A Comparison of Social Media Monitoring Tools: The Search for the Holy Grail

Once upon a time at a digital marketing agency far, far away, an ambitious Dragon ventured on a seemingly never-ending quest to find the Holy Grail of all social media monitoring tools. Despite the obstacles ahead, the Dragon soldiered on in search of the one social media tool to rule them all. The Dragon was me and the journey—albeit long—did not extend further than my own desk. After many months of sales calls and demonstrations with eleven different companies, I have pooled my data and identified the good, the bad and the so-so of social media monitoring.

My Social Media Monitoring & Reporting Dream Features

social media monitoring tools review and comparison

Over the course of my research, I came across a total of 34 desired features that DragonSearch‘s dream tool would offer. While this list included the obvious—such as white labeled reporting, archiving and campaign tracking—I stumbled upon some really neat features that really set some tools apart. Sprout Social, for example, has a free mobile app that allows users to respond on all synced social networks and even monitor FourSquare check-ins. For any local business, this is a big selling point. Meltwater Buzz sets itself apart with a built-in link shortener and custom Facebook tab builder, making campaign creation and tracking seamless.

Some social media monitoring tools even include their own influencer score, such as Sysomos, Meltwater Buzz and Sprout Social. Visibile Technologies, on the other hand, incorporated the ever-popular measure of social influence: Klout. Among my (still growing) list of desired features is Google Analytics integration, audience segmentation for mentions and a comprehensive spam filter.

The Not-So-Good Social Media Tools (a.k.a. The Tools to Avoid)

I’m not one to harp on negative attributes; however, there are some tools that were mostly unimpressive. Cision, for example, began pricing at $4,000/month in order to meet the needs of a boutique agency like DragonSearch. While social media monitoring tools are inevitably pricey, I definitely had sticker shock from Cision’s quote. I never received a demo of either Lithium or SM2, so both tools were quickly ruled out. While I hate persistent salespeople as much as the next person, I appreciate a good follow-up and the occasional poke to circumvent my hectic schedule.

Although Spiral16’s social media reporting tool came with unique data visualizations, the inability to respond to mentions makes this service only helpful to agencies interested in raw data and research. However, my least favorite tool trophy goes to BrandsEye. After performing an initial search, BrandsEye requires users to manually weed through hundreds of search queries to train their relevancy prediction algorithm. This method certainly does not increase productivity.

The Middle-of-the-Road Social Media Monitoring Tools

These tools aren’t bad by a long shot, but they don’t quite deliver everything that an agency would need. However, my standards are pretty high at this point following hours of tool research. First, let’s take a look at MAP and Heartbeat from Sysomos. Having had an introduction to Sysomos at Blog World East 2011, I am quite familiar with the features of each tool. MAP is great for monitoring mentions for numerous clients and performing competitive research while Heartbeat works better as a workflow tool on a client-by-client basis. While I am quite the advocate for Sysomos, they do not offer one tool that does absolute everything DragonSearch needs as an agency.

Sprout Social works wonderfully for managing customer communication; however, it lacks the deep analytic filters that are necessary for comprehensive social media reporting. SocialRadar was another tool that did not make the cut due to the inability to respond to mentions or assign users tasks within the software. In other words, these tools had their redeeming qualities but still didn’t hit Holy Grail status.

The Best Social Media Monitoring Tools (In My Honest Opinion)

I want to preface this last section by saying that I did not—nor do I plan to—test every single social media monitoring tool under the sun. There are simply too many tools out there to be tested that there is simply not enough time in the day. However, I did use good old fashioned social recommendations, brand recognition and blog research to compile a list of social monitoring tools worth testing. At the close of my lengthy research, I found three tools that embody the non-negotiable features that had been set out for DragonSearch: Visible Technologies, BrandWatch and Meltwater Buzz.

Visible Technologies was the first tool to win over my heart because it offered both unlimited search queries AND results. This type of offering is virtually unheard of in any type of social monitoring tool. Visible Technologies also includes all of the core features that make for a happy dragon. However, the $3,000/month price tag was a bit much for smaller agency. If you work for a national brand or large agency, I highly recommend Visible.

Meltwater Buzz also stood out as well because it monitors and even translates in 27 different languages—the most of any tool I have reviewed. Meltwater Buzz also has a variety of unique features that set it apart from many of the competitors—including topic and theme segmentation of mentions. However, Meltwater Buzz required a one-year up front financial commitment of $15,000. Once again, this type of pricing may be more feasible for larger agencies.

So what tool was lucky enough to find a home at DragonSearch? Known as Radian 6’s largest competitor in Europe, the newly-launched U.S. version of BrandWatch was the ultimate tool of choice. BrandWatch’s core features met our agency needs and the price point was just right. With unlimited users and search queries, BrandWatch can adapt to a variety of client loads. In addition, a 30-day contract makes the decision to buy not seem so scary. But then again, I am a self-professed commitment phobe.

What social media monitoring tools have you tested? Are there any that you would highly recommend or might suggest agencies avoid?



Identifying the key features of a social media monitoring tool is integral to the tool selection process. As I have discovered, the feature set for these tools is numerous to say the least. As a reference, we have compiled a spreadsheet of the most common and desired features found in different digital marketing tools. From Klout integration and mozRank to white labeling and influencer identification, there are at least 30 key functions identified based one extensive research.

See the large version of the tool comparison spreadsheet here.

Visible Technologies*
Lithium
Brands Eye
Sysomos MAP
Sysomos-Heartbeat
BrandWatch*
SocialRadar
Sprout Social*
Spiral16
Meltwater Buzz
Multiple Users
White Labeling
Search results (limited v. unlimited)
History–how far back?
Exportable reporting?
Identifies influencers
Respond within tools
Assign tasks with notes
Social Network Integration (what sites?)
Blog and news integration
Author Demographics
Competitve reporting
Search Query Priority Ranking
Measure of Engagement/Reach
Measure of Buzz
“Discovery” tool for topics
Search terms allowed
Spam filter
Save Searches
Meausre Sentiment (+ or -)
Google Analytics Integration
Audience Demographics
Customizable Dashboard
MozRank integration
Mobile app/support
Individual Campaign Tracking
Mention Backup
Multiple Languages
Klout Integration
Email Alerts
API Integration
Contract Length
Link Tracking in Tool
Cost $$$$$
3 to start Unlimited   Yes Yes Unlimited One agency
login, $100 per extra user
10 to start,
$29.99/month each additional
5 users   yes
Yes-reports Yes-reports Yes-reports Yes-reports Yes-reports Yes Yes No Yes Yes-reports yes
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
results, limited searches
Limited-see
pricing
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited   standard
300,000
3 months 6
months
  1
year
30
days (included) to 1 year on heartbeat,
1
month to 5 years
up
to 5 years on Facebook and Twitter as well
Instant
except for Facebook (1 year)
1-2
years
  1
year
CSV & PDF PDF Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes Coming
soon
  Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes Yes No Yes-Hearbeat Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Yes Yes   No Yes-Heartbeat Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Facebook,
Twitter
Facebook,
Twitter
All
of them (?)
Facebook,
Twitter, Foursquare, G+ (MAP only)
Facebook,
Twitter, Foursquare, G+ (MAP only)
Facebook,
Twitter, Google Plus, Foursquare
Facebook,
Twitter, RSS, Foursquare, etc.
Facebook,
Twitter, Foursquare, RSS, LinkedIn
All
major ones
All
major networks
Facebook,
Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare comments
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes No   Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Yes     Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
No Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No,
working on this
Yes Yes Yes
Yes     Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes   Yes
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
No No   Yes Yes Yes No Yes No   No
Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes-pre-designated
clusters
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
No No   No No > No No No No   No:
alternative
No No   No,
accessible on mobile site
No,
accessible on mobile site
No Yes Yes Yes   iPhone
Yes     Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Yes     Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes-$50/month
per topic
  Yes
Yes     Yes Yes 20
languages
14
languages
Yes No 20
languages
27
languages + translate
Separate
Influence Score
    Separate
Influence Score
Separate
Influence Score
Yes No Yes No   No-internal
tool
Yes Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes Only
for Foursquare
Yes   Yes
          Yes   yes Yes   Yes
1 year 1
year
  1
year
1
year
30
days minimum
30
days per search topic
None 30
day contracts
  1
year
                    Yes
$3,000/month
unlimited everything
$1,400/month
for 50 searches, $2,400/month for 100 searches
$2,000/month
for unlimited searches, $999/month for 200 search phrases, $199 month for 10
searches
$2,750/month > $550/month
for 5 queries and 10 tags with $500 setup. Professional- 10 queries, 25 tags,
25 users-$1,100/month
$650/month
for 10k mentions & unlimited searches, $2,400/month for unlimited
mentions and 15 searches ($115 each additional query), $1,050/month for 20k
mentions & unlimited searches
$600/month
for 5 searches & unlimited results, >
$899/month
for unlimited social profiles and searches and up to 10 users
$500
for 5 queries with pricing up to $4,950/month for unlimited
  $15,000/1
year, $28,000/year


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59 comments on “A Comparison of Social Media Monitoring Tools: The Search for the Holy Grail

LinkYeah

Great news to see Brandwatch placing so highly. Thanks for including us and I’m very glad you found what you were looking for. It appears as though you conducted a very thorough analysis. One small bit of nit-picking is to note that we DO have MozRank integration. Sweetening the deal even more, I hope. Thanks again,Joel WindelsCommunity Manager at Brandwatch 


    LinkYeah

    Damn formatting


      Bloggin4Jobs

       @LinkYeah thanks for the update! Must have been added since my initial research or a snafu in communication somewhere. I’ll try to get that updated in the spreadsheet! -D


      Deidre Drewes

       @LinkYeah thanks for the update! Must have been added since my initial research or a snafu in communication somewhere. I’ll try to get that updated in the spreadsheet! -D


Brit at Sprout Social

Thanks so much for giving Sprout Social a whirl and including us in your review, Deidre! Understand we can’t be the perfect fit for everyone, but glad you tested us out and enjoyed a number of the features. We’re always working to assess the demand for certain functionalities and constantly building more into the app, so hope you’ll check us out again in the future! 


    Deidre Drewes

     @Brit at Sprout Social Brit, I love, love, LOVE Sprout Social’s FourSquare integration. That feature is unparalleled by any of the other tools in terms of location-based marketing. I highly recommend playing up that feature as much as you can!


MurrayNewlands

Well done to Giles at Brandwatch and Kimling at Meltwater. You missed more economic tools such as Alerti which I work with.  


    Deidre Drewes

     @MurrayNewlands hi Murray, thanks for the head’s up! This is a working series which originated as internal research for DragonSearch. Once we chose a tool, we decided to write about the findings. I will have to check out Alerti and possibly do a follow-up post.


      MurrayNewlands

       @Deidre Drewes Great please ping me @ murraynewlands.com and I will get you a login.


shannagordon

Great comparison of the tools.  I think one line item I would like to see for the companies is if they offer a “managed” service.  We find a lot of our enterprise clients don’t have the time or capacity to go through all of the mentions, they really value having an analyst reviewing each mention and only providing them with the relevant/important ones on a daily basis.  For smaller companies the alerts work well but for larger they sometimes feel over whelmed with data.  – You can check out our tool @ http://www.brandprotect.com/social-media-monitoring.html
 


    Deidre Drewes

     @shannagordon Hi Shanna, great point! During my experience, I found that Meltwater Buzz was the one tool in which your account manager would setup all of the queries for you. That certainly is a desirable feature. As an agency, it is nice to go through the mentions locally to ensure that analysis coincides with the client’s goals. I will be happy to give Brand Protect a try as this is a working series. 


kimling

HI Deidre,
Thanks for the Meltwater Buzz mention. I’m super impressed with your thorough research and appreciate you including us in your evaluation! 
Best,
Kimling


    Deidre Drewes

     @kimling Thank you so much! Alas, the research is not over. This series has introduced me to an onslaught of new tools. As a result, I’m going to continue reviewing. Glad you enjoyed it!


LBrusselmans

Hi Deidre,
 
I must say: I admire people who aren’t afraid of taking on the challenge of reviewing social media monitoring tools. Keeping track of all of them and staying updated on all the evolutions: it’s not an easy task!
 
Since I read in one of the comments you’re going to keep reviewing tools, allow me to make a suggestion: Engagor. I dare say we offer both strong analytics as well as a powerful engagement platform. We allow very complex keyword searches, multiple monitored profiles and at a very reasonable pricing (www.engagor.com/pricing). I warmly invite you to set up a free 10-day trial to test our platform. Please get in touch if you’re interested in a personal demo.
 
So far for the sales talk :) 
 
Keep up the good work! 
 
Best,
 
Lien Brusselmans
Marketing Manager Engagor


Aditi_narayanan

Hi Deidre,
 
Most-impressed with the comprehensive analysis on various aspects of a social media monitoring tool. However, I urge you to check out webfluenz which is a multilingual social media intelligence system offering automated reports, unlimited Ad-Hoc Queries, influencer analytics, author demographics, an engagement system and much more. To know more about us, please visit http://webfluenz.com/


TheRealSJR

Hi Deidre!
 
Nice work – very comprehensive indeed. Despite mentioning them, I was interested that you didn’t include Radian6 in the spreadsheet. What the reason behind that?


    RicDragon

     @TheRealSJR My guess is that Radian6 wasn’t included because we, as a shop, had been using it – and found it wanting in some critical points – from there we switched to Sysomos, and then went through this process of reviewing a lot of other platforms – for as the title of @Deidre Drewes post suggests, it’s a quest for the Holy Grail.


    Deidre Drewes

     @TheRealSJR as @RicDragon mentioned, we had used Radian6 on a client level and were not impressed enough to pursue it on an agency level. This series was spawned based on  internal research for DragonSearch’s agency needs. However, I have received quite a few requests to review Radian6. As a result, I may consider trying out the tool once more for the sake of journalistic balance =)


      TheRealSJR

       @Deidre Drewes  @RicDragon Sounds reasonable to me. I’d personally love to know the areas Radian6 falls down on. I’m looking at that product right now with great interest, so any thoughts would be much appreciated.
       
      Journalistic balance sounds good – make sure you keep your core tight when you do it. #fitnessjoke


        Deidre Drewes

         @TheRealSJR  let’s make a deal–I’ll review Radian6 if you promise to be my Twitter personal trainer. I have three weeks to get in shape for a nice little Hawaii trip lol


        TheRealSJR

         @Deidre Drewes Ha! Deal… although I suspect Twitter might not be the best tool for the job. DM me anyway… :)


        Deidre Drewes

         @TheRealSJR haha will do!


        MeasureMatt

        Hi Diedre, I can save you some time. I posted a lengthy review of Radian6 when I was at my last agency: http://measurematt.tumblr.com/post/17432329170/why-radian6-is-wrong-for-you-part-i
        http://measurematt.tumblr.com/post/17432340159/why-radian6-is-wrong-for-you-part-ii
         
        (For what it’s worth, I evaluated Brandwatch and passed based on the data quality and difficulty in dealing with larger brands with far more than 20k mentions)
         


JasonEng_

Hi Deidre, 
Wow, thanks for posting this!  I totally wish I would have seen something like this earlier, great job!  Question, have you taken a look at BuddyMedia at all?  
I tried to get a demo of Sysomos, but nobody ever got back to me.  I did manage to get a demo of Lithium, and I do like what they have to offer with regards to the forums they provide, which is something that we’re looking at.


    Deidre Drewes

     @JasonEng_ Hi Jason,
     
    Glad that you enjoyed the piece! I have not looked into BuddyMedia, but I will add them to my to-do list. As per Sysomos, have you been in contact with 40deuce ? Sheldon is their community manager and can hook you up with an account exec. The concern that I had with Lithium is that they don’t provide author information for mentions. Products like Meltwater Buzz and BrandWatch do, which makes identifying influencers a lot simpler.
     
    Best,
    D


      JasonEng_

       @Deidre Drewes Thanks Deidre! Just reached out to Sheldon!


    LinkYeah

     @JasonEng_ Happy to show you what Brandwatch can do, if you’re interested. Get in touch with joel@brandwatch dot com


      JasonEng_

       @LinkYeah  @brandwatch Great thanks!


        Deidre Drewes

         @JasonEng_  @LinkYeah I feel like Millionaire Matchmaker only between social media monitoring tools and marketers! 


    SirJeffJustice

     @JasonEng_ Meltwater Buzz’s Facebook Tab Builder that Deidre mentioned would be good for you to check out too. It’s new to the market so the price-point is quite attractive and the usability is ridiculously easy with awesome outcomes. Feel free to give me a shout!


SMSJOE

Impressive Deidre, I am assuming you wouldn’t evaluate a free tool like Social Mentions because they wouldn’t provide the level of service you required. Is that true?


    Deidre Drewes

     @SMSJOE I’m open to evaluating free tools, although I might not categorize it among the aforementioned solutions. Glad you liked the series!


spofcher

Deidre – Nicely done and thanks for providing to all.  
Is there a way to print out the overview table?


    RicDragon

     @spofcher I think there is talk of posting this as a Google spreadsheet…
     


      spofcher

       @RicDragon Lemme know please thanks.


RicDragon

This search for the Holy Grail of Social Tools has been a virtual Odyssey (to mix metaphors!). The biggest disappointment for me is the lack of workflow. But it’s understandable that social media marketing is still in its infancy – and that workflow  best practices are still being established.


hashturf

Dear Drewes
I appreciate your efforts to come up with this wonderful compilation, although in my personal opinion the 34 factors you have taken into account are like hygiene factor, and everyone expects to have these features. Based on my interaction and discussion with clients and experts  I have come up with certain factors which are really important & will soon become industry norm.I have listed them down for your consideration:
1. Workflow and Team management
2. Data Management- ability to play around with the collected data
3. In-depth analysis of Twitter,G+ and Facebook pages and not just likes and comments
4. Custom site tracking, some business need to track specific sites which not all SMM tools track.
5. Lastly Real time tracking, this is must for Social CRM
 
Regards
 @hashturf 
[email protected]


    Deidre Drewes

     @hashturf my name is Deidre (Drewes is the last name). Deep Sherchan has already been in contact with me in regards to Simplify360.


      hashturf

       @Deidre Drewes 
      Dear Derdre,
      Mea culpa
       @hashturf 


        Deidre Drewes

         @hashturf close, but no cigar lol


        hashturf

         @Deidre Drewes 
        Dear Deidre,
        ( mea culpa ) X 2
         
         @hashturf 


Gary Verster

Hey Deidre,
 
Good article. Very useful for comparison.
 
Pity you didn’t get an opportunity to try out SM2… I had some experience with it in a previous life (back in my agency days) and found it to have a number of solid merits. I’d recommend searching it out – not sure it’s still the case, but when I was working with it you could get a freemium account straight from their website (when it was still an Alterian product).
 
Would be very interested to see how it stacks up!
 
Regards,
Gary


    Deidre Drewes

     @Gary Verster Hi Gary,
     
    My request for an SM2 demo was lost in translation somewhere, so I recently got to play with the tool first hand following this post. A review is forthcoming now that I’ve really gotten to see it in action. Thanks for dropping by!
     
    D


leashbrown

Hi Diedre,
Really enjoyed this article and it has helped to direct my search a bit. Was wondering if you could describe what you mean with “Search Query Priority Ranking” though if possible, as I’ve taken your chart as a starting point and am trying to compare a few other tools outside of it, but can’t evaluate them on this criteria as I don’t know what is meant.
 
Cheers!
Alicia


    Deidre Drewes

     @leashbrown Hi Alicia,
     
    My apologies for the need for clarification. This was originally an internal document, so it does need some fine tuning. I intended for that feature to be “search result prioritization,” meaning that result could be flagged as high priority and sorted as such. Unfortunately, some tools do lack this feature–one that I feel is absolutely necessary. Let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck with the hunt!
     
    Best,
    Deidre


      leashbrown

       @Deidre Drewes Very helpful, thanks Deidre! Just to clarify — in your research, were the tools with “Search Query Priority Ranking” flagging automatically or was this available as a manual function for the user? Cheers again, such a helpful post.


        Deidre Drewes

         @leashbrown having it automatically done isn’t something I have seen. Most tools allow you to star or flag mentions and then filter as such. -D


warrenss

Deidre,
 
That’s quite a comprehensive review you’ve got there! Nicely done. I’m sorry that you weren’t able to review SDL SM2 as I think we match up quite well.  In fact, this past week we’ve been very busy with our new release that is focused on small agencies and businesses, http://sdlsm2.com.  We think that this solution is perfect for small agencies: reasonable pricing, very flexible terms, and can be ordered online.  $300/month for 10k mentions & $500/month for 20k mentions.  The price goes down for a longer commitment and new clients get one month free when they sign up.
 
Thanks,
 
Warren


warrenss

Deidre,
 
That’s quite a comprehensive review you’ve got there! Nicely done. I’m sorry that you weren’t able to review SDL SM2 as I think we match up quite well.  In fact, this past week we’ve been very busy with our new release that is focused on small agencies and businesses, http://sdlsm2.com.  We think that this solution is perfect for small agencies: reasonable pricing, very flexible terms, and can be ordered online.  $300/month for 10k mentions & $500/month for 20k mentions.  The price goes down for a longer commitment and new clients get one month free when they sign up.
 
Thanks,
 
Warren Sukernek, VP SDL SM2


    Deidre Drewes

     @warrenss Hi Warren, 
     
    A member of your team reached out to me last month and I finally got a full demo of SM2. I’m actually in the process of writing a review as we speak. Thanks for touching base and I’ll be in touch once the review goes live!
     
    Best,
    Deidre


RajatGarg

We will love your feedback on SocialAppsHQ – https://www.socialappshq.com/social-media-monitoring


BereniceB

Hi Deidre,
 
Great report and very interesting selection!I could not agree more with you, there is such a large selection of tools available, it’s hard to test them all!
 
I just wanted to add my quick 2 cents – I am a Pre-Sales Executive for the Social Media Monitoring company called Synthesio. Synthesio is a technology company but it also provides a service layer on top to offer clients a full service solution. With this full service offering that uses people rather than automated systems to analyse the most relevant mentions of the brand in over 30 languages, Synthesio can give a truly global perspective from the voice of customers.
 
We would really love to share with you a demo and hear your thoughts and feedback!
 
Thanks,
 
Berenice
 berenicebory


JoakimNilsson

I think you did the right choice going with brandwatch. I first got in touch with them when I was Head of Social Media for a large online gaming company, we decided to build our customer service outreach program on the Brandwatch technology.
Now being an independent Social CRM Strategist I’ve continued my collaboration with Brandwatch and launched, similar to you guys, my Social CRM solution called Nilsson SCRM cloud (http://nilssonmonitor.com) together with technology from TheSocialReport.


Replise_DE

You might also take replise.com in consideration. We offer almost everything as our competitors above but also have a team of international analysts, that help you to get real insights from your data if you are interested in more than just alerts.


    JoakimNilsson

    I can ensure you as a Brandwatch customer that their tool offers more than just alerts :) im sure your platform is great though.