Social Media Monitoring Apps: The Good and the Bad.

There are over 1,000 different social media monitoring tools in the market today. From the low end of around $100 a month all the way up to $5000+. Most, if not all, major brands use them. They have nice graphs. Some are reasonably good with sentiment analysis. But having built a social media monitoring tool (for the global risk analysis market) and worked with many of them since 2009, there are some limitations and upsides.

The Downsides

Surface Capture Only
All social media monitoring tools are really designed for surface skimming of social media, not deep, complex dives and analysis. For this, most are quite good. But a lot can be missed.

Data and Channel Limitations
As the saying goes “you get what you pay for” and in the case of social media monitoring tools, you’re paying for data. All social media monitoring tools buy data from one of two sources; DataSift or Gnip. Some buy piecemeal from other providers. You’re buying based on keywords, hashtags and in some cases phrases. Some apps offer more social media channels than others. Again, it all depends on what you want to pay.

Analytics Limitations
Since the first social media monitoring tools popped onto the scene in 2008, surprisingly little has been done in evolving the analytics. Each tool has varying degrees of good visuals and UX design. Sentiment analysis has improved, but not by much. The analytics are good for basic insights and keeping up with the flow of the conversation around your brand, but that’s about it.

Large Enterprises Use Multiple Monitoring Tools
We’ve worked with several companies to help them select the ideal social media monitoring tool for their organisation. We’ve found over the years that larger companies with the budget, will use between 2-4 social media monitoring tools to achieve their desired level of analysis. That’s hard for smaller organisations.

There’s No Deep Dive Capabilities
Despite some claiming this, we’ve yet to find a social media monitoring tool that actually does deep dives. Few can go back historically than a few months and trend analysis is always poor. Each is limited in the channels they can delve into, meaning important things might be missed. The analytics tools they use are also based on using their compute capabilities at source; meaning your sharing processing power. They’re also restricted to social media channels, but there’s a lot more content out there to be leveraged for analysis.

The Upsides

Keeping Up With The Flow
Social media monitoring tools are just that “monitoring tools” and they are very good at being in the “now” and “recent now” of the constant flow of social media content. You can keep up with the daily pulse.

Competitor Insights
Most of these social media monitoring tools enable you to keep an eye on competitors. This is good for spotting their weaknesses or leveraging a crisis to your advantage.

Most apps today offer decent metrics to help as part of your overall performance measurement on marketing budgets.

Emerging Trends
These tools can quickly spot emerging trends such as memes and enable your creative and content teams to move quickly to leverage them.

In Summary
Social media monitoring tools are a key part of the marketing automation suite. But they shouldn’t be used to make strategic and planning decisions. They are very much in the now and near-now world of active marketing and help with customer service and brand engagement. They are not digital research tools and when used as such can lead to misinterpretations that can cost your budget big time. We’ve seen this happen a few times.

If you’re in the market for some deep digital research, we can help. If you’re looking to find a new social media monitoring tool, we can help as well. We’re unbiased, so we’re working on your side.