Choosing the Best Social Media Monitoring Tool

So much social media and so few tools – or maybe not.  Tools to monitor, measure, and manage social media usage and conversations seem to be proliferating  just as fast as Facebook, Twitter, and Google make changes to their applications.

Most service leaders don’t even know what criteria to use when researching social media tools, let alone try to compare various tools to each other for use in their companies.  We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto, so let’s dig in and look at a few tools and criteria.

If you are a small company, run your own blog, or are a non-profit and wish to utilize free tools, please take a look at SocialBrite’s list of their Top 20 tools.

For those of you who are looking for enterprise-grade fee-based tools, your search for the appropriate tool for your company is just as complex as the many tools that are out there, but a few names are starting to emerge as leaders.

Fast Company recently named Crimson Hexagon in its Top 10 Innovator’s List and it appears that Crimson’s application is getting strong favorable reviews.  From Fast Company…

“For developing a revolutionary way to monitor and measure Twitter chatter. Crimson Hexagon began at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science but has flourished into the prime analytics tool for HP, Microsoft, and CNN, which use the tech to gauge public perception. The company uses a “statistical human-assisted approach” to monitor the Web, tracking and learning the specifics of what people are saying in social media in real-time–beyond the positive-or-negative analysis of keyword and semantic searches–and with as much as 97% accuracy.”

So what is a “statistical human-assisted approach to monitor(ing) the Web”?  According to the article Social Media Monitoring from the Minds of Crimson Hexagon, published by Jason Cormier in the Search Engine Watch blog, Crimson’s Chris Bingham and Wayne St. Amand outline three types of social media monitoring.  In summary, the three types are:

  1. Volumetric Analysis on keywords – buzz – with the possibility of keyword tracking for response management.  Essentially, this means keyword counts and workflows.
  2. Collecting alerts and/or keyword information and then manually evaluating for context and value.
  3. Natural language processing, which is technically based on keywords but adds the component of machine learning based on customized context – meaning no pre-determined algorithms.

In Jason Cormier’s interview, he and Wayne St. Amand discuss what this means in real terms.

“JC: This makes me think of the kind of social media monitoring I witnessed for Travel Channel’s show, “Bizzare Foods.” Andrew Zimmern would be eating bull p*nis and people would be tweeting about how “bad a*s” and “sick” he was.  (* mine to keep this post G-rated)

In the context of what made the show successful, this was positive sentiment.  But as far as the pre-defined social media monitoring tools were concerned, this language was bad news for the show – which of course, was inaccurate.

So getting to the punch, where does Crimson Hexagon fit among the three approaches you’ve mentioned, and why should we care?

WSA: With Crimson Hexagon, you are supplying the context from your own point of view, your logic, your intelligence to leverage the computer in a different way.

It’s the human-powered approach that is uniquely combined with the algorithm on the computer – only it is you who is replacing the pre-defined assumptions typically used by other advanced social media monitoring tools.

JC: So in using Crimson Hexagon, I may be reading and manually classifying one hundred posts (tweets, blogs, Facebook comments, etc).  But by dedicating maybe 6-12 hours to doing this, I’m also training the algorithm to know how I think so it can then apply my rules and my context to the thousands of posts it will eventually collect and categorize on it’s own.

WSA: Yes, the yield is what’s most critical.  Every tool seems to be capturing the “what” that is happening, but not necessarily the “why.” Quantifying the qualitative information is the key to determining the why.”

OK – that helps us understand monitoring tools’ methodologies, but is Crimson THE tool to buy?  Should we listen to Fast Company?

Although considered, Crimson Hexagon did not make the Top 5 list of webliquid’s recent Social Media Monitoring Tool Buyer’s Guide.  This guide – an extensive hands on review of over 40 enterprise grade social media monitoring tools in the market today – has chosen the following companies as their Top 5:

  1. Alterian
  2. Brandwatch
  3. Mutual Mind
  4. Radian6
  5. Synthesio

Comparative matrix of the Top 5 tools taken from page 18 of the buyer’s guide…

A lot to think about, so let’s stop here for now.  This gives you a good start to researching the social media monitoring tools that you need – yes NEED – to use in your service organization.

As always, you will want to read through this buyers’ guide to fully understand how webliquid tested these tools and what the testing criteria actually means so that you can make appropriate decisions for your company’s goals.  Likewise, you’ll want to do your own research, speak with vendors, get sales demos, speak with current users, etc., to ensure that you are making the right choices for you and your customers; today and into tomorrow.

Happy research trails!!!

Disclosure statement – I have no direct or indirect affiliation or monetary interest in any of the tools mentioned in this blog post.
© 2011 Mary Ann Markowicz

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