When I hosted Monitoring Social Media 09 in November last year, attendees were asking the same few questions: “what are the best tools for listening to our customers?” and “how can we use social media to protect our brand and reputation?” We also had the perennial issue of ROI, “how can we measure the benefits of monitoring?” and the grand show-stopper, “when will Google bring out their monitoring solution?”
During that event and our subsequent Monitoring Bootcamp we analysed many of the leading monitoring tools, including Radian6, Sysomos, Brandwatch, Synthesio and SM2. We also suggested best practice for brand and reputation management and hammered out a framework for calculating and benchmarking the ROI of listening – which of course depended on what you were listening to and why.
A year on and the social media monitoring industry has dramatically developed. As happens in technology booms – and make no mistake, the social analytics market is booming – there has been a spate of acquisitions. Since Alterian bought Techrigy in July 09, Meltwater Buzz (which was reselling a white label version of Techrigy’s SM2 solution) acquired Buzzgain, a promising start-up co-founded by social PR guru, Brian Solis.
July this year saw, in my view, an extremely savvy deal, when Marketwire bought out Sysomos, the impressive Canadian solution headed up by Nick Koudas. Sysomos is a very smart piece of kit, so I wasn’t at all surprised to see them snapped up. But it was in May this year when Lithium, the social CRM company acquired Scoutlabs – a highly user-friendly social media monitoring tool, though one at the lighter-touch end of the analytics scale (where the likes of Nielsen BuzzMetrics weigh down the other) – that I think the most interesting development for the monitoring industry occurred.
As I mentioned in my previous post about social CRM, the big question for CEO’s whose companies are already monitoring the social web is now: how can we use all this data? By opening up their previously closed CRM databases to new flows of data from the web, companies can start to filter this new information to the people who can action it. In any fiercely competitive industry information is king and those companies that successfully grease the flow of information to their key decision-makers WILL be the winners.
I recently described social CRM as the end-game for social media monitoring companies – but it looks like rapidly growing social CRM companies, like Lithium and Jive, are going to subsume many of the monitoring start-ups before they mature. That said, the monitoring companies aren’t taking that risk sitting down. I know of several monitoring companies that are working with large brands to create complex, distributed systems to ensure that accurate, relevant social media data reaches the right people within their organisation in virtual real-time. Storing and enabling users to manage that data is, in theory at least, just one step away.
This is the topic I expect to dominate the discussion at our Monitoring Social Media conferences and Bootcamps in Boston, San Francisco, New York, London and Paris over the next 3 months – at least among the industry insiders. That said, there are an awful lot of big brands and agencies that are still only now getting to grips with social media monitoring and measurement. The “tools” and “brand management” questions will keep coming back time and again. We will also, doubtless, suffer the habitual cry of “Google’s coming!” and need to re-iterate the models for measuring ROI until they become a manta. Look out. Here comes the early majority.