Once upon a time, most brands relied on six-week-plus cycles of feedback through consumer surveys and expensive focus groups to listen to their consumers. Today, social listening platforms have become a staple in most brands’ marketing tech stacks because of their ability to give brands near real-time feedback and insight into conversations about their brands, products, services, and competitors. This technology is not new, but its full potential impact on enterprises has not yet been realized.

Last May, we provided an overview of the vendor landscape. And in our newly published 40-criteria evaluation, we identified and examined the 10 social listening platforms that matter most: Brandwatch, Crimson Hexagon, Digimind, Linkfluence, NetBase, Sprinklr, Synthesio, Sysomos, Talkwalker, and Zignal Labs. We found that:

  • Data sources are less important. We’re not saying social listening platforms can operate without data. But all social listening platforms drink from the same well of data via negotiated partnerships, APIs, and third-party aggregators for mainstream social networks, regional social networks, other social media (e.g., blogs, forums, ratings and reviews, etc.), and other media (e.g., news, TV, radio, etc.). Data sources shouldn’t make or break a vendor selection decision but can remain a consideration. Further, Facebook’s recent trouble controlling the data it released to third-party apps exposed the fragile — and sometimes tenuous — relationship between social networks and the technology vendors that rely on that data. Social listening platforms, like all social technologies, are at the mercy of their data sources, and brands shouldn’t be caught off guard by potential disruptions to their social listening services.
  • Enabling social insights adoption across the enterprise is more important. For years, we’ve stated that social intelligence’s true value proposition is in combining social data with other enterprise data to paint a fuller customer picture. Social listening platforms need to deliver here. Vendors with the most differentiated overall offering were those that could clearly articulate a strategy to apply social listening insights to not only core functions (e.g., marketing, PR/corporate communications, market research, customer service, etc.) but also to ancillary functions (e.g., product, media planning, risk and reputation management, human resources, etc.). Whether through tighter integrations with other social technologies, business intelligence platforms, or other customer analytics or voice-of-the-customer vendors, successful social listening platforms will remain competitive by offering insights beyond social — and beyond marketing.

Don’t get overwhelmed when choosing a social listening platform. Our new report, “The Forrester Wave™: Social Listening Platforms, Q3 2018,” helps you think about the specific criteria you need to consider. And join our live webinar on October 3, 2018 to hear more.

Special thanks to Brigitte Majewski, Miriam Oesterreich, and Matt Flug on this research.