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Social media marketing can be a lot like email blasts. Send out something, and see if it sticks

We're still in early days here. Many digital marketing teams, especially B2B, still search for that "gotcha" in social media marketing.

"One of the difficult things about using what I call flat metrics as a barometer for success is that there isn't often an actionable next step," said Erin Robbins O’Brien, chief operating officer at San Francisco-based GinzaMetrics, which just released a social intelligence suite. 

"For instance, a tweet receiving a high volume of retweets is often not analyzed for how it worked, who it worked for -- in terms of audience segmentation/persona group -- and if it would have worked on other channels or just Twitter. This means marketers aren't able to harness the good and fix the bad as easily."

Vendors claim they make these fixes. And where there are vendors, therein lies software rankings.

G2 Crowd, the Chicago-based crowdsourcing platform that provides user-review based reports on business software, released its Grid for Social Media Monitoring today. At least 10 users must have submitted reviews/ratings on a vendor for it to be mentioned in the report. The report looks at customer satisfaction (based on user reviews) and market presence (based on market share, vendor size and social impact).

How accurate are they? Like any reviews, take them with a few grains of salt.

Inside the Top Vendors

G2 Crowd composed data from 400-plus reviews across a dozen products in its second such report.

2015-24-March-best-social-media-monitoring-spring-2015-g2-crowd.jpgThe rankings include four categories:

  • Leaders, which "offer social media monitoring products that are rated highly by G2 Crowd users and have substantial scale, market share and global support and service resources." Brandwatch was the lone leader.
  • High Performers, which "provide products that are highly rated by their users, but have not yet achieved the market share and scale of the vendors in the Leader category." High Performers products include: Viralheat, Digimind Social, Mention, Crimson Hexagon, Geofeedia, Synthesio and Radarly
  • Contenders, which "have significant market presence and resources, but their products have received below average user satisfaction ratings or have not yet received a sufficient number of reviews to validate their products. Contenders products include: Radian6
  • Niche products, which "do not have the market presence of the Leaders. They may have been rated positively on customer satisfaction, but have not yet received enough reviews to validate their success." Niche products include: Sysomos, NetBase and Meltwater Buzz

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Ranking orgs like G2 Crowd each have different methodologies. Forrester and Gartner go with the analyst model. Another crowdsourcer, TrustRadius, looked at social media management software for enterprises with at least 500 employees.

G2 Crowd officials said all reviews go through a screening process. Flagged reviews do count toward averages for reports like the one released today. 

Asked if his organization "courts" reviewers, Tim Handorf, president of G2 Crowd, said, "Many of the reviewers that come to G2 Crowd find value in its content. Many end up organically writing reviews. We'll also identify current users of software through user and industry forums on the web, as well as through social channels. We'll reach out to potential reviewers through these channels, and will occasionally reward them for their time through gift cards."

Is courting reviewers even a bad thing? Some don't think so and encourage companies to do so. It's good brand marketing. 

However, it can't truly be determined whether or not reviewers were coaxed by companies to make their reviews -- which some could see as another flaw to this rankings methodology.

How does G2 Crowd respond to that?

"As G2 Crowd grows," Handorf said, "many vendors have chosen to make the platform part of their marketing communications efforts, whether through blog posts, emails or social posts. Companies that ask their customers for reviews are given specific guidelines that they should ask all customers for a review and should not provide any guidance on what the customer should write in the review. We will remove reviews that violate these guidelines."

Leaving Out Key Players?

G2 Crowd for this report today only chose to include vendors who have at least 10 reviews. What about those awesome tools that don't have 10 reviews?

"Every company in a given category has a chance to generate reviews and be included in the report," Handorf told CMSWire. "We let all companies know in advance that the report is being published. In addition, we solicit reviews for all the companies by reaching out to their customers ourselves. We have found that great products have customer evangelists that are happy to write a review to ensure they are represented in the report."

Handorf stood by the Grid's value to software buyers. Early in the decision process, buyers use G2 Crowd to see what products are available in a given space.

"The report helps create their short list," he said. "As the buyer progresses in the decision process, they are able to compare the strengths and weaknesses of a product, including its features using the Grid report. We believe that real users provide the best insights to buyers, because of their experience actually using the software. In addition, technology changes very fast. Since G2 Crowd data is updated in real time it ensures users always get a picture of the current market."

He compared his organization to TripAdvisor and Glassdoor, which have "gained popularity because they empower buyers to form their own opinions, based on their peers’ experiences. G2 Crowd is part of this same trend."

How TrustRadius Sees Space

G2 Crowd crowdsource competitor TrustRadius, based in Austin, Texas, had its own social media marketing report based on reviews. It looked at the average “likelihood to recommend” rating, a representation of overall satisfaction by enterprise customers who have written reviews or provided product ratings on TrustRadius.


It also looked at how often a product is evaluated by enterprises on TrustRadius

Products with large customer bases or those experiencing significant growth momentum are evaluated more frequently.

How Forrester Sees Space

Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester in its social media monitoring Wave in 2012 found that Radian6 and Visible Technologies lead the market, thanks to two key strengths: Broadly functional dashboards and innovative road maps.

Forrester rated Attensity, Converseon, Networked Insights, NM Incite, SDL and Synthesio strongly, each for a different reason:

  • Converseon because of its social research practice
  • Synthesio due to its international strengths
  • SDL for its social data quality
  • Networked Insights for its strong connection to the media world
  • Attensity for its ability to handle a variety of data
  • NM Incite for its strength in consulting services

One Vendor Does it All?

Joe Colacurcio, director of research and analytics at Chicago-based Zocalo Group, told G2 Crowd he thinks social listening tools in particular are trying to excel at one of three functional areas:

  • Providing the best coverage and collecting the most content possible across all social channels via their APIs (thin full Twitter firehose)
  • Creating really beautiful and compelling visuals that can be easily created and shared
  • Using advanced language processing to parse sentiment and other hard to qualitative information

"It feels rare that a single tool does all of these three things really well," he said. "Some of the more innovative features that are starting to emerge include conversation segmentation as well as more advance conversation discovery."

"Moving forward," he added, "the best social tools are going to need to help marketers understand the linkage between owned channels/community management and earned conversations -- not just what is taking place in each arena by itself."

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