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What are the Best Social Listening Tools?

To really derive full value from social listening, businesses need to focus on big data, but collecting and analysing big data is beyond the scope of human ability. That’s why it’s essential to utilise tools that can automate the process and handle large pools of data.

The Challenge

One of the most well known and longest established tools for monitoring brand mentions online is  Google Alerts, so it’s natural that many businesses gravitate towards a tool with a familiar name. But this introduces a challenge. Google Alerts was first introduced back in 2003; it simply wasn’t designed to handle the huge amounts of online data and the growing number of digital discussions. Consider that, in 2005, just over half of people in the developed world were accessing the internet. Today, it’s estimated that 4.5 billion people across the globe access the web, with 3.8 billion using social media. . 

10 years after Google Alerts was introduced, a Google spokesperson said that the tool “is still a good way to keep up with instances of your name appearing online, but we’d also recommend using Google Search for the most comprehensive results”, suggesting that even in 2013, the tool alone was  no longer capable of giving businesses exactly what they needed. 

In a report titled ‘Understand the Enterprise Listening Platform Landscape’, Forrester Research Director Mary Pilecki blamed dissatisfaction of listening tools on gaps in user knowledge. She said that “it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools”, but this is certainly a controversial topic. 

Of course it is vital that social listening tools are managed by someone with the experience and skill needed to ensure they’re drawing from the most relevant data pools, but as can clearly be seen with the Google Alerts example, not all tools were made equal. If you’re not seeing the expected results from your social listening efforts, it could be  a case of not having the necessary human touch. But it’s also important to consider if the problems could be attributed to using the wrong tools. 

And that’s why taking the time to consider the right tools is so important for success.

What Tools Should You be Using?

The good news is that, if you’re keen to go beyond monitoring and actually start listening,  there are many excellent software solutions available that are designed to trawl through the massive number of online conversations that are taking place today. 

And the truth is that there’s no right or wrong choice. Different tools offer different things, so what’s best for your business will largely depend on your individual needs, requirements, and usability preferences. There’s a big choice, so checking out all the different tools on the market can be a lengthy and involved process. You can make this process much more efficient by looking at independent research into the options.

Introducing the Best Social Listening Tools

While there has been a lot of independent research undertaken into social listening tools, one of the most prominent reports comes from market research firm Forrester. The organisation evaluated social listening tools against 40 criteria in 2018, generating a list of the top 10 solutions that can help businesses to grow and develop by listening

The firm concluded that Synthesio, Sprinklr, and NetBase performed to an exceptional level, achieving ‘leader’ status. Talkwalker, Digimind, and Brandwatch were deemed to be ‘strong performers’, while Linkfluence and Zignal Labs demonstrated significant promise, and were labelled as major industry contenders. 

Within the report, the researchers suggested that many social listening tools have ‘features and functionalities that largely look the same from one to the next’. However, those solutions making the top 10 list were able to ‘differentiate with strategy’. Here are some of the standout features of the highest rated listening tools:

Synthesio offers straightforward pricing by number of dashboards. It captures data from 195 countries in 80 different languages and uses automatic sentiment analysis. 

Sprinklr leverages its extensive social data sources and tech integrations to produce actionable results. It focuses on using online data to improve the customer experience.

Talkwalker boasts a sophisticated data engine and advanced analytics. It collects data in 187 languages, with a ‘quick search’ function to deliver fast, real time updates.

NetBase has a myriad of dashboard visualisations and customisations.It’s intended to protect brand health, boost campaign performance, and improve crisis management. 

Digimind is a feature-heavy platform that enables users to create customised reports using a range of pre-designed templates to help brands monitor, analyse, and engage. 

Linkfluence offers competitive benchmarking and earned media coverage. Its AI-powered media intelligence platform draws context and meaning from images.

Brandwatch articulates a clear social intelligence vision. It uses data to help brands map the customer journey with an overall aim of streamlining the path to conversion. 

Zignal Labs is heavy on brand protection to meet niche communications needs. It’s based on the concept of impact intelligence to reduce risk and maintain reputation.

And the Forrester report isn’t the only form of independent research that can help you to choose the right tool for your needs. Other reports cite Synthesio, Brandwatch and Linkfluence as a result of their concepts and functions, market dynamics and innovation, key features and coverage, pricing and service availability, and vendor experience.

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Alternative Tools

The Forrester Wave report is a great place to start searching for the social listening tool that’s right for you. However, it’s important to remember that the report only evaluated tools with more than 100 enterprise clients, and an earned revenue of more than $15 million. There are many very proficient social listening tools that you won’t find mentioned in the Forrester report, so it’s important to consider some other effective tools, too. 

High performers include:

Meltwater Social, used by clients such as MailChimp and Heineken. Designed for marketers and PR professionals, the tool gathers data from more than 300,000 sources.

Socialbakers, used by clients such as Samsung and National Geographic. This AI tool features a customisable dashboard for a clear breakdown of brand sentiment. 

Awario, used by clients such as Upstack and Seraph. The tool crawls more than 13 billion web pages per day to provide real time insights across all languages and all locations. 

Brand24, used by clients such as Uber and Ikea. The tool features an easy-to-read discussion volume chart which identifies sudden changes in online brand mentions. 

Infegy, used by clients such as Starbucks and Mintel. This is a truly global tool covering 96% of global conversations and using 120+ metrics to identify trends around the world.

What to Look for in a Social Listening Tool

What to look for in a social listening tool really depends on what your business is looking for from your social listening efforts. For businesses looking for a budget-friendly method of gaining greater customer insight, pricing structures will play a major role in the decision making process. For others, user experience and a simple dashboard may be prioritised, or perhaps industry focus is important to you. You may want to look for social proof by checking out the clients that the provider works with, or you may be more interested in looking at how the tool acquires, filters, sorts, analyses, and exports data. 

The market can be overwhelming, which is why many businesses today work with a social listening expert who can help to identify the most effective tools for them.

If you want to grow your business through social listening, talk to our team today!

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