Should You Listen When Choosing a Listening Platform?

by wboyce on June 25, 2010

Wendy Boyce

Wendy Boyce

As social media usage becomes a mainstream method to deliver messaging and gather feedback, social listening platforms continue to emerge and evolve.  More and more companies are integrating listening platforms into their social media and marketing strategies.   Marketers must not only be aware of what is being said about them (both good and bad), but they must understand the perception, range of influence and sentiment of feedback about their brand or products.  Selecting the right listening platform is essential.

I think at this stage of the social game, we can all agree that there are 3 main reasons to listen.  Forrester Research reiterates these:

  1. Customers are more likely to trust online reviews from peers than a company’s marketing.  (Look at reviews and the uprising of many other review sites.)
  2. Conversations, both good and bad, spread quickly.  (Motrin Mom’s was a classic example of negative reactions to a TV ad that spread quickly, causing Motrin to react and retract.)
  3. Social tools make brand advocates highly influential. (NASCAR has done a bang-up job of making brands relevant.  Every time I see Tony Stewart in my news feed on Facebook, I suddenly crave a Whopper.)

Here’s where I get hung up in choosing the right tool.  I’ve heard this person and that person tell me why they love “Product X” over “Product Y.”  And it’s been said, that one product is so much cheaper than another, and delivers the same info.  I’ve listened in the social space to others talking about preferred listening platforms, in hopes I’d glean some insight into selecting the best tool.

What I realize, is that while John Doe recommends “Product X” and Jane Doe recommends “Product Y,” I also must fully understand that these marketers may work for different companies, in different industries, with entirely unique marketing strategies.  Considering that, I must further realize that the information they might need to extract from a listening platform could vary greatly from the type and granularity of data that my strategy dictates.

The list of features is dizzying!  Some tools offer up multiple language support, while others provide demographic data and enriched sentiment reporting, and still others pull data from offline sources such as radio and TV.  (A common theme with the existing tools is that none seem to provide a full view of multi-channel marketing campaign responses.)  One must also consider the depth of reporting, dashboards and integration capabilities.

So you see, we’ve come a long way from the traditional clipping services.  Social listening platforms are on the rise, and continue to improve and evolve.  To purchase a solution based solely on price tag and other users’ opinions of the tool would be foolish.  Remember that while other users are getting exactly what they might need out of one solution, their needs may greatly differ from yours. The brand I was most interested in, prior to starting my research (and based on the listening I had done), now turns out to be a brand I am much less likely to purchase based on digging deeper into my own strategic needs.

Be diligent in your research  and have a top-down, full-view marketing strategy, when selecting the right tool.  (Stay out of the silo mindset.)  Consider the following questions:

  • Will the tool track consumer insights, B2B insights, or both?
  • What are the data sources and types of data provided?  (online versus offline, demographic data, etc.)
  • How is sentiment calculated by the tool, and is neutral sentiment a common output?  (Consumers tend to communicate about a brand because they either had a great experience or a lousy one.  Neutral sentiments should be a bit hard to believe.)
  • Can the tool serve as both an internal marketing tool for my company, and if needed, provide an enhanced service offering for my clients?
  • What types of reports are available through the tool and how easy is it to get these reports out?
  • What other marketing automation tools might integrate with this tool?

If you select and implement the right tool, ultimately you’ll be better equipped to gather the right insights for the right programs through the proper channels.


The Listening Platform Landscape (Forrester Research)

The Forrester Wave: Listening Platforms, Q1 2009 (Forrester Research)

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About the Author:

Wendy Boyce is the Social Media & Marketing Manager for SIGMA Marketing Group.  Connect with Wendy on , or follow her on .

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