Social Media Tools & Listening Centers

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Over a year ago I published this extensive article (Social Monitoring & Social Media Marketing Tools, Dutch) at Although the article still has value, especially when combined with the comments we received, it’s time for an update. The world of (advanced) social media tools is changing with many new features. I cannot give you a fully comprehensive overview of all the possible social media tools. Simply because…. there are too many. This article is, hopefully, an inspirational overview of some useful new tools that make the life of any social media lover a lot easier. But that’s not all.

With the maturing of the social network space we see companies becoming professionally active in social media. This leads to the development of specific tools for businesses. And depending on firm size, this may also include the establishment of a Social Media Command Center; Gatorade and Dell both have one for example. Using the Forrester report Best Practices: The Social Intelligence Command Center, we will try to describe this topic in somewhat more detail.

There’s a social media tool for that!

“There’s an app for that” is a famous statement to indicate that in today’s market, just about for anything you want online, there’s a downloadable app for your smartphone. That slogan really is a true given also for the market of social media tools. Although the market is still developing, new tools appear and others disappear or get bought by larger companies, there is an array of little tools for many specific needs. There is not always just one, complete tool that provides all your needs.

The Social Busines Stack

Industry Analyst Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang on Twitter), famous for the weblog categorized via The Social Business Stack social media tools into 7. In this article I focus on the category Monitoring & Analytics.

How do you select your tools?

The tool that is suitable for organization x, need not be the tool that is suitable for organization y, or your business in particular. It depends on the specific need that you and / or your company have. For many simple and often useful free tools the motto: “Just try” is suitable. But be careful on what tool(s) you authorize. It would be a pity when a spamtweet is sent from the company account that you, after many discussions with management, finally got to work. Also for the paid tools (unless the investment is limited) I would walk through the standard steps for software selection you can find below:

  • Need. Describe what the tool should do for your business. Why is that important? What does it add? What is your budget?
  • Describe the requirements. What should the tool do? What conditions would you add to that that? Do not forget to prioritize, because not everything may be even important.
  • Create a longlist. Map the tools that are available. Do a search on Google, ask colleagues, advisors, etc. to provide an overview of what is out there. Connect with companies in other industries of comparable sizes on this matter. Being successful in social media requires a passion and that passion often makes people willing to share their experience.
  • Create a shortlist.Ask suppliers for information and make a first selection of the tools that are not (able) to meet your key requirements by pushing them aside.
  • Sort your shortlist shortlist.Take, again, a look at your tools by checking all your requirements, but now in detail. To which extend does the tool meet your requirements already by default, and what additions are possibibly needed?
  • Continue talking with your top3. Step into the conversation with the three parties that best match your requirements. Share your findings with the tool supplier. Ask whether it is possible to get into contact with a client for direct, independent in-the-field feedback about the tool. Try to get a free of charge (or minimal cost) trial period where you can test the tool. Software is in daily practice is sometimes considerably different from the perception that you get based on the packaging.
  • Finalize your choice. Evaluate, create a top 2 and start the final negotiations.
How to compare social media tools?

Does one size fit all? To help you get started below you can find some 10 basic questions that every tool vendor should be able to easily answer. It helps you to discover the differences.

  • Indexation: Which social media networks are indexed? What about traditional news sites? Video? pictures? what is indexed only article or even comments? How to deal with aggregate data from other sites? Own bot that passes sites or EEE is done using RSS feeds? Will the original data stored? How long?
  • Speed: How fast does the indexation place? Vary by network / site? How are the rules that the site offers with respect to indexing bots? What SLAs apply?
  • Sentiment: Sentiment Is determined? If so how is this determined and how pure is this? Learning system is based on possible correction of the user in this area?
  • Spam / Noise: How sharp the query can be set to spam / preventing noise? Learning system is based on possible correction of the user in this area?
  • Engaging: Can the user from the tool to respond immediately put online? A piece of workflow management offered? For example, an item can be assigned to a user? Is it possible for different authorization levels (self-supply input vs. live set)?
  • Open: How open is your platform? Is it possible to export or import business? Is there an API available? Are there additional third-party tools that can be hung in your system for additional features?
  • Reporting: What reporting formats, the system and to what extent are these customizable?
  • Alerting: Can you set alerts, and if so, what types of alerts are (SMS, email etc) and what triggers (extra volume, specific term, specific users, more than x number of followers) can be set?
  • Training & Support: How much training is required of the tool and what forms of support provided? Is a kind of user group that users with support staff to talk about such improvements? There is 7 * 24 hour support?
  • Costs: what are the costs and how what is the basis (number of users? Buzz volume? Amount purchased modules?) Is there a possibility of EEE during free trial period without functional limitations?
Basic Social Media Tools

Especially the number and variety of simple, basic tools is booming. Below you’ll find a small selection of some handy little tools to get you started. You need to realize that a “simple” tool can be a perfect match for your needs.


Beautiful tool that makes it very easy to monitor multiple social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Facebook Insights and Analytics can be integrated. In Hootsuite, you can find numerous standard reporting capabilities and, more importantly iPhone apps, iPhone, Blackberry and Android. There is a free version, but also a pro and enterprise versions with more features are available. Other packages are more or less comparable with CoTweet and TweetDeck , where in my opinion at CoTweet the price is too high. For a further comparison this article at The Content Factory. But other less familiar tool similar nature MarketMeSuite .

If you have a blog, you can use PostRank to rank your level of engagement and how your readers value your content. A daily report is send to your mailbox with the latest news and insights from real browser. They do well at Postrank: Google recently acquired this tool.

If you are an active Facebook-user you definitely need to check out this package. They offer as they call it, a Social CMS. A package that also delivers features with characteristics of a content management system, such as the scheduling of updates, user right management but also management responses to deal with wall post can be assigned to certain team members. Entirely specific to Facebook. In addition they also offer a free version of a paid version with more options. A 14 days trial is available so why not try it.

A relatively new tool with multiple features . You will understand how well your tweets in terms of distribution work out. And the best thing is that the tool is based on historical Booster Crowd effects of your tweets and behavior of your followers, indicating the best time to send your tweets and the ability to schedule them right away. More info in this interview with co-founder Ricky Yean by The Next Web.

As they themselves said at the launch last month, “a team collaboration, tools integration and task management system to bring your social media workflow write one central dashboard.” Check out the video and try it , especially when multiple colleagues are active in social media.

Last Wednesday Blog Level and the 2.0 version of Tweetlevel were launched. Edelman offers this tool for free and without further reigstration. Both tools allow you to find the most influential blogs and people on Twitter. The good thing is, that tweetlevel takes into account that much of the online discussion today, has moved from the comments at blogs to Twitter. The discussions on Twitter are included in the determination of the impact. Sounds nice… but I think that in a discussion on Twitter, only in the first tweet the url of the blog is used, and when the discussion develops, people don’t use the url anymore.

Advanced Social Media Tools

You may wonder what the diffrence is between the tools described and the more basic tools. The sophistication lies especially in the extensive (re) capabilities, such as adding a piece of workflow management for certain online communications. The full integration of monitoring and engaging functionalities, integration with existing CRM-systems to make these tools more advanced tools, often with a higher price tag. In the report The 2011 Listening Platforms Landscape Forrester makes a distinction in Social dashboards, analytics providers and Multichannel Listening Service Partners.

In an earlier report The Forrester Waveâ„¢: Listening Platforms, Q3 2010 Forrester is comparing some of the suppliers next to each other: they compare the offerings and the strategy.

Radian6, Nielsen and Converseon are, according to Forrester’s report, the big leaders in the Social Media Listening Platforms. Radian6, marked by Forrester as a leader, published the report a while ago for limeted time online for free in pdf-format. Google is giving some interesting searchresults 😉 Otherwise, you can request the report at Converseon.

With the recent buying of Radian 6 by Salesforce there’s a company developing that integrates social media monitoring, CRM, lead management and web analytics in multiple channels whith recently some very interesting improvements on mobile.

Firehose access
The larger packages often have the advantage of using the streaming API, also known as the Twitterverse FIREHOSE. This allows them to use Twitter data almost real-time and with full access, unimpeded by the limits that normally apply for filtering. These limits result in a delay in the arrival of the tweets. Firehose access is generally still an advantage for the larger parties, even though Twitter granted a number of startups also FIREHOSE-access. Through services such as Gnip and Datasift as a kind of data service performance are becoming more parties full access to the data from twitter.

Automatic measurement sentiment
Many tools enable automated sentiment that they can measure. Frankly, I am not a believer here. The ambiguity of our language is even for normal human beings sometimes hard to interpret with (online) misunderstandings as a result. Furthermore, how do you value a tweet like “Useless customer service of company X, but very well helped by webcare their webcare department”. Neutral, because it is partly negative and partly positive? Or positive because that is the final situation determined? What if the tweet was “Was helped by webcare very well, but what a lousy customer service they have at company X”. Does the computer understand the correct chronological order? And that’s still only about one tweet. What if the case is made up of several tweets? To go short: ask, very precise, how the the sentiment is determined by a tool. Click through to read the content of individual expressions, the sentiment score and judge for yourself. Perhaps that the automatic scoring of sentiment might actually be helpful for you. Not by looking at the absolute values ​​but rather to changes over time.

Do we need as social media command center?

Gatorade has Social Media Command Center, Dell has a Social Media Listening Command Center and KLM established a Social Media Hub. These are all companies that have a dedicated team taking a active rol in the social media arena, most of them on a 24/7 base. They operate from a physical, centralized space in the office, that looks like a controlroom, see the video below:

Do you really need this to play an active role in social media? Forrester gave in their report “Best Practises for Social Media Intelligence Command Center a very handy guideline in which they took into account the amount of customers you have, the industry you work in and the popularity of your brand.

After you have answered these questions a score of 20 or above there is a clear need for a Social Media Center, according to Forrester. What if a central team with its own center, especially the organization does is aware of the importance of social media and powerful way to share the insights with relevant departments in your company. Gatorade put their center in the heart of the marketing department. Eventually you will get social media in the DNA of your organization and a center like this can make a nice boost as a facilitator. One remark! Don’t make a command center or the tools your primary goal.

There’s no social media tool for that!

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I hope this article gave you some ideas of the possibilities for social media tools and help you to make the right choices. Realize, however, that the best tools can sometimes fail. The Nikon case above shows that you need stay focused and operate with 100 percent attention. Even the best tools are not always able to answer your question completely. In social media business, it’s not just about the tools, despite this lengthy article ;).

You’re Missing Social Media Tools ?

An almost complete list of all tools found in this wiki. Fee free to add tools and describe what you think is good or bad about the tools you use. And yes…. representatives of social media tools mentioned here can also leave a response!

With a big thanks to the people of Forrester for granting access to the visuals. Original post in Dutch can be found here at