How to choose a Social Media Monitoring tool - eDigital

Looking for a Social Media Monitoring Software (SMM) but not sure what to review and how to pick the best social media monitoring tool (SMM)?

The increasing importance of Social Media conversations in the process of shaping brand sentiment, brand reputation and influencing consumer behaviour  is now crucial for any business success. 

Companies do not longer control conversations and more importantly have recognised it. Coca-cola for example has mentioned, it do not have the extensive resources to monitor and control all global conversations. Other brands try to engage key influencers and control key topics which they believe are important for its brand health and success.

A Social Media Monitoring tool (SMM) come in handy when you want to automate some of  the process of finding those key conversations, influencing consumer behaviour and also having a high level feeling of your brand sentiment and reputation across the web. This is extremely important in case of media crisis or any other public topic affecting your brand.

To help companies to listen and monitor key social media conversations, a great range of tools/software/platforms (more than 250 according to Ideya Research)  are in the market designed to help analyse the vast quantity of Social Media Buzz. It has also, however created a highly complicated choice for marketing professionals and brand managers in identifying and contracting the most appropriate ones for their brand needs.

I welcome vendors to comment on this article and provide more information about their tool and what it make it unique. (Let's see how quickly and effectively they are monitoring their brand).

Out of the 250 Social Monitoring Tools in the market, here are some 26 Social Media monitoring tools (SMM) that are in my radar:

  1. Adobe Social
  2. Alerti
  3. @ Walmart Labs (Former: One Riot)
  4. Beevolve 
  5. Brandseye
  6. Brandwatch
  7. Buzz Metrics - Nielsen
  8. Cision
  9. Converseon
  10. HubSpot
  11. Jive
  12. Klout
  13. Lithium Technologies ( Former: ScoutLabs)
  14. Radian6 (Now part of SalesForce)
  15. Reputation
  16. SDL SM2 (Former: Alterian)
  17. Sysomos
  18. SocialMention
  19. SproutSocial
  20. TopSy
  21. Trackur 
  22. Twelvefold Media (Former: BuzzLogic)
  23. UberVu
  24. Venuelabs
  25. Visible Technologies
  26. Vocus
The below review criteria was made for one of my client's needs and you might want to give each factor your own importance (weight) depending on what your needs are and what exactly you need to accomplish with the SMM Social Media Monitoring PlatformI believe the below criteria covers all key areas to consider before committing to a Social Monitoring Tool contract.

How to review a Social Media Monitoring Vendor 

Before we move into the factors to consider, you need to know what you want to achieve with the tool (objectives) and how you are going to measure its ROI.

Start from the basic - What is a Social Media Monitoring tool (SMM)?

A tool/software (custom build web spiders) that detects when and where your brand has been mentioned on the web and has the ability to understand the importance (influence/popularity) and sentiment of the mention in order to gain actionable insights to help your brand's social media engagement strategy. 

Social Media Monitoring tools benefits

  • Identify risks and issues at an early stage before they become a media chaos.
  • Identify existing and emerging brand influencers.
  • Benchmark and measure sentiment against your competitors
  • Spot new consumer behaviour, preferences.
  • Identify new social media platforms where conversations about your brands are happening.
  • Identify business generation leads.
  • Quickly identify customer dissatisfaction at an early stage.
  • Identify purchase considerations and help with customer journey mapping.
  • Improve product/service development.
  • Identify gaps in the market
  • Identify potential talent that can work at your company.

Selection Criteria - Factors to consider

1. CONTENT     
  • How is the content aggregated? Third party? Own system? How often? Real time?
  • You might want a tool that aggregates social media conversations in real time using their own system as "immediacy" will be key to shape your brands' conversations.
  • Is "Sentiment Analysis" automated?
  • What's the algorithm? How is it being formed?
  • Can the vendor show some examples related to your brand where automated sentiment analysis is performed? did it make sense? are they meaningful?
  • Can you and your team members be alerted (via txt or email) when social media conversations from key influencers bring some sort of "bad sentiment" about your brand? Can the tool allow you to respond immediately and easily?

  • How long is content archived? is back data available? To which year? If so, what are the extra cost?
  • This is key as sometimes you might want to compare social media buzz between different dates withouth paying too much for it.
  • Some of the Social Media monitoring tools might archived content for a specific period of time 6 months/one year so you need to ensure you have systems in place to archived the conversations in case you want to go back to them later on. In some cases it might be too much information so you might want to prioritize what exact conversations (keywords) you want to keep in your companies records (maybe just brand terms and not generic terms).
  • Can the vendor offer an example coverage for a specific brand term you would like to monitor within a specific country and time range? Lets say you want your Social Media Monitoring vendor to give you an example of Data coverage for the term "Iphone 5" within Australia during the period of July 1st to July 31st 2013. 
  • Getting an specific test will allow you to compare results within different vendors and have a great indicative on which tool might bring more relevant results.
  • For some brands, most of the social media buzz happens inside private Facebook conversations. There is no Social Media Monitoring tool that will allow you to track these Facebook conversations that mentioned your brand's name.
  • You would like to check with your Social Media Monitoring Vendor what other social media conversations the vendor cannot monitor: ie. Intranets, Instagram, any other.
6. SPAM   
  • Ask your vendor what data cleansing strategies are in place to address spam, splogs, duplicate content? If results from duplicate content are found…would you have pay for them? 
  • Is boolean logic available when constructing searches? ie "AND-OR-NOT"
  • Does the tool allows for other way to construct searches?
  • This is important as it will allow you to get the exact conversations you want to monitor and filter out the ones you do not really care.
  • This is key. You might find some tools are quiet slow. You want to double check they are fast when bringing results. How long (on average) does it take to retrieve results for your brand's most popular term? within an specific country and time range? Get that tested before signing up.
  • What specific metrics are standard in the system?
  • Do the tool offer sentiment analysis? At micro level? Post level?
  • Check how the sentiment analysis was constructed by the vendor and see if it makes sense for your brand social media monitoring goals.
  • Can the sentiment analysis be tweak by the tool user?
  • What dashboard features are available in the standard tool version?
  • Can dashboards be customised by users?
  • Are drill down capabilities available for all analaytics on the dashboard?
  • Can reports be automatically delivered and share across the organisation?
  • What workflow capabilities the tool offers? Can specific conversations be assign to other users? You might want the tool to spot customers in distress (while using your product/service) or customers venting out bad commentary about your brand and pass that quickly to your customer service team for immediate follow up.
  • Does the tool allow for user to engage directly with content owner?
  • Can "owned" content (ie your brand website, Facebook page, twitter) be managed by the Social Media Monitoring tool user. 
  • Can multiple Facebook pages be monitored?
  • Once a conversation is engaged and completed, what reports the tool can offer?
  • Can Real time social conversation alerts be sent to specific users? Or franchisees' emails ( non-tool users)?
  • Is there anything in your the Social Media Monitoring Tool set up for set up for your specific industry? If so, ask the vendor to provide examples.
  • I know some such as Venue Labs are made for franchisee based brick and mortar businesses for example.
  • What additional types of data can be integrated in the system? Google Analytics? Email database? CRM?, Sales Force?, etc
  • Does the standard version allow for reports to be generated?
  • Can reports be automatically produced?
  • Can reports be customized? At what level?
  • Can the tool just track conversations happening in Australia or in a specific City in Australia? How?
  • Would it pick up Australian based conversations happening in different languages? Any extra costs?
  • There are three key main pricing structure most of the Social Media Monitoring tools offer: Volume based pricing, Search based pricing and flat rate.
  • You need to compare which structure might be best in the long term. You might want to start playing for specific keywords monitoring regardless volume or you might want to pay by volume regardless the amount of keywords you want to monitor. The last alternative is to pay a flat rate that gives you access to a specific amount of volume and number of keywords to monitor during a specific time period.
  • Is there any trail period? Can we try the tool for a month?
  • How the cost varies depending on amount of members accessing the tool?
  • Is there any specific system requirement needed?
  • You might want to check with your IT department there is no issues to install the tool in your computers.
  • Is training included on the tool costs? How many training hours? If not, what are the training costs?
  • Is tool installation and configuration costs included?
  • Is customer service available just at business hours or 24 hours? weekends?
20. CLIENTS    
  • Is there any success retail franchise based Australian client case study you can offer? If not, why not retail franchise based Australian clients have not bought your tool?
  • What's the minimum contract period.
  • Can the Social Media Monitoring vendor allow you for a test period?
  • Is there anything you have to be aware when deciding to terminate a contract with the Social Media Monitoring tool provider?
  • When contract finish, is it clear how to store the data used during contract period? do you have to pay any extra cost?
23. TOP USP'S    
  • Out of all the above criteria, which top two does your tool position as the best in the market?
I welcome your feedback and any other factor you believe can be added into the process of reviewing a Social Media Monitoring tool.

Mauricio Escobar Mármol offers support on Social and Digital Marketing and Media, you can contact Mauricio:

About Mauricio
Mauricio Escobar Mármol (BBsMn & MCom) is eDigital Sydney SEO Consultant, Social and Digital Media Specialist. Mauricio posses over 10 years experience helping companies to earn new customers and prolong customer lifetime value by effective execution of structured Digital Marketing strategies and executions. Mauricio worked as Digital Marketing Manager for some of Australia's most visited websites. Mauricio expertise focuses on Website Optimisation, Social Media, SEO/Networks Acquisition Strategies (SEO, SEM, Affiliates, Display) and vendor reviews.

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