Mar 252014

Social media is everywhere, all the time. It’s about participation — by everyone. There are a billion blog posts and tweets a month, and the volume is growing at well over 50% a year. Companies need to decide what they should do about — and with — social media and how they should routinely deliver social business intelligence (SBI) to multiple business functions. How should they acquire social media listening/analysis/engagement services? There is more to the process than meets the eye: all social media vendors are not created equal.

Should companies develop their own social media listening/analysis/engagement capabilities, or should they buy them in the marketplace? The data clearly shows that the majority of companies have outsourced their social media listening/analysis/engagement requirements to a whole host of companies that specialize in social media or have added “social business intelligence” to their suite of products and services (Social Media Examiner‘s Michael Stelzner reported that social media outsourcing was up 128% in the past two years; see “Social Media Outsourcing Increases 128% in Two Years [New Report]“). But are companies asking the right questions? Are they selecting the best vendors?

A recent Cutter IT Journal article discusses in detail some criteria that companies can use to select the right social media listening/analysis/engagement vendor to support their search for SBI. Taken together, the criteria constitute a due diligence strategy designed to optimize the social media vendor selection process.

There are seven criteria:

  1. The ability to collect, filter, structure, and analyze social media data
  2. The ability to integrate social data across platforms
  3. The ability to model social media data
  4. The ability to perform derivative analytics
  5. The ability to facilitate internal/external/active/passive listening-to-engagement
  6. The ability to conduct real-time analysis of social media data
  7. The ability to measure social media listening/analysis/engagement effectiveness

The Way of the Future

The age-old technology acquisition question applies to social media listening, analysis, and engagement: build or buy? The first option is classic: build an internal social media listening capability by hiring and training professionals, build/license/acquire social media listening (and analytical) technology, and develop internal processes for leveraging social media across the enterprise. The second option is consistent with emerging acquisition and deployment best practices, as cloud computing rises in popularity and improves its capabilities: more and more companies are renting listening and engagement tools rather than building those capabilities inhouse.

The criteria listed here can help companies select vendors likely to satisfy their social media requirements. Note that SBI is itself evolving, and thus these criteria will likely be augmented by additional ones going forward. At this point in time, though, the above criteria can help companies better understand what they need from social media vendors — and which vendors actually have those capabilities.

The need to analyze social media data will not go away. As the number of posts and tweets dramatically grows — as it is projected to do — and the requirements for wide and deep SBI also increase, the need for social media listening, analysis, and engagement capabilities will also grow. Given the costs and complexities of building inhouse social media listening organizations, external sourcing will expand. Criteria-driven due diligence is the path to selecting the right social media vendor, and it will help both buyers and vendors optimize their investments.


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