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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Why defining brand strategy is vital to capitalising on quick wins

Big brands were once protected from small brands by high barriers to entry. Big brands had the resources to employ big agencies, to crack big ideas and to invest in big campaigns. They had the luxury of time to debate strategies and work on long-term innovation pipelines. Retailers used to partner with big brands.

Troy McKinnna

Co-founder, Agents of Spring, Calm & Stormy

3 ways to leverage the talents of your team to avoid disruption

​According to the World Economic Forum in its most recent The Future of Jobs report, the most important skills for the future are not technical, task-oriented skills, but higher-order skills such as creativity, social influence, active learning, and analytical thinking.

Gihan Perera

Futurist, leadership consultant

CMOs, it’s time to stop squandering customer attention

Businesses continue to highly value the attention they buy through paid media, yet at the same time, many continue to disregard and under-value opportunities to connect with customers using their owned media.

Well written Vanessa!! Agreed with your view that human experience is marketing's next frontier. Those businesses who are focused on the ...

Clyde Griffith

Forget customer experience, human experience is marketing's next frontier

Read more

Great tips for tops skills need to develop and stay competitive

Nick

The top skills needed to stay competitive in a rapidly changing workforce

Read more

The popularity of loyalty programs is diminishing, though I'd say it is because customers are savvy enough to recognise when a loyalty pr...

Heather

It’s time for marketers to rethink their approach to ‘loyalty’

Read more

Thanks Nadia for sharing this blog. It has really useful and amazing information about Salesforce Commerce Cloud and digital engagement w...

Holly Smith

Adidas taps data and technology smarts to build personalised digital engagement with consumers

Read more

clearly someone who's jealous and only comments from the safety of being behind their keyboard

Peter Sibson

The purpose of purpose - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in