The market for social media monitoring -- or listening platforms as many are calling it -- is young. So young, in fact, that vendors and companies alike are just now discovering new use cases and reasons for adoption of such solutions. According to Blake Cahill, the senior vice president of marketing for Visible Technologies, now is the optimal time to step back and look at how the market is shaping up and how customers are interacting with solutions. "It's a chance to move around some of the boxes and say, 'There's a new way of looking at this,' " he says. Less than three months after launching its truReputation Suite of capabilities, Visible -- a 2009 CRM magazine Rising Star -- has rebranded the platform as truCast, with additional functionality and segmentation.
"Based on what our product set does, it delivers different ways based on what you're trying to accomplish with the social and search channel," Cahill says, pointing out that not only do the reasons for using social media monitoring differ from company to company, but often uses vary between departments within a single organization. The new suite, he says, helps to bridge those silos. Turning to an analogy of a traffic circle to describe the suite, Cahill says that users come into the one suite or hub, and then can choose the manner in which to proceed. "You come into that circle and you decide what you are trying to achieve," he says. "You can pull [any] one of our products and pieces off the shelf."
Suresh Vittal, a principal analyst with Forrester Research, agrees that now is a great time for companies such as Visible to be revamping platforms and delivering role-based solutions. "What's happened is that people have begun to think of social monitoring as one overarching functionality, and most platforms are built with that in mind," Vittal says. However, he adds, the public relations use of the truCast tools may greatly differ from their use within interactive marketing.
Given the diverging needs of users, the truCast Suite is broken down into the following capabilities:
- truVoice: Visible's flagship product was previously named truCast (now the name of the entire suite). The truVoice solution allows social media data collection, engagement throughout departments, and the tracking of social media conversations. This is best suited for the Visible power user, Vittal says.
- truPulse: A new addition to the Visible platform, this RSS feed–based tool is geared toward those doing straight listening and analysis of conversations. Cahill says this is often the starting place for social media newbies or light users. "The place you want to get started is listening," he says.
- truSearch: Introduced in June, the search functionality allows users to filter out the noise and drill down into key phrases and concepts.
- truInsight: A more holistic approach to monitoring, the trueInsight function provides a set of professional services and reports to aid a company's decision making. Essentially this is the step before the action is taken.
- truReputation: Visible takes a stab at measuring a company's reputation with this tool. It gathers search engine results and delivers a score on a company's social media reputation.
"There's a long runway ahead for social media monitoring and listening. We've only just scratched the surface," Vittal says. "Rightly so the platform providers are focusing on penetrating the market and delivering as much functionality in the easiest manner as possible." The analyst notes that Visible is taking a step in the right direction by revamping the product's interface and trying to segment its tools and customer base.
Cahill says the fact that the market is immature and that use cases are proliferating is both a challenge and an opportunity for Visible. "We want to be everything to everyone," he says, noting that the company is careful to do so in a "very methodical extendible way." He says he views social media monitoring much like CRM in that there's a notable adoption lifecycle. "We want to say to the market: 'We can help you at any stage -- not just when you are ready to do it all at once," he says. That being so, he says Visible is taking the "break it down to build it up" approach. Users can sign on for one piece -- likely truPulse for listening -- and then scale up and move more toward engagement when ready.
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