One important tool that has had an impact on the way we communicate as businesses these days is social media monitoring. Why? Because somehow along the way we moved from websites to other more direct forms of marketing: email, online and ultimately social media. Then someone thought it would be great to develop the concept that since social media is “by the people and for the people”, then we need to develop a form of technology that will let us “listen in” on the conversation. Now creepiness aside, it make sense…that if you’re going to talk to your customers and communicate with them their thoughts, concerns, feedback surrounding your product and/or brand, then you should be aware that since the Internet is a vast chasm of discussion, there’s probably no way you’re going to capture all the relevant insights and determine a pattern in all the noise. But that’s where social media monitoring tools will come into play.

Using an established program like ScoutLabs, Biz360, Radian6 or Sysomos will help you filter out the noise emanating from the World Wide Web and let you focus on what’s being said about a respective keyword or phrase. So whether you’re looking up information to see what people are saying about the Ford Fiesta Movement or about the Supreme Court, then you’ll always find what’s important and relevant. Now, of course if you don’t want to spend money on these tools, then there’s always other free methods to monitor the buzz: Google Alerts, Twitter Search and using a real-time feed software like LazyFeed or Collecta to get more information.

Nevertheless, recently, another company entered the foray of social media monitoring: SAS. Last week they announced the launch of their social media analytics tool that is probably one of the more robust versions of a social media analytics tool that I’ve heard about. Built to primarily support enterprise and large-scale companies, SAS’s social media tool is designed to integrate with most customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Salesforce and also with a slew of other SAS offerings. In fact, the company is trying to solve a specific problem:

Global corporations are seeking ways to convert social media data into better customer relationships, stronger customer service, enhanced marketing efforts and improved bottom-line results. They are struggling to derive practical insight from a flood of online conversation data and apply it to real-world decisions. Corporate marketers and agencies want more than the current one-size fits-all offerings. They want to integrate social data across all areas of their businesses, answer key questions, and apply the answers to specific business decisions.

SAS’s tool is reporting more than just influences and blog posts that mention your brand in one way, shape or form. It looks at the history of the conversations. While most other social media tools are looking at data from a span of 3-6 months, SAS is giving its customers the robustness of a two year window. So no longer will you need to scramble to save the data from a past campaign so you can compare it the next year. SAS’s new tool has the capability to display the historical records for you to compare against – what have you done differently and how has it affected the way people are talking online?

Moreover, SAS’s tool includes a feature that I’ve not heard or seen in any of the more popular monitoring tools: predictive analytics. While at face value, predictive analysis is probably difficult to really assess as being something legitimate since there are a lot of factors in play. Having this feature in any monitoring tool would be a great benefit since it will allow marketers and business people to properly gauge the estimated reaction that customers will have on a product launch or company news. It could be said that SAS is trying to get businesses to think proactively instead of reactively.

One of the last things that SAS’s social media tool can leverage is the ability to scale and grow based on the needs of the company. It seems safe to say that, by default, all companies who purchase the social media tool will have a good workflow management tool integrated so you can easily pass along action items to other members of your department or even your company – since SAS’s tool is enterprise focused. However, if you have the budget to support it, you could also have SAS develop custom modules and have them help you figure out specific metrics that are important to your company. From what I’ve been told, these custom modules would not be made available to other clients of SAS so you have an exclusive opportunity to make the social media monitoring tool your own. While we have been so keen on accepting the services that other established monitoring services have provided us, SAS is thinking more about what’s relevant to your company and not the utilitarian approach. The downside: you need to have money.

And this is why SAS’s social media monitoring tool is primarily designed for enterprise clients and large companies. If you have the money to support it, then you might want to look at the capabilities from SAS. For small businesses, you can evaluate this purchase on your own and SAS has even told me that this tool can be used by small to medium size businesses, but before you jump in on the cool features, make sure that you can justify the need and expenditure.

You can read my full review of SAS’s social media analytics tool on my blog here.

Photo Credit: Raven3k / sxc.hu

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    • Gilbert L

      Another option for monitor social media is Kurrently at http://www.kurrently.com – a real-time search engine for Facebook and Twitter.

    • http://outsourcewebdesign.org David E

      SAS Social Media Monitoring could be the tool we are looking right now. There are many types of social media and one important way to evaluate what we have done so far in that aspect is through monitoring. Great post!1