Monday, October 03, 2011

Assessing the measurers


Over a period of 6 weeks my intention was to use of as many online/social media monitoring tools as I could; aiming to understand their strengths, drawbacks and pricing options. I will deal with this latter issue in a follow-up post. The organisations tested included Brandwatch, JamIQ, Lithium, Trackur, UberVU. Obviously this list in not exhaustive. At the last count there were more than 100 providers in this space.

One of the criteria when deciding who to test was they had to be a player in the lower cost (non-enterprise)/self consultancy space. Believe you-me...you could spend considerably more than those I have tried! Indeed, if you include bespoke dashboards and human validation of articles tone and messaging you could easily spend many thousands of dollars a month. I wanted to understand more about the lower-cost players; see what you can get for a couple of hundred dollars a month, over the free tools we all use like Google Alerts, etc.

It is quite easy to point to the things which they all come with. You get a social media capture featuring stories relevant to your keywords covering Titter, Facebook, Linked-In and other online sources. You get the opportunity to compare and contrast these keywords (they could be a list of competitors or an agency's clients) either in a list or graphic form. It was also notable that this latter option would allow the user to click on a peak or trough and see what were the stories making it up. I last tested a few of these tools about 18 months ago and this is a new (and very welcome) addition to many of the providers service.

Another welcome addition to many of the providers is the ability see the impact of various commentators/Media sources. Whilst I am reluctant to describe it as a measure of influence, the combination of MozRank, Klout and similar scores are a welcome indication of media impact.

So what were my experiences with the providers listed above? It's probably easiest to firstly separate them into 2 groups based on ease of use. In the easy to use camp I would put Lithium, Trackur and UberVU. This is not say they are simplistic tools. Far from it, they have the ability to be customised and adapted to meet a variety of requirements and I would defy anyone using them for the first time not to be able to generate some kind of meaningful results in less than 5 minutes. Quite an achievement and very important considering that not everyone in PR has a Masters in statistics!

It is necessary though to draw meaningful categories, and if you are after a more comprehensive style of reporting you would do well to consider JamIQ and Brandwatch. I like the accessibility of the Asian based JamIQ portal. It is logically laid out, offers scalability and a broad selection of features including a nice dashboard, graphical interfaces and the ability to 'drill down' to the actual media coverage from most points.

Brandwatch is similarly feature-filled, though the set-up process is longer winded and involves several stages. In time I am sure the different groupings and queries would become logical, but I have to emphasise the point that it sometimes does not seem entirely logical. On a number of occasions I had to follow one of the online video tutorials (involving several stages) to be left with the impression that I had done what the others providers allow you to do almost intuitively.

All said, it is probably my favourite provider, generating coverage lists I could be confident with and filterable via and wide range of attributes. Other useful features included topic word clouds (I particularly liked the ....coloured plug-in version), and the ability of download as a CSV, Excel listing Or JPG for the charts.

This is a fast changing space and I will try to keep my views updated. I will also try and follow-up with a posting on their relative charging structures and value for money.
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