Once upon a time at a digital marketing agency far, far away, an ambitious Dragon ventured on a seemingly never-ending quest to find the Holy Grail of all social media monitoring tools. Despite the obstacles ahead, the Dragon soldiered on in search of the one social media tool to rule them all. The Dragon was me and the journey—albeit long—did not extend further than my own desk. After many months of sales calls and demonstrations with eleven different companies, I have pooled my data and identified the good, the bad and the so-so of social media monitoring.
My Social Media Monitoring & Reporting Dream Features
social media monitoring tools review and comparison
Over the course of my research, I came across a total of 34 desired features that DragonSearch‘s dream tool would offer. While this list included the obvious—such as white labeled reporting, archiving and campaign tracking—I stumbled upon some really neat features that really set some tools apart. Sprout Social, for example, has a free mobile app that allows users to respond on all synced social networks and even monitor FourSquare check-ins. For any local business, this is a big selling point. Meltwater Buzz sets itself apart with a built-in link shortener and custom Facebook tab builder, making campaign creation and tracking seamless.
Some social media monitoring tools even include their own influencer score, such as Sysomos, Meltwater Buzz and Sprout Social. Visibile Technologies, on the other hand, incorporated the ever-popular measure of social influence: Klout. Among my (still growing) list of desired features is Google Analytics integration, audience segmentation for mentions and a comprehensive spam filter.
The Not-So-Good Social Media Tools (a.k.a. The Tools to Avoid)
I’m not one to harp on negative attributes; however, there are some tools that were mostly unimpressive. Cision, for example, began pricing at $4,000/month in order to meet the needs of a boutique agency like DragonSearch. While social media monitoring tools are inevitably pricey, I definitely had sticker shock from Cision’s quote. I never received a demo of either Lithium or SM2, so both tools were quickly ruled out. While I hate persistent salespeople as much as the next person, I appreciate a good follow-up and the occasional poke to circumvent my hectic schedule.
Although Spiral16’s social media reporting tool came with unique data visualizations, the inability to respond to mentions makes this service only helpful to agencies interested in raw data and research. However, my least favorite tool trophy goes to BrandsEye. After performing an initial search, BrandsEye requires users to manually weed through hundreds of search queries to train their relevancy prediction algorithm. This method certainly does not increase productivity.
The Middle-of-the-Road Social Media Monitoring Tools
These tools aren’t bad by a long shot, but they don’t quite deliver everything that an agency would need. However, my standards are pretty high at this point following hours of tool research. First, let’s take a look at MAP and Heartbeat from Sysomos. Having had an introduction to Sysomos at Blog World East 2011, I am quite familiar with the features of each tool. MAP is great for monitoring mentions for numerous clients and performing competitive research while Heartbeat works better as a workflow tool on a client-by-client basis. While I am quite the advocate for Sysomos, they do not offer one tool that does absolute everything DragonSearch needs as an agency.
Sprout Social works wonderfully for managing customer communication; however, it lacks the deep analytic filters that are necessary for comprehensive social media reporting. SocialRadar was another tool that did not make the cut due to the inability to respond to mentions or assign users tasks within the software. In other words, these tools had their redeeming qualities but still didn’t hit Holy Grail status.
The Best Social Media Monitoring Tools (In My Honest Opinion)
I want to preface this last section by saying that I did not—nor do I plan to—test every single social media monitoring tool under the sun. There are simply too many tools out there to be tested that there is simply not enough time in the day. However, I did use good old fashioned social recommendations, brand recognition and blog research to compile a list of social monitoring tools worth testing. At the close of my lengthy research, I found three tools that embody the non-negotiable features that had been set out for DragonSearch: Visible Technologies, BrandWatch and Meltwater Buzz.
Visible Technologies was the first tool to win over my heart because it offered both unlimited search queries AND results. This type of offering is virtually unheard of in any type of social monitoring tool. Visible Technologies also includes all of the core features that make for a happy dragon. However, the $3,000/month price tag was a bit much for smaller agency. If you work for a national brand or large agency, I highly recommend Visible.
Meltwater Buzz also stood out as well because it monitors and even translates in 27 different languages—the most of any tool I have reviewed. Meltwater Buzz also has a variety of unique features that set it apart from many of the competitors—including topic and theme segmentation of mentions. However, Meltwater Buzz required a one-year up front financial commitment of $15,000. Once again, this type of pricing may be more feasible for larger agencies.
So what tool was lucky enough to find a home at DragonSearch? Known as Radian 6’s largest competitor in Europe, the newly-launched U.S. version of BrandWatch was the ultimate tool of choice. BrandWatch’s core features met our agency needs and the price point was just right. With unlimited users and search queries, BrandWatch can adapt to a variety of client loads. In addition, a 30-day contract makes the decision to buy not seem so scary. But then again, I am a self-professed commitment phobe.
What social media monitoring tools have you tested? Are there any that you would highly recommend or might suggest agencies avoid?
Identifying the key features of a social media monitoring tool is integral to the tool selection process. As I have discovered, the feature set for these tools is numerous to say the least. As a reference, we have compiled a spreadsheet of the most common and desired features found in different digital marketing tools. From Klout integration and mozRank to white labeling and influencer identification, there are at least 30 key functions identified based one extensive research.