Aaron Koh, Social Media Director at That Social PR Agency, posted an interesting question on LinkedIn: Is social media monitoring a gold mine or a bubble?
During my work developing social media strategies for a variety of clients, I have had the opportunity to review the social media monitoring space in some detail.
Yes, there are a lot of companies jumping on the bandwagon. Some of the free services are useful. Used appropriately, they can meet the needs of many situations. Who hasn’t heard of Google Alerts? (List of free tools.) But some free services, while enticing, seem inaccurate at best, or even misleading. Larger enterprises will most likely need to consider paid solutions.
The big players (Techrigy, Radian6, Nielsen, Filtrbox, etc.) will likely buy out the best of the small scale solutions. (See Nathan Gilliat’s excellent Guide to Social Media Analysis for a list of companies offering paid solutions for social media monitoring.)
My sense is that the trend will shift away from technological solutions and to the human element. A monitoring program can alert you to a mention or conversation. It can even indicate whether it’s positive or negative. But software can’t tell you how to respond.
The nuances of building relationships through social media simply cannot be left to software. And even humans get it woefully wrong as Nestle’s recent social media disaster on Facebook testifies. Monitoring is important but experienced people with the expertise to manage specific situations will always be needed.
To answer Aaron’s question, the plethora of sub-par social media monitoring tools suggest a bubble is growing. The bubble will deflate in due course. But as with most bubbles, the strong players will survive and most likely come out even stronger.