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What’s the Best Social Listening Tool? The Results of the Martech Challenges Social Listening Competition

Whenever we speak to a new member or generally have a chat with people about social intelligence, the conversation always touches upon what are the best tools and solutions out there right now. It seems like everyone is always looking for the next big solution that’s going to make the analysis of social data better, faster or cheaper.

While there are published reports from the likes of Forrester and Gartner to compare and contrast vendors, we’ve seen a slight dip in consumer confidence in these initiatives. So, when the team at SaaS Advisor got in touch about their new Martech Challenges for social listening technologies we knew partnership was a no-brainer to bring you new insights on the different social listening tools available.
 

The Martech Challenges

The Martech Challenges compare the best marketing technology software and services based on “real life briefs and competition conditions”.  Their first challenge was specifically designed for social listening technologies.

The challenge was designed to provide more clarity on the capabilities of each social listening tool and deliver the necessary information in order for you [the customer] to make a more informed decision when choosing a platform.

The challenge had a good mix of experts from brand side and agencyland as the jury. You can find out more about them here.
 

Participating Social Listening Vendors

It’s important to note that not every social listening platform took part in the challenge. The brands participating in this inaugural challenge were, Brandwatch, Talkwalker, Linkfluence, Digimind, YouScan, NetBase, and Synthesio.
 

Challenge Criteria and Methodology

The challenge designed three briefs that showcased typical use cases for social listening technologies. These were:

Local Brand with a focus on the US market for the WWF (World Wildlife Fund).
Global Brand for Liverpool FC and Golden State Warriors.
Advanced Queries Methodologies around daily mobility.

The vendors were judged on 19 individual criteria across 6 categories for each challenge.

Each jury member was assigned a rating card for the software split into detailed subtopics. The ranking was made on both quantitative and qualitative aspects. We do not have in-depth details on the methodology or how the ranking worked.
 

The Result: No “Winner-Takes All”

Probably unsurprising to other social listening experts there was not one clear overall winner in the challenge. As competition was very tight and the final decision was based on details or decimal points, it was decided to single out a winner and mention the other competitive tools within the given criteria.

Here’s where each vendor came out on top.

As you can see, depending on what is important to you there’s trade-offs to be made on the best solution for your specific brand and use cases. We feel that a more personal sales and matchmaking experience are needed to ensure the right fit partners.

There are also a few things that we can learn from the results of this challenge…
 

The Market is Constantly Changing

It was noted several times in the Martech Challenge report that there is no “best time” to run a challenge like this. SaaS products evolve quickly and many of the vendors release new features at least on a monthly basis. There was also the fact that both 2018 and 2019 had been a big year of change for the industry with some vendors about to release major updates after the challenge timeframe.

Those updates could have a big impact of the tools, so Martech Challenges advise that the results are to be considered a snapshot of the “state of the art” for social listening marketing on July 2019.
 

Data Variance is Huge 

From previous research we’ve done at The Social Intelligence Lab, we know that data sources and quality are important considerations in choosing a social listening technology. There’s not much in the way of support out there to help you understand data sources, volumes and quality from social listening vendors. We had been keen to see what the Martech Challenges found in their analysis.

The first two briefs for the local and global brands were designed to compare the data between the different partners. They mention that they had expected to see close results between all the participants, but this wasn’t the case.

Martech Challenges noted that each software has its strengths and weaknesses depending on languages, geographic zones or social media coverage. Due to this they decided not do designate a big winner for the overall category as they needed to be considerate of the strengths and weaknesses in different contexts.

No wonder it’s so complex to find the right technology partner! You can find out the results of the data contexts if you purchase the full report (please contact us here to enquire about this).
 

Tool Stacking is Required

Given that there was no one vendor with a stellar performance on a global scale, and that in the assessment of the data criteria there were different winners in different contexts, this suggests that you need more than one vendor. We certainly found that “tool stacking” was common in our State of Social Intelligence 2019 report earlier this year.

The results here highlight why there is often frustration among social listening technology users. You need to be clear on the limitations of the technology as you go into different projects and then work out how you can overcome them. This understanding comes with experience and many social listening users do not have this knowledge.
 

Don’t Believe All the Hype Around Automation and AI

During the challenge, it was noted that “AI is coming”. The jury observed a lot of new features including AI (specifically around supervised training, signal detection, clustering etc). They believe that the software is getting smarter and in time these features will be helpful and will allow users to access relevant data quicker.

However, more complexity is needed to make this a reality and the need for “professional services”; “support”; and “data analysts” is more relevant than ever in the industry. Our advice is not to buy into all the buzz around AI and properly compare vendors for your specific requirements.
 

A Lack of Industry Standards is Hurting Industry Confidence

The development of industry standards is something we’re very passionate about at The Social Intelligence Lab. With the current lack of standards and transparency, it wasn’t surprising that the findings of the challenge picked up that both were hurting the growth of the industry and make working with the data and selecting tools harder for brands and users.
 

Final Thoughts

Other social listening technologies are available – we have a dedicated network of social intelligence vendors and service providers that we work within our ecosystem at The Social Intelligence Lab – you can search these solutions here. We’re also working hard on rolling out a niche marriage broker service to help you get the right tools and services for your brand.

We encourage you to think about your business needs when it comes to social listening technologies and try not to fall into pursuing the “shiny object” in all the new features and functionality rolled out. The data will always be the most important piece of the puzzle.


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Jillian Ney
Jillian Ney
I'm the founder of The Social Intelligence Lab. I champion the growth of the social intelligence industry by helping the professionals and businesses working in it to access best practice, accredited training and peer networking. After working in the industry for 12 years I believe social intelligence should become a recognised discipline - and, I'm working towards making that a reality. More content by

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