As more brands turn to social data to generate customer insights, social data analysis tools, including social listening, social intelligence, audience intelligence and social CRM are continually being integrated into enterprise toolkits. But, how do you compare suppliers when everyone has an ulterior motive for sharing insight about solutions.
You’ve seen these types of blogs before “the best social listening tools” or “our top picks for social listening tools”. But can you really trust them?
It’s likely that every single vendor has been on one of those lists at some point in time. There are also a lot of vendors out there and that means you’re having to trust that the content producers have tested and approved their selections for the right reasons.
That’s a risky game. Have the tools been tested? If so, how? Or have vendors paid for content? Maybe the content has been created to act as an inbound mechanism for the thousands of searches made for social listening technology on a daily basis.
But it’s not all bad! There are information sources where you can get inspiration for your next social data analysis technology. Here’s our guide to the sources we’ve used in the past – their pro’s and con’s, and what we’re doing to help make things more transparent moving forward.
MarTech List 200
The MarTech List 200 does what it says on the tin, it’s a list of 200 tools that analyse social data. The list covers more than your usual social listening and monitoring and gives you insight into:
- Quick Review: explaining what the tool is and what it does in 140 characters.
- Sources Covered: a dropdown list of online sources each tool covers.
- Pricing Method: letting you know if the tool is free, freemium or paid.
- Price: this is the minimum price per month, based on the cheapest paid tier that the tool offers. Prices are given in USD.
- Free Trial Available: letting you know if you can get a free trial of the tool before you take on a full license.
- FYI: letting you know the latest news for the tool. Handy to know with all the acquisitions going on.
- The list covers tools across six categories, social listening and monitoring, social management, social advertising, social analytics, social audience analytics and social CRM. There is a tool for every budget in here and the list highlights where the tools cut across into multiple categories. Ben, who manages the MarTech List 200 doesn’t get paid to do this, he does it because he’s passionate about social listening.
It’s not an exhaustive list of tools and there are tool categories missing. For example, visual data analysis and the text analysis solutions we know that are important to those of you who regularly have to analyse social data manually. But Ben does give you a clear run down on his methodology for creating the MarTech list here.
Review sites like G2 Crowd, TrustRadius or even Gartner Peer Insights offer a community of professionals sharing software reviews, and best practice. This provides you with up-to-date data from verified user reviews and what they term unbiased opinion.
The various review sites tend to offer a visual description of the best software products as rated by their users within each market segment. Meaning that recognition is based on ratings of actual verified users.
The sites feature reviews from real users, giving you some inside information on what it’s like to use the tool. The review sites are easy to navigate and give you a visual representation of the best tools as well as allowing you to view highest rated, easiest to use and the different features at the click of a button.
The bigger players have more customers to seek reviews from and it can lead to an imbalance in the review [and weighting] process. The review platforms are monetised and assist vendors to solicit feedback from customers. We’re not keen on some of the categories and think more work needs to be done here to highlight categories that reflect the vendors and the work that they do.
Industry reports like, Forrester’s Now Tech and Forrester Wave™ run in-depth analysis on vendors based on 40 criteria. The reports have a long history in the industry and as software gets more sophisticated and platforms evolve and mature, this rigorous analysis can provide a sound viewpoint on the tools in the commercial market.
Forrester Wave™ status is often shared by the vendors making it into the report as a sign of credibility.
The reports have a good history and are seen as a mark of credibility in the industry. The analysis rigorously examines the vendors in 40 criteria so you can be sure they have been tested.
The reports still seem to be very focused on social listening technologies in the marketing silo. Social suites have started to rise to the top of the report which might not be right for everyone if you’re looking for best-of-breed rather than integrated solutions across the enterprise. The tools are also focused on the enterprise and might not be in the price range for smaller companies.
IDEYA Social Media Monitoring Report
In its 9th edition, the IDEYA Social Media Monitoring Tools and Services report provides a deep dive into 157 vendors across social media listening, social media monitoring, social media analytics, social media intelligence, social media management, social media marketing, social media customer care and social suites. The report maps vendors and provides up-to-date information on the market, market trends as well as the partnerships and integrations between vendors.
IDEYA produces the report to assist companies and individuals to make more effective decisions about the use of the software based on their specific needs, objective and budget.
A very in-depth look into each of the tools, their functionally and the integrations between tools. The report is updated annually.
There’s a lot of information in the report with some of the areas of analysis more important than others. The report doesn’t offer an insight into which tools are leading the industry – leaving it up to users to choose the right tool for their needs. Although some might find this a refreshing change.
Social Media Analysis
The website Social Media Analysis says it’s in the business of monitoring, measuring and understanding social media. As well as providing industry updates like new software updates and acquisitions there is also a company directory with over 600 vendors.
This is the largest vendor list we’ve seen to date. However, it can be difficult to navigate and you need to have a good idea of what you’re looking for to be able to view the different vendors.
There are a lot of vendors across multiple tool categories.
It is difficult to navigate and properly compare the vendors. Many vendors have not updated their profiles for several years. When you do reach the vendor profile there isn’t a whole lot of information about them.
Can These Sources Really Help?
There’s always going to be pros and cons in using different sources to find new social data analysis tools. No one source has all the vendors out there, the sources are generally monetised, some of the categories used to segment the tools might require revision to keep up to date with the changes in the industry, and they are very focused on the tech.
Buying a new software solution might not be the right choice for everyone. What might be better for some is ‘done for you insights’ and working with a specialist to navigate the noise in social data. Also, the sources don’t offer users an approach to thinking about what the right questions to ask of suppliers and find the right category of tool based on their analysis needs. Nor do they offer real-time contact with verified customers, the vendors themselves or allow vendors to demonstrate ongoing thought leadership.
Don’t worry, we’re working on a solution.
The Social Intelligence Lab Vendor Network
We know it’s difficult to choose a social data analysis tool, be that for social listening, influencer analysis, social audience analysis, social CRM or advertising. There are so many tools out there with similar functionality and ‘marketing claims’ on what you’re going to get for your money.
No source offers a holistic view of the industry from vendors to ‘done for you insights’ to agencies, consultancies and freelancers. New tech isn’t always the solution and you need to ask some important questions before investing your money.
We’re changing this conversation from lists of tools and their functionality to finding out what is important to you and helping you narrow down the choice. You can find out more about the tools, their latest thinking, clients, reports and best practice, and you can speak directly to the tools or ask questions to the people who use them in our community.
Keep up-to-date with the launch of our vendor network by subscribing to our newsletter here. And, if you’re a vendor, agency or business that offers ‘done for you insight’ get in touch to find out more.
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