Social Media Monitoring: Tool or Service?

Inplace #2

monitor_smallADOTAS – There are lots of social media monitoring solutions — some like Brandwatch are self-service tools and others like Synthesio are services. A self-service tool company has an automated process of checking data that enters the system, and a social media monitoring service company has humans manually checking the data.

Today I was writing a blog post and wanted to produce a quick piece of analysis; I logged into one of the service companies and was struck by how little I could use it for.

So I went to a tool company and was not sure about the accuracy level. (Note, I blog about social media monitoring tools so I get to use several of them.) The self-service tool companies are great: you can produce quick and simple (and not so simple reports). However, you only achieve a certain level of accuracy with things like sentiment scoring if a machine is doing all the work.

Services are great because you can get a high level of accuracy. However, they are expensive and slow especially for large brands.

So I did some more digging and asked some experts their thoughts.

I read Marshall Sponder’s latest blog post from April 18, 2010, titled “Sentiment Analysis best done by humans” which starts:

“I’m working on an reputation analysis of a international training organization who has expressed concerns about their online reputation. After pulling the data from Sysomos MAP and comparing the sentiment score against human scoring — I’ve decided that if you care about Sentiment Accuracy — it’s best to have humans evaluate sentiment.”

Now that may be true. However, service offerings are not nimble enough for the fast world of social media.

I wanted a quick report; a service would have been far too costly and taken to long for me to wait for. Therefore a service solution is not for everyone or every occasion.

Here is what Giles over at Brandwatch had to say:

“You are talking about where the rubber hits the road as an erstwhile American colleague used to say. My opinion is that for the foreseeable future, a combination is the best solution — i.e. automation coupled with human analysis. So the ‘tools’ therefore need to be is similar to power tools in the real world. You could use a hand saw, but with a lot less effort you can drive a jigsaw and get a better result in a fraction of the time with a lot less energy (or cost).”

Michelle Chmielewski, Community Manager at Synthesio, says:

“The social media monitoring tools are the easiest to compare both for their tangibility and quantitative output, but the analyses and research capabilities differentiate the social media monitoring solutions.

“The tools have simply become the qualifier for the situation, and what comes after is where customers are given value. While we can certainly provide just dashboards, if that is what someone would want, Synthesio would still insist on human sentiment analysis either by our team or the client’s.

“Your first point about the speed of different solutions made me pause for a second because I used to think exactly the same thing; naturally, waiting for manually-filtered data is slower than having a snappy tool that can calculate the percentages in a split second, right?

“Then during a monitoring chat on Twitter last week a friend said: ‘Using free or do-it-yourself tools can take more time.” After the initial setup, we send reports and alerts as often and regularly as wanted, but the graphics are there for printing, saving, exporting; the reports can be exported, sent, or printed; the data can be filtered and then exported, saved as images, etc.

“The only limits are those that the client would place on him/herself. For each client, we’ve tailored solutions to what they’ve asked for. But the person that gets the dashboard has data in front of them that is:

  • only relevant to that project
  • analyzed according to the project’s requirements
  • exportable, printable, sharable
  • presentable for reports

“Brands wishing to do research over an extended period of time, or track a campaign’s buzz and evolutions in buzz (in sentiment, volume, sub-topics), or be alerted in case of a possible warning sign of a crisis have been finding that free tools are not living up to their demands.

“Jason Falls just recently wrote about some monitoring tools and said ‘Monitoring tools are computer algorithms and search spiders that collect information and put it together in a place where you can find it. Some of them do a decent job of organizing, stacking, and sorting all that data so you can hit a button and get a pretty chart or graph, too. But none of them do what you want them to do. They only do half the job.’

“And he’s absolutely right. There needs to be human legwork at some point of the process.

“The right tool also depends on the size of the company and their budget. A startup with three employees will do just fine with free and do-it-yourself tools. Managers of a large brand may have to ask themselves if they want its reputation management described as ‘free’ or ‘discounted.'”

So there you have it. Free monitoring tools get you up to a certain point, and human analysis takes you over the threshold, if your budget justifies it.