For marketers, it’s the oldest trick in the book: Listening. Find out what people are saying about your brand and use those findings to shape your message and brand strategy.
Luckily, crossing our fingers for a few misleading insights from forced conversation in focus groups is no longer necessary. With the bevy of social media monitoring systems available on the market today, marketers can now evaluate honest, organic conversations happening simultaneously all over the world.
But with so many new options (and the price tags attached), choosing the right tool can be daunting. I say this with confidence as I have been tasked with this project many times, and the pressure to select the right tool is incredibly real. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Or in this case, what doesn’t kill you makes you more informed, with an increased ability to decode sales-y jargon and the power to see through distracting graphics.
First thing’s first: what questions are you trying to answer? Are you trying to find out how your brand stacks up against the competition? Are you looking for ongoing monitoring to identify your brand’s opportunities for action? Are you looking for a research tool to identify influencers and eavesdrop on the industry?
Once you’ve identified your business problems, consider some of the attributes that distinctly separate the best social media monitoring systems from the mediocre:
Does the tool offer historical analysis? The best tools go back two years or more. The present is certainly important, but analyzing past trends allows you to identify correlations and make future predictions.
From where does the tool pull its information? Facebook and Twitter are just the tip of the iceberg. The best systems pull from 200-600 million forums, blogs and news sites to provide a wealth of information outside of the social sphere.
Does the tool charge you per search query? Does it set a limit on search queries? Does the tool micromanage you while setting up queries (what they call “assisting” you)? Or even worse, does the tool completely develop queries on your behalf? Red flags all around. The tools that you will benefit highly from are the tools that don’t limit your number of searches and give you complete freedom and flexibility to tailor the query to match the precise insights you seek.
Finding conversations doesn’t do you any good if you can’t tell who the speakers are. Gender, age, geo and financial data are all critical marketing insights. If the tool you’re considering doesn’t have at least two of the aforementioned demographic functions, move on. You deserve better.
Natural Language Processing
This is a big one. Most social media monitoring tools claim to have sentiment analysis features. Most tools will also blame their sentiment-gauging misinterpretations on slang, sarcasm or irony. Anything less than an 80% sentiment accuracy rate isn’t worth the headache (or the inaccurate data).
Before you enter a commitment, be sure to shop around and do several live demos and to get a feel for the level of customer training and support being offered. Does the company offer a free trial? Milk that free trial for all it’s worth. If you’re checking out online reviews, do a little research to compare your business needs, business size and budget with that of the reviewer. Ask the tough questions when it comes to functionality.
Lastly, don’t get too caught up in budget. It’s better to pay a bit more for the tool that fits your needs than to waste time and data in a system that you will eventually need to upgrade.
What else might you be looking for in a listening tool? Let us know in the comments.