1 The social intelligence company CHOOSE THE RIGHT ONE! GROUPING SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING TOOLS Whitepaper
2 The social intelligence company BRIEF Monitoring social media! Do I need this? How do I get started? Should I buy software? Who will manage it? What kind of data will it provide? How and for what purpose will I use the data in a daily setting? Numerous questions from various departments ranging from marketing to purchasing are raised at least once a quarter throughout many companies. The answers are relatively simple. Software may not always be needed, but the data and results can be critical. Be it issues related to daily operations, PR activities, customer service, sales, competitor analysis, campaign effectiveness analysis or even strategic market research or product development, the cheapest and quickest answers are to be found in social media. There are several hundreds of solutions offered for social media analysis, monitoring and research. Like any other market, the market of social media monitoring solutions abounds in tools geared to serve general needs or a given profession or sector. Although the common term for the industry is social media monitoring, software and tools can be grouped into at least ten different categories depending on the objectives: supporting daily processes, tactical or strategic decisions; assisting marketing, research and development, customer service, HR or PR activities; following the brand or consumer dialogs; producing a simple report or analysis; concentrating on the past or the future; supporting local objectives, or providing an international view.
3 The social intelligence company In our three-part study, the options available on the market today will be reviewed to help choose the solution that is optimal for your needs by: grouping the various tools into categories; analyzing their functionality and their significance; and helping decision makers decide what criteria should be used and what functionality should be considered when choosing a tool to align with business needs. We can conclude that there is no solution that would satisfy all business requirements. It is important to stress that the software is merely a tool to help answer questions. The technology is accessible to virtually anyone, but it takes human resources and expertise to evaluate, group and synthesize the data. While it is important to learn about the existing solutions, one must understand the questions that we want answered. This is essential for making the right decision.
4 CONTENTS 1. S OCIAL MEDIA MONITORING TOOLS GROUPED BY FUNCTIONALITY, FOCUS, TASKS AND OTHER CHARACTERISTICS Free vs. paid tools Local focus vs. international tools Data taken from firehose vs. tools with their own engine Static vs. dynamic tools Monitoring vs. cloud solutions Company generated buzz (platform monitoring) vs. user-generated buzz monitoring (social sphere monitoring) Other solutions
5 1. SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING SOFTWARE GROUPED BY FUNCTIONALITY, FOCUS AND TASKS In conjunction with the maturing of social media, the need to quantify its effectiveness has also increased, along with a number of solutions to address this need. Before delving into the details of the different social media monitoring tools, let s review what approaches have been wide-spread throughout the world. The tools can be grouped based on the following basic criteria: FREE VS. PAID TOOLS FREE TOOLS They are usually the dressed-up version of the public search tool of some social platform. These tools show the news flow of the hits based on the search criteria, but they do not have analysis or reporting functionality. Advantages: They are free and usually easy-to-use. Disadvantages: They don t handle foreign languages, grammatical inflections, nor root words well; nor do they provide historical data or comment management functions, and usually there is no ongoing development support. These free solutions may fit the bill for those wanting to complement their Google Alert service with Twitter and Facebook monitoring. It is suitable for single-person businesses, as well as B2B brands for daily alerts.
6 PAID TOOLS These are likely to be backed up by a development team, which suggests they have solutions customized for business needs. Advantages: They are free and usually easy-to-use. Disadvantages: They cost money. Due to the relative novelty of this market, no set industry standards exists, and finding the right tool for the job may sometimes be difficult. Choosing the right product will take time, and decision-making won t be easy. The various technologies used in these products will yield different quantitative results. Nowadays, there s a software solution for almost every realistic requirement. Unless there is a technological barrier or resource limitation, a software solution is usually available. That said, there is no tool that would serve every possible requirement, since different interests require different, sometimes conflicting, solutions. Selecting a given social media monitoring tool can help define where the focus will be in a communications strategy. The wrong decision and inadequate software may bring inadequate, varied results. Pricing is usually based on the number of keywords, topics and/or number of hits. You should carefully consider what you re getting for your money. Take advantage of personalized demos, webinars and trial periods to see if it is the right tool for your needs.
7 LOCAL FOCUS VS. INTERNATIONAL TOOLS When monitoring social media activity, conversations about the brand, or ongoing dialogs between potential customers, the language, region and market are usually also defined. Internationalized tools are well-suited to research several countries or a large region, in addition to supporting global or regional strategic decisions. Local service providers should be used to design and monitor campaigns, to evaluate their effectiveness and to identify opinion leaders. In a given country, local and international tools can be compared on two main points: Adequate coverage: monitoring local platforms frequently used by the given country s Internet users blogging services, micro-blogs, local social media pages, forums which materially influence local consumer decisions. Familiarity with language and cultural characteristics: every language has its own rules when it comes to inflections, root words, tenses and slang usage. LOCAL TOOLS Advantages: They focus on the given country s or market s consumers, and are familiar with the traits of the local language and culture. Their search solutions cover leading local forums and blogs, where most influencers are active. Their head office can sometimes be contacted directly for support. Disadvantages: They can only analyze a single language or market. When several countries are analyzed, it would be difficult to compare data due to different methodologies used by the local tools. Functionality provided by multinational service providers is not always available in these tools, due to limited development resources. It is usually not necessary to use an internationalized solution when the company is focused on a single, homogeneous market using the same language; a good quality local service provider may be sufficient.
8 INTERNATIONALIZED TOOLS Advantages: When analyzing several languages or markets, and the qualitative review is sometimes more important than merely having accurate figures. The customized development of an internationalized tool may cost less, and provide better functionality than a local rival. Disadvantages: They re usually more expensive than local tools. Their coverage may not be adequate (except in the English-speaking countries), and their local language functions may be inferior compared to solutions by local players (e.g. inflections, word use, tone of comments). For an internationalized tool, a low number of hits may also pose problems, just as the lack of local research and support. These tools can be used to summarize data to support regional strategic decisions, as well as to conduct international comparisons. These tools are recommended for both multinational companies and international communications agencies.
9 DATA FROM A FIREHOSE VS. TOOLS WITH THEIR OWN ENGINE Tools may also be grouped based on whether they index data themselves or buy them from data collectors, so-called Firehoses. The latter is what large producers of internationalized tools usually provide. PURCHASED DATA Advantages: These tools can cover the entire world. Very large amounts of data are available for analysis. Disadvantages: Local coverage can be sporadic outside of the English-speaking world. Firehoses primarily target the largest service providers. Software providers and end- users have no say in what platforms fire-hoses use to source the data. TOOLS WITH BUILT-IN ENGINES Advantages: In general, more accurate results can be achieved, once the problem of storing vast amounts of data is solved. A tool with a good quality built-in engine tends to better cover sources in a given country/language, so a higher hit count can be expected. New data sources can be included in the search as needed. Disadvantages: Developing and maintaining built-in search engines and the storage of data can be costly, which may be reflected in the price of the service. If all searches are done by a built-in search engine, achieving adequate coverage may take a long time. Often, purchased data and proprietary data are merged into the same database before it is served to customers.
10 STATIC VS. DYNAMIC TOOLS STATIC TOOLS Static tools can only show a certain point in time, additional options e.g. keyword filtering or the modification of other settings is seldom possible. Advantages: These tools are often available at a lower price because of their technological limitations. Disadvantages: Limitations of these tools will surface during daily use, since these static tools cannot produce up-to-date reports quickly and easily. It can be difficult to analyze data in enough detail with static tools. These tools may be sufficient for daily monitoring of the press, e.g. by the PR department. DYNAMIC TOOLS In dynamic tools, settings can be adjusted with little to no limitations, new keywords may be introduced, and reports can be fully customized. Most tools are not completely static or dynamic. Most tools are somewhere in between. More dynamic tools can typically meet a wide variety of requirements. Advantages: Dynamic tools allow filters, settings and modifications to give the right answer to the right question. Graphics are customizable, data can be sorted and ranked in a variety of ways, and charts can be modified with a click of the mouse. Disadvantages: There is a learning curve involved. Those wishing to uncover valuable information from social media to help understand consumers behavior should definitely choose a dynamic tool. These tools are capable of supporting both tactical and strategic decisions.
11 MONITORING VS. CLOUD SOLUTIONS It helps to consider the business need: a tool that merely informs, or a tool that also extracts historical information for critical analysis. If you only want a notification service, or surface level understanding of perceptions regarding a brand, then a simple monitoring service will suffice. Once you are ready to go beyond, and become a modern social media brand, a tool suitable for conducting research, performing competitive analysis and gaining insight is a necessity. MONITORING TOOLS Their primary purpose is to monitor content as it is created, and send appropriate notifications. These tools do a decent job because of its PR focus; but that s about all. Advantages: The major advantage of this type of monitoring-only solution is its price. Typically, this type of service is cheaper than other, more complex services. Disadvantages: They do not support detailed analyses. Reports provided by a simple monitoring tool are usually just numbers (views, sentiment analyses, top sources etc.), and lack more detailed information on the consumer mindset, and the direction that the business should be steered. These tools also do not provide historical data, nor are they dynamic. Therefore their use as a research tool is rather limited. They are best suited for customer service and PR to carry out daily operational tasks.
12 CLOUD SOLUTIONS Tools on the cloud not only provide monitoring services but also index web content made available to subscribers through a cloud-based service. Like Google s search engine, these tools are able to list everything instantly, going back a couple of years. These good cloudbased solutions complement marketing research efforts well; they provide valuable data faster and cheaper, and from online sites where consumers spend their time. Their analysts can add value to the service, since more complexity requires more expertise. Advantages: Apart from functioning as a monitoring tool, these provide information along with other functionality and can be used for daily marketing activities, and for strategic or tactical decision making. They are indispensable. Disadvantages: Since these are more complex and sophisticated than simple monitoring tools, these may not be the simplest products to use, and they can be more expensive.
13 COMPANY GENERATED BUZZ (PLATFORM MONITORING) VS. USER GENERATED BUZZ MONITORING (SOCIAL SPHERE) To group these products and services, it is an important to know what is being searched: pages and channels owned or controlled by the service provider, or other social media outlets and user-generated content as well. COMPANY-GENERATED BUZZ MONITORING TOOLS These tools analyze platforms that are monitored and controlled by the service provider, indexing user activity to generate reports. Advantages: They give an overview of what is happening on the monitored platform, and using special metrics, show relevant focal points. They often provide demographic details and activity data not easily measured by other tools. Disadvantages: These tools cannot convey much about what people are saying about the brand on other public Facebook pages (user profiles or other pages), or other social media platforms. They re best suited for social media marketing experts. These tools can help us understand the effectiveness of our own channels, producing competitor comparison data. USER-GENERATED BUZZ MONITORING TOOLS They not only monitor dedicated channels, but also analyze all pages of a platform or social media platform. They can identify relevant conversations on hidden, lesser-known blogs or forums as well. Advantages: Gives a more complete picture and is continuously monitored. They provide consumer information generated by others, thus yielding more realistic consumer feedback. Disadvantages: We can t think of any.
14 OTHER SOLUTIONS Some tools not focused on the social media monitoring market also deserve attention as they have boast similar functionalities. There are several solutions that serve, data-mining, CRM or press monitoring purposes, but also include some social media monitoring functionality. These are supplementary functionalities, hence not the main focus of these solutions. Thus they cannot be expected to provide top-notch coverage, nor follow industry best practices. It is worth considering the costs and services available when searching for the best tool. The most expensive, most well-known monitoring software may not necessarily be the best choice for your needs. The generated data s purpose must also be considered. The researched data can be useful to various organizations within a company, allowing cost-saving or cost-sharing opportunities. Besides sheer numbers, the quality of results should weigh heavily in any decision.
15 To make the right decision, it s good to know what to expect from a social media monitoring solution. In the next chapter, functionality in above-average tools will be reviewed. ABOUT REPLISE: THE SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE COMPANY Founded 2010 in Hungary by serial entrepreneurs. Replise provides social research services in more than 40 languages and operates offices in Germany, UK, Poland and Hungary. Focusing on social research using proven market research methodologies, Replise has established partnerships with classic market research firms. Replise s services are based on the combination of a unique high-end social analytics platform and a team of qualified analysts with years of market expertise. We can provide access to historical as well as real time data from blogs, forums, news portals, video platforms and social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Replise products and services are used by well-known brands and many marketing and PR agencies across Europe. Contact Us: REPLISE HEADQUARTERS Replise Hungary Kft ADDRESS: Maros Business Center, Maros utca em Budapest Tel: Fax: