Why social listening platforms are failing

Social listening services promise to capture and analyze the buzz about a particular brand on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

3d man listening

3d render of man listening to megaphone.

advertisement, advertising, announce, announcement, attention, blog, broadcast, broadcasting, bullhorn, business, businessman, call, cartoon, character, communication, concept, director, employee, event, horn, idea, illustration, information, listen, listening, loud, loudspeaker, manager, mega, megaphone, message, dreamstime

dreamstime_24201001
3d man listening 3d render of man listening to megaphone. advertisement, advertising, announce, announcement, attention, blog, broadcast, broadcasting, bullhorn, business, businessman, call, cartoon, character, communication, concept, director, employee, event, horn, idea, illustration, information, listen, listening, loud, loudspeaker, manager, mega, megaphone, message, dreamstime dreamstime_24201001

With startups pouring into the emerging marketing technology market, the simple fact is that not everyone -- not every category -- is going to be a winner. Now Forrester has come up with a startling finding that one of the first marketing technologies to come along and help define this segment is failing to deliver results.

"Listening to data gleaned from social media channels, ratings and reviews, and forums has existed for a decade, yet most CI (customer insights) pros still cannot demonstrate the value of monitoring social data," says Forrester analyst Allison Smith, in a January report.

Listen Up

The marketing technology category is called "social listening platform," and it promises to capture and analyze the buzz about a particular brand on popular social networks. Armed with this data, digital marketers can track trends and identify customers across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. It should go without saying that social listening platforms don't come cheap.

More often than not, though, social listening platforms fail to deliver on expectations. Forrester regularly sees companies point the finger at the inadequacy of the tools, not at a marketer's inability to wield these tools. Hence, organizations often switch costly platforms year after year, in hopes of finding the right tool.

"Forgetting that it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools, and that they themselves deserve some of the blame, many CI pros point to 'bad' data gathering, 'poor' sentiment tools, or 'unreliable' reporting and analytics as reasons why their listening efforts fall short of expectation," Smith says.

Yet therein lies another problem, the Forrester report suggests: the expectation itself.

Converting Data to Revenue

What is the expectation? More importantly, how do you convert a social listening platform's data findings into sales? In truth, most companies don't know the answer to these questions. "Social data answers a business question, but without asking a question, it's just noise," Smith says.

While a social listening platform can spew out quantitative data, such as the number of likes and impressions, qualitative data is much harder to come by. "Social data is vast, never-ending, unstructured, sarcastic, and full of emojis and hyperbole," Smith says.

Along with quantitative data, it takes the human eye to unearth nuggets -- as in, actionable insights -- buried somewhere in the Bizarro World that is the social media landscape. Technology alone isn't going to do the trick. In a Forrester survey last summer, 42 percent of respondents said the top challenge is uncovering actionable insights from social data.

Of course, social listening platform vendors also shoulder part of the blame. In their quest to seize more of the marketing technology pie, they're rapidly expanding service offerings with features such as engagement and community management features.

"But unified suites are rarely best in class for individual technology categories," Smith says, adding that social listening platform Radian6 lost its leading edge after being acquired by Salesforce in 2010.

Give Me 3 Steps

Forrester cites three ways social listening platform vendors are trying to expand their service offerings rather than through mergers and acquisitions: integrating with feedback vendors, partnering with media-tracking vendors to get an omnichannel view, and going beyond keywords into complex queries in order to get a better handle on what's being said over social networks.

So what should marketers do? It's important to understand the value and limitations of a social listening platform. While it plays an important role in the marketing tech ecosystem, it requires other parts and people to glean actionable insights that will help marketers achieve concrete goals. Conversely, if marketers hope a standalone platform will simply save the day, they're in for a rude awakening.

"We've said it a thousand times: CI pros aren't failed by social listening technology providers, they fail themselves," Smith says.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Is AI on course to take over human creativity?

Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.

Jason Dooris

CEO and founder, Atomic 212

Are you leading technology changes or is technology leading you?

In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Disruption Down Under – What’s Amazon’s real competitive advantage?

Savvy shoppers wait in anticipation, while Australian retailers are gearing up for the onslaught. Amazon’s arrival is imminent.

Thanks for picking this up. We are always happy to add richness to our products and in turn the lives of our followers and fans.

Fitbit Middle East

​Fitbit announces new virtual race platform to enhance customer experience

Read more

Thanks for a very interesting article. B2B marketing seems tricky. I think that marketing plays a vital part - it can build the brand and...

Aaren

From tactical overhead to strategic growth driver: B2B marketing in the digital age

Read more

meanwhile loads of people with digital skills are not finding work or getting an opportunity to be hired?? Double standards perhaps.

Graduate dying on centrelink

Report reveals Australia faces digital skills shortage

Read more

These laws are in one way or other giving businesses to VPN service providers & other cyber utilities. Just read PureVPN claiming 37%...

Paige Hudson

Getting prepared for mandatory data breach reporting

Read more

Great Post.Thanks for sharing such an informative article.I have worked with Ally Digital Media and it has a very good service which is b...

Utkarsh Kansara

Predictions: 17 digital marketing trends for 2017

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in