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How can you pick the right social media tool for your situation?

The other day, I posted about choosing the right social media listening tool for the right job. I usually don’t post again so quickly on the same subject, but I got so many questions that I thought I needed to. In my last post, I made the point that simple (and free) engagement tools (such as Hootsuite) work just fine if all you want to do is to monitor for crises (and you’re OK with watching many irrelevant results fly past as long as you eyeball the correct stuff). Any use of social media that is good enough for a person to look at individual social conversations can get by with just these free tools. But if you need to look at aggregate data to do market research or it is too expensive or error prone to have a person look at every tweet to find the relevant ones, then you need a better tool–one that incorporates text mining and probably that uses machine leaning technologies based on human-analyzed training data.

I serve as Chief Strategist for Converseon, a social media listening leader, so I might be a bit biased as to what is required, but the enterprise clients we work with (IBM, 3M, and many others) are looking for higher quality tools that help them glean the insights that help them make better decisions.

Technology only takes you so far before you need to invest in people that know how to analyze the data. It’s not much different from what I observed in the late ’90s with Web Analytics. The technology can collect the data, but unless you have a smart analyst telling you what it means and helping you decide what to do about it, all you have are some reports of visitors to your site–boring and unhelpful in improving your company’s results.

But people really want it to be automated. They want it to be automatic. Even Converseon is responding to this need by offering an API that anyone can hook up to for adding insights to their data. Now, the truth is that what the API does is based on lots of human analysis, but just like Google’s link analysis algorithm, if you can respond quickly enough, no one cares how long it took to codify that human knowledge. They just want it to be fast and accurate.

So, the bottom line is that you need to focus on how you want to use social media to choose the right tool. If you can live with inaccurate data because you are scanning everything with human beings to find the gems, use the cheapest tool that you can. If you’d rather have someone else pay the human being to get it right before people on your payroll look at it, then you need to make a different choice.

But make no bones about it. Somewhere a human being looks at the data. You need to decide when that happens, whose employee it is, and how much they are getting paid versus what the value is.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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