the relatively new field of social media monitoring.
He also sees all service providers expanding their data collection to include more location-based data, and more data from international sources.
In addition, data analysis will also continue to become more sophisticated, as more service providers move to offer deeper insight into the actual meaning of what is being said and done on social networks – as opposed to superficial keyword and keyphrase monitoring.
Plus, Hofer-Shall also sees deeper integration of social media analytics into more traditional analytics monitoring tools.
Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.
Voice: (646) 233-4089.
1. IBM, famous for besting seasoned Jeapordy winners with its analytics-based Watson computer, is expanding into social media analytics.