For the better part of the spring, I’ve been evaluating social monitoring tools, what Forrester calls “Listening Platforms”. At T3, we manage social channels for some clients, and metrics (share of voice and sentiment) for others.
We’ve been using social monitoring tools for years. Our needs are evolving just like many other early adopters of these tools. The vendor landscape is complicated and crowded. For enterprise-level customers, there are more than 20 listening platforms to consider. As customer needs evolve to include the need to link to traditional business intelligence metrics, new platforms will emerge as business technology players like Adobe, IBM and SAS get into the fray. It’s important to understand what’s out there now, and what’s in the pipeline for the future.
My assessment initially began for a specific client. It has evolved into an evaluation that we can apply to any client’s goals and objectives. As with most measurement applications, there are many stakeholders and many unique concerns, and it’s no different when considering social monitoring tools.
If you’re considering one of these tools or re-evaluating your social monitoring toolset, I have three recommendations:
1. Determine what to measure.
It’s important to prioritize what you must measure, what would be nice to measure, and what is extraneous to the analysis. For Twitter, is it important to collect every tweet, hashtag and re-tweet about your brand? If so, you’ll want to evaluate only platforms that access the entire Twitter firehose, as opposed to sampling the Twitter firehose. Do you need to pinpoint influencers? Will you need to engage them directly through the listening platform, or do you have another tool you’re already using?
2. Create a framework for the evaluations.
Forrester recently released its Listening Platform Q2 2012 WAVE report, which includes a customizable Excel file. Unfortunately for us, we’d already created our own Excel file before theirs was released. Essentially, you’ll want to determine which pieces of information you’ll collect from each potential partner, then create a weighting system. Note: Don’t forget to take into consideration that many of these platforms are software-as-a-service tools; after some limited onboarding, you may find yourself “on your own”. Buyer beware.
3. Do a trial.
Every platform vendor we spoke with allowed us a limited trial so we could play with the tool. What we found is you learn way more when actually modeling a report than you can ever learn in a demo. We ran comparable counts, mock reports and tested syntax.
Clearly, this is a simplified view of how to evaluate social monitoring platforms. However, if you consider these key learnings, it will make your evaluation process go more smoothly and ultimately help you choose a more versatile, powerful and relevant listening platform.
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