Many customer intelligence professionals are struggling to find the platform that best suits their needs, according to a new report from Forrester Reaearch.
In the report, "The 2011 Listening Platform Landscape,” Zach Hofer-Shall, an interactive marketing and social computing researcher at Forrester, says the struggle exists primarily because the listening platform has splintered off into such distinct groups with respective strengths and weaknesses.
“CI professionals require more from their listening platforms because they no longer just passively track online discussion," he writes. "Instead, they use their listening platform to identify and act on insights found within social media.”
Hofer-Shall notes that social media can now be applied more effectively by enterprises with real-time opinion data to offer all departments on products, campaigns, customers, competitors, and employees. CI professionals will, however, need this data to be of better quality considering they will be making business decisions based on Twitter and Facebook findings.
“Marketers use these tools to identify actionable insights, but without being able to rely on the validity of the data, they can only do so much,” says Hofer-Shall. “This must change.”
He outlines the rapid development of tools available for listening to social media and organizes these tools into three categories: social dashboards, multichannel analytics providers, or listening service partners .
The 2011 Listening Platform Landscape lists the most notable vendors in each of the aforementioned categories:
Social dashboards—Web-based tools that focus primarily on managing and analyzing social media data:
- Crimson Hexagon;
- Radian6; and
Multichannel analytics providers—Analytics infrastructures that mine social media data along with other structured and unstructured data sources:
- Analytics infrastructures;
- Overtone; and
- SAS Institute.
Listening service partners—Vendors with proprietary social analytics tools and professional consulting teams that write custom research reports based on social media data:
- EmPower Research;
- NM Incite;
- Synthesio; and
- Visible Technologies.
“The social dashboards serve self-sufficient marketers well, but may leave less socially experienced brands with tough learning curve," Hofer-Shall explains. "The listening service partners help do the heavy lifting and can serve larger enterprise needs with their custom consulting offerings, but of course come at a price for the human element. The multichannel analytics providers fit well for companies with larger enterprise data management needs—those looking at broader customer feedback or support functions.”
Hofer-Shall advises listening platforms vendors to focus on improving data quality and delivering more accurate, reliable results. But, long term, he envisions these listening platforms needing deeper integration with existing marketing, customer support, and analytics technologies. He describes social media as “a piece of the data puzzle” and insists that listening platforms build out a horizontal platform capable of servicing those needs.