Here it is. We all knew that they can not last for long on their own. Radian 6 has been sold off to the CRM giant Salesforce. With everyone from OpinionLab on the research side to Omniture on the analytics side trying to grab a piece of the social media monitoring business, it was a matter of time. But this is not just a case of a big company eating up small growing firms for the sake of their current and future profits. There is a much bigger opportunity just below the surface and I am willing to bet Salesforce knows it.
Is social media monitoring just an ugly mess?
Today, even Radian 6, the alleged leader in social media monitoring, is still a baby that can barely roll over so marketers could get something done. And I am not just talking about the ridiculously clunky Flash interface. More importantly, marketers and social media monitoring firms themselves, still have not figured out how to make social media monitoring actionable
It undoubtedly has value if you see a PR fire emerging and can act on it. If your people notice a “complaint frenzy” on a blog, you can reach out and address it. But these are tactical responses at most. The problem is that the qualitative data and analysis that comes out of these tools is either too vague or too narrow. Only in rare occurrence you get an actionable strategic insight from social media monitoring today.
So what should you do about social monitoring?
Don’t shut it down just yet. The acquisition of Radian 6 by Salesforce points toward the future of where social media monitoring tools are heading. Ultimately, the industry is organizing around two completely separate tools, simply built on the concept of social listening.
The two distinct directions of social media monitoring
1. True social CRM
Radian 6 in its new marriage with Salesforce will head the route of tactical monitoring and response capability. Essentially mimicking the social CRM capability of tools such as Shoutlet, busting Radian 6 out of the confines of only monitoring the social and brand conversations.
The holy grail for this side of the social media monitoring industry will be combining three things.
One: Taking the social media listening service at its core and intelligently and automatically flagging and sorting response and analysis needs to customer service, sales, market research, etc.
Two: Taking social media data collection capability of firms such as Locomatrix and overlaying information already available about the conversation and its participants within social media.
Three: Housing this in a direct response and communication platform that allows the brand stewards, PR teams, customer service reps to track, elevate, respond and act on any conversations that are pertinent to those internal or external teams.
The greatest challenge here is the ability to respond and leverage social CRM across all social platforms. Marketers want the ability to respond, track and measure responses to consumers not just on your Facebook page and on twitter, but across all conversations on the web. This becomes easier as social sign-on and single global sign-on becomes more prevalent, but there is still work to be done.
As these social CRM technologies develop we will have very impressive tactical tools to monitor and respond to the conversations that are happening all over the internet only waiting for marketers to listen closer and respond better.
2. Insight and strategic analysis tool
This one will be tougher, but I expect Omniture and other more analysis driven firms will finally make the move and increase their focus on what is happening outside of brand sites. Up to now, there has been an over-emphasis of websites and mobile web, but truly strategic insight will come from combining more exhaustive quantitative and qualitative data from social media.
Their challenge is greater, because for tactical social CRM all the tools generally exist. For insight driven social media monitoring analysis, all that exists is bad or incomplete solutions. So get to work people!
In the end, what we marketing and strategy people on both sides of a brand care about is:
– Emerging market and conversation trends
– Shifting consumer priorities
– Shifts in behavior and use of new technologies / social tools
– Aggregate effect of the brand and its communications
– Perception and purchase intent shifts related to specific campaigns
– Impact on site and mobile performance
– Impact on consumption
And there is more I want
In the end, the strategic insight will have to integrate much more closely into business analysis and analytics overall to be truly helpful. Especially since for now, social media monitoring really doesn’t measure or inform anything and relies on massive man-hours to analyze, review and read influencer reports, discussions and mentions.
The trends are moving in the right direction, but we marketing folks need to keep pushing these social media monitoring players to deliver more. We are waiting for a truly integrated insight. The industry is learning to love the term “integrated marketing” and finally sees the value that it has always had. Which means that measurement and analysis to inform decision making about integrated campaigns and brand building has to catch up. And quickly.