It's no secret that social media should be a major part of any organization's marketing strategy. The question is, how do you take advantage of this channel in a way that has a direct impact on your business? Microsoft's latest proof of concept, the LookingGlass, is designed to do just that.

Connecting Business Data and Social Media

Microsoft unveiled its latest proof of concept, LookingGlass, at Advertising Week 2009. The new business tool is part of a broader strategy within its platform strategy group to deliver marketing and advertising as SaaS-based services.

LookingGlass brings together business data with advertising data, with a particular focus on social media. It enables the organization to listen, participate and analyze social media activity. Essentially, it's a social media monitoring tool, similar to solutions such as PeopleSeek, Socialseek and Radian6, monitoring popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and others.

In Microsoft's case, the tool will be integrated with business data from backend systems like CRM, customer service and sales.

Basically, LookingGlass will monitor social media sites for mentions of a company's brand in real time and analyze the data, providing information about how a brand is being perceived or how a particular marketing campaign is doing. The business can then take this information and act accordingly, either participating in the current conversations or starting new ones.

Demo of Looking Glass that Stephen Kim gave at Advertising Week in New York via 

Built on Microsoft Technologies

LookingGlass is of course, built on Microsoft's own technologies. In this case, it is a browser based solution utilizing Silverlight for a rich experience. SQL Server is the database on the backend and data collected will be integrated with SharePoint and Outlook.

There's some concern that this reliance on Microsoft's technologies will limit the new tool, but with the number of customers currently on Microsoft, it's more likely it was designed this way to support customers who don't want to introduce another new technology just to get this capability.

Learning Opportunities

And besides, everything Microsoft introduces these days is integrated with SharePoint in some manner. Why would LookingGlass be any different.

Late to the Social Media Game

These days Microsoft is rarely the front-runner for new solutions. As was stated already, there are already a number of solutions available for social media monitoring and engagement.

In fact, didn't Jive Software just announce something very similar a couple of weeks ago? Jive Market Engagement is also designed to monitor social media and enable organizations to act on that information. In Jive's case, they didn't build the monitoring technology, instead opting to integrate Radian6 with their Social Business Software suite.

Even Saleforce now offers integrated Twitter monitoring within its Service Cloud. Salesforce for Twitter is free from the company's AppExchange and offers customer-service features to help Salesforce users manage the conversation, uncover the numbers behind Twitter interactions and keep customers happy.

While they are not the first, Microsoft will likely be successful in their efforts to make LookingGlass used by their customers. That it integrates with SharePoint will be a key part of that success, along with the ability for partners to be able to build solutions on top of it.

Currently a proof of concept prototype, LookingGlass will be rolled out to a limited test group in the near future. We look forward to learning more about this solution and seeing it in action.