I recently read an interesting article by Marshall Sponder about the possibility of Google entering the social media monitoring space. He concludes that they would not need to buy-in any skills as they have more data than anyone else and plenty of expertise to construct a really powerful (free) product.
For example, they are quite good a finding stuff and they have Google Alerts/Analytics to organise the items and loads of data on visitors to create a far better picture of usage. They also have the really cool Motion Charts widget which can bring those media usage graphs into brilliant life.
Would this be a good thing? Possibly not for the existing vendors, although it will add legitimacy to the sector, they will need to add more features and develop niche offerings. But I think it would be excellent news for PR, and here's why.
PR has been struggling to find the right metrics for measurement. Google can tell people all about their online media consumption habits. They might struggle to measure consumer behaviour, but their effort will be far better than anything previous. I really think this could be PR's missing link. All of sudden there will be a common currency for success; interchangeable and comparable....something for the non-PR bosses to get their heads around.
So what will it look like. I can't see it containing sentiment measures or messaging; I think this will remain the preserve of the other vendors. I think it will take the form of a reputation management widget/dashboard with start/end dates, monitored activity, comparisons, using metrics culled from searches undertaken and browser activity. I am pretty sure it will happen, just no too sure when.