Posts Tagged ‘Radian6’
As online marketing processes have evolved, the number and sophistication of software tools to support specific functions has exploded. Every discipline within marketing and PR has its own tools, among them:
SEO: backlink tools (Backlink Watch, SEOmoz, Majestic), keyword research tools, page optimization tools, SEO plugins.
Social media: social media monitoring (Radian6, Sysomos, SM2), social media management (HootSuite, SocialOomph, Buffer), Twitter tools, etc.
Web analytics: Omniture, WebTrends, Google Analytics, Clicky, and more.
All are very helpful, even essential, but most are designed for practitioners, that is: they help a specialist in a particular discipline do his or her job more effectively. Not only are they tactical, each focuses on supporting one functional silo or another. Not surprising, since this is how digital marketing is managed today—as a set of largely disconnected specialties. So much so, companies utilize different tools, resources, and in some cases, even different agencies to manage web visibility for brand, SEO, social media, PR, and paid advertising.
And of course, search has evolved—it’s no longer just 10 blue links. Today, web presence goes way beyond a company’s website. News and social links are as vital as are other points of visibility. What’s missing is the larger strategic picture needed for top-level decision-making and for managing digital marketing and PR in a coordinated manner. We’re all missing this because there aren’t tools to help us do it. Or are there?
A “Eureka” Moment
A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about the web presence optimization (WPO) framework. This model (evolved from a 2010 post) came about from KC Associates’ (KCA) client consulting projects. Operating as a cross-functional team, each consultant knew that a framework for optimization is useless unless there’s a way to track and measure gaiting factors that can be adjusted in order to move the optimization needle. So the group took a long, hard look at the tactical tools each consultant uses with a more creative mind of how they might be repurposed for WPO.
For example, SEO backlink tools can provide detailed lists of the precise backlinks to a competitor’s website. This can be quite valuable to an SEO consultant, but it’s mind-numbing overkill for a VP of marketing.
However, a graphical comparison of the type and quantity of backlinks pointing to the firm’s website and the sites of close competitors may be very enlightening (e.g., discovering that competitor A has twice as many media links and three times as many social links pointing to them)—particularly if these measures have changed significantly in a short period of time.
This simple change in thinking was truly eye-opening.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
First and foremost, the WPO framework provides the strategic and structural approach to the unified management of web visibility. And WPO metrics that support this framework provide the critical measurement necessary to enable the overall coordination of these disciplines to improve presence optimization and performance.
The set of 100+ WPO metrics that the group developed for KCA clients is driven by data collected by a host of off-the-shelf tools as well as some custom developed sources. As a collection, the attributes of these metrics differ from what most other tracking and measurement tools are set up to provide in six distinct ways:
- • Focus on management, not execution. WPO metrics are designed to support management decision-making (e.g., where should we devote more resources) rather than tweaks to specific tactics. Put another way, they are about the “what” rather than the “how.”
- • Provide a unified view of results. They provide leaders and team members with an overall picture of press (media outlets), social, website (organic search), industry (e.g. associations, research organizations) and paid web presence. The tactical tools available tend to focus on one or two of these areas.
- • Include competitor metrics. An organization’s digital marketing results don’t exist in a vacuum; it’s critical to be able to view results in the context of competitive activities. Competitive benchmarking is vital to developing strategy and allocating resources.
- • Reflect the value of owned, earned and paid presence, not just the company website. What customers, analysts, journalists, bloggers, and others have to say about you is sometimes more important than your own content. WPO metrics show the value of all of your points of web presence, whether it’s your content or something produced by a third party.
- • Are actionable and NOT “everything but kitchen sink.” Too many tools try to report every possible detail, rather than just what’s important. The result is data overload and analysis paralysis. It’s confusing and too much to absorb, and therefore doesn’t get acted upon. Best-practice WPO metrics focus only on measures that support concrete action.
- • Identify clear priorities. While WPO metrics cover a lot of ground, not every measure matters all the time. For example, if your media share-of-voice remains about the same from one month to the next, but your AdWords conversion rate drops by half, WPO metrics focus on the latter result.
WPO metrics won’t replace tactical, execution-level tools, but they will help guide decisions about which functional tools to use and how to coordinate the tasks of different disciplines for a larger purpose. They fill a critical gap by giving marketing executives, and everyone on digital marketing and PR teams, a unified view of web presence that reflects a more integrated optimization effort.
Innovation is alive and well in the development of cool free and low-cost web-based tools and apps. It’s great to find a tool that automates some little process or provides a new capability you’ve been looking for, and fun to find a tool you didn’t even know you needed.
How can you quickly find out how far a link has spread on Twitter? Surf the web securely and anonymously when using pubic WiFi? Manage all of your social media accounts from a single login on your iPhone? Back up your Gmail account? Make more productive use of your time on social networking sites?
There’s an app for that—or cool web tool. Find tools to do all of the above and much more in this collection of helpful business, online and social media tools, apps and reviews.
Update 4/15/2013: I unlinked several tools that are no longer offered. This economy sucks.
Cool Social Media Tools
A slick service that enables you to easily add a QR code to your business card which links to your LinkedIn profile and contact information. Anyone scanning the code can conveniently contact you without entering any additional information. And when you log in to PingTags, you can view analytics like how many people scanned your card and which links they clicked.
Buffer is a tool for automatically posting content to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. As the site puts it, “Fill up your Buffer at one time in the day and Buffer automagically posts them for you through the day.” It’s available at three price/service levels: free, Pro ($10 per month), and then a big jump to Premium ($99 per month). Nothing replaces real social media engagement of course, but used carefully and in conjunction with real-time monitoring, automation tools like this do have their place.
One of the easiest ways to import an online store into Facebook, even incorporating translation and foreign currency support for buyers in other countries. Plans have a monthly fee (with the most popular priced at $30-$50 per month) but you can try it out for a week free.
Four51 offers two sets of tools for local business and consumer brands. FanTools uses “knowledge gained from across the FanTools network of small businesses to deliver plans” that enable local retailers, restaurants and other types of businesses to use exclusive coupon offers mixed with other content across their social networks to drive engagement and purchases. It’s priced for small business at $50 per month with a 90-day free trial offer to try it out. CommerceTools uses cloud-based technology to help companies streamline the distribution of products, supplies, services and content to individuals or groups by simplifying and automating order and fulfillment processes.
***** 5 STARS
ALOT is a catalog of free “apps for your PC” in a range of categories including entertainment (comic books, TMZ, The Onion, IMDB search), food, games, travel, music, news (The New York Times, CNN, Fox News, Stock Market Watch), reference, social networking (e.g., apps for Facebook, Twitter and Evite) and more.
ShortStack is a tool that helps businesses customize their Facebook Pages with “contests, sweepstakes, videos, custom forms and more.” Yes, it is “Timeline ready.” The tool is free for pages with up to 2,000 likes, with pricing starting at $30 per month above that level.
Mywebees lets you display your website on your Facebook page. It’s not a copy of your site, but your actual site—displayed in a Facebook iFrame. It’s a very cool, easy way for small businesses to increase the interest and value of their Facebook presence. No word yet though on how this may be affected by Timeline.
Cool Twitter Tools
How many people saw that link you tweeted? Tweeted or retweeting it themselves? Which Twitterers exposed it to the largest audience? Find out in a snap with TweetReach. In just a few seconds, I discovered that a recent post I wrote on social media storytelling for PR reached 56,689 people via 25 tweets—over 10,000 people just through Jim Dougherty.
This free tool graphically shows peak Twitter activity for any Twitter handle. It takes a few minutes to load completely, but once fully loaded shows activity on your network by day of the week and time. I wasn’t surprised to learn that most of the activity on my network happens early in the morning, but it was interesting to note unexpected spikes in activity at midmorning on Monday and Tuesday and around lunch time on Wednesday and Thursday.
An automated free tool to help “flush” Twitterers you are following who aren’t following back, follow those who are following you, clean up inactive users (requires paid “premium” subscription), force spammers to unfollow you, and find interesting new tweeps to follow.
Other Cool Web Tools
A free tool for clipping, saving and sharing just selected parts of web pages such an image or a selection of text. Clipped content can be kept private, shared only with friends or shared publicly.
Concerned about your web browsing security and privacy when you’re away from home and using public WiFi? AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield is a free (or optionally ad-free low-cost) VPN encryption service that provides secure, private web browsing anywhere. It works on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. On mobile devices Hotspot Shield enables data compression, increasing the amount of data a user has under their mobile data plan and thus saving users money on mobile data. Hotspot Shield also protects users from over 3 million malware threats, phishing sites, and spam.
A simple app that syncs contact information, emails and appointments between Google and Salesforce, eliminating time-consuming copying and pasting. After a 14-day free trial, the service is priced at $10 per month (or less per user for larger teams) with a 50% discount for non-profits and schools.
A free online project management and collaboration tool, similar to Basecamp, that lets users switch between projects with one click, delegate tasks, track task changes, subscribe to tasks and receive notifications, and manage people on projects with groups.
The new way to present—way beyond PowerPoint. Prezi is an online presentation tool that lets you pan and zoom around your presentation “canvas,” present online or offline, easily collaborate with teammates anywhere to develop a presentation, and add a timeline using “frames and a path to create a cinematic journey.” Pricing ranges from free (though your “Prezis” will be public and include Prezi branding) to $159 per year for the Pro version (your own logo, lots of storage space and more).
Cool iPhone Apps
A free app for Apple iOS devices that enables users to manage multiple social media accounts at once. A users can post to his/her Facebook wall, send a Tweet, share photos to Flickr and TwitPic, upload a video to YouTube, post a blog entry and manage other social accounts all from a single login and tool.
A free iPhone app for discovering what events are happening in your area, who you know that’s going to each, browse ideas from nightclubs to museums to movies (along with ratings), connect with others who are attending the same events and share thoughts and photos.
5 Awesome Spreadsheet Apps for the iPhone by Search Engine Journal
Frequent best-of honoree Ann Smarty reviews five spreadsheet apps for the iPhone that “allow you to look at anything from profits and annual earnings, to employee checks and monthly expenses” anytime from anywhere. She notes that there are many others available, but calls these “arguably the best around.” All are priced at $10 or less.
250 best iPad apps: social media apps by The Telegraph
Brief reviews of top social apps for the iPhone including Flipboard—which “takes the activity from your social networks—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and plenty of others are supported —and presents it in an attractive magazine-style layout…This app is must-have on all iPads”—Gowalla and Spout.
Social Search and Social Media Monitoring Tools
Billing itself as a real-time social search engine, Topsy is reasonably good at finding topical and brand references across the social web. While it’s no threat to professional monitoring tools like Radian6, it’s a decent, free, quick-check tool for smaller companies and one-off searches.
Synthesio is a powerful, professional social media monitoring system that combines technology with human assistance for global brand reputation monitoring, topic monitoring, influencer rating and social community mapping. It is multi-lingual, customizable and filters out much of the “junk” picked up by other monitoring tools. This power and flexibility comes at a cost, however, as pricing is based on the number of search returns and starts at $1,500 per month.
A social media analytics and engagement tool that incorporates search, analytics and engagement capabilities. Within “engagement,” for example, you can evaluate the “degrees of separation” between a company and its audience, schedule tweets, and assign tweets to different team members for response / follow up. Pricing starts at $150 per month, but you can try it out first with a 14-day free trial.
Chatmeter bills itself as “the first and only Local Brand Management service—the only platform that informs with daily alerts to monitor and respond to customer feedback from across the web combined with a dashboard to see the real impact on how customer experience is affecting online visibility for each location.” Priced at $40 per location per month (volume discounts for chains), Chatmeter purports to save chains thousands of dollars in lost revenue by improving marketing effectiveness and providing the tools to easily respond to customers immediately for each of location.
Inefegy’s Social Radar is known as a social media monitoring platform that is powerful, fast, has an outstanding user interface, and “now tracks some 40 million Web sites, including blogs, forums, image sites, news sites like CNN and the BBC, Twitter and more.” You can “request” a free trial, and the pricing is flat rate (you can run unlimited searches for one monthly fee), but specific pricing information is difficult to come by.
Cool Tools for Creating Infographics
10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics by MakeUseOf
***** 5 STARS
An outstanding article by Angela Alcorn which provides guidance on how to create an infographic, followed by helpful, illustrated reviews of 10 free tools to assist in infographic creation, such as Stat Planet, Hohli, Creately (which also supports collaboration and easy flow chart creation) and Inkscape.
The 5 Best Free Tools For Making Slick Infographics by Fast Company
Noting that “It’s not enough to simply write about data any longer; the world wants visuals. While there are many professional information designers making a name for themselves, such as Nicholas Felton of Feltron.com, the majority of these digital artists are up to their eyeballs in high-paying work. Where does this leave you?,” Amber Mac reviews five free tools for creating infographics—four of which were covered in Angela’s article above, plus a new tool, Visual.ly.
Reviews of Cool Social Media Tools
Introducing PeerIndex: A New Companion to Klout for Social Media Influence Measurement by WindMill Networking
Neal Schaffer reviews PeerIndex, a competitor to Klout for social media influence measurement. Klout had an opportunity to become the standard before it stumbled badly in October 2011 when it radically changed its algorithm, calling its validity into serious question, then arrogantly refused to apologize and reverse course. A newer and (possibly) more accurate influence metric site is Kred, which is also worth checking out.
Is HootSuite Pro a Smart Investment? by Social Media Examiner
Nichole Kelly answers the question many of us HootSuite fans have been asking: is it worth it to upgrade to the Pro version? And after detailing the differences between the free and paid versions, her conclusion is…probably not, for most users. But it’s worthwhile (and HootSuite could make it more worthwhile, with a little work) for agencies and larger companies.
How to Back Up Gmail by Time Techland
Worried that Gmail could crash and lose all of your email history? Doug Aamoth details five different methods to protect yourself from just such a possibility, ranging from easy and free (e.g., Gmail Backup) to harder but free (forward to an email client such as Microsoft Outlook) to other slightly more involved but still free alternatives.
Search Social Media More Efficiently with Greplin
Josh Peters reports that Greplin is a powerful tool for topic-searching across your “personal social graph,” to find instances of people you’re connected to talking about topics you’re interested in. “Greplin social media search can access more than just your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. With a basic account (free) you can also include your DropBox, Gmail and Google docs accounts to the search to include content you’ve created. With a premium account ($5 / mo) you can include Evernote, Yammer, Basecamp, Highrise, Google Apps, and Salesforce accounts with more to come.”
4 Great (free) Tools to Measure Social Sentiment and 4 Important Stats by Social Media Today
After highlighting four important statistics (among them: “53% of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48% of them delivering on their intention to buy the product”), Nick Bennett reviews four free tools for measuring social sentiment, including Twendz and Twittersheep.
Content Tools: This Week in Social Media by Social Media Examiner
Cindy King reviews a handful of fairly new tools, including Storify, a content curation tool that “gathers content from various social media platforms to create your own story. You can then create a widget of this story to embed it in your website” and 23press, a low-cost tool that simplifies the process of moving a blog from one host to another.
Free analytics tools you should be using by iMedia Connection
Josh Dreller advises marketers to “Check out some of the following free tools that can help you collect, analyze, and take action on data. In fact, a combination of all these systems would certainly push your data-driven organization to another level. With these free analytics platforms, any company could truly compete with the advanced data tools and tactics of even its largest competitors”) the reviews eight free tools including Quantcast for demographics, 4Q for free survey analytics and TubeMogul for video analytics.
5 Productivity Tools for the Busy Social Media Manager by Social Media Today
***** 5 STARS
Leo Widrich shares five of his favorite tools to optimize his time on social media, including Refynr, which lets you “Create a social savvy filter of keywords you want to have included…(then) creates a ‘refyned’ news stream for you with only the most relevant tweets”), Triberr (an invite-only community of bloggers), and Tungle for setting up meetings.
48 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools by DreamGrow
Priit Kallas reviews four dozen free social media tools in two groups: one including the tools he uses most often (e.g., HootSuite and Social Mention and one arranged alphabetically from Addictomatic for searching “the best live sites on the web for the latest news, blog posts, videos and images. It’s a tool to keep up with the hottest topics” to WhoUnfollowedMe which enables the true Twitter paranoid to “check your unfollowers on your schedule, every 15 minutes.”
17 Alternatives to Klout by ReadWriteWeb
Acknowledging the Klout trainwreck and noting that no influencer rating measure will ever be perfect, David Strom nevertheless runs through 17 alternatives for Twitter influence measurement, Facebook metrics, Google metrics, tools with a multi-site focus (e.g., PeerIndex, which is “probably the closest competitor to Klout” according to David), and sentiment analysis tools such as Kred (which has since emerged as one of the top alternatives to Klout).
7 Apps That Rocked My Work by iMedia Connection
Jason Harty reviews his favorite seven work-related apps, including Editor by Pixlr for easy online photo editing (“If MS Paint ain’t cutting it and Photoshop is over your head, give Editor by Pixlr a look”), Evernote for online and on-the-go note-taking, and Jing for quickly capturing any portion of your computer screen.
Nine companies B2B marketers should know about by Velocity Partners
Doug Kessler provides brief reviews of nine marketing products/tools for B2B professionals, such as EPiServer (web content management for the .Net platform), Reevoo (a social commerce platform for brands and retailers) and Marketo (marketing automation software).
gShift Labs is the first (at least that I’m aware of ) integrated software package for managing web presence optimization (WPO). Given that WPO is the fusion of SEO, social media, interactive PR, and online reputation management, that’s a tall order. But based on a good look at the product, gShift has a great headstart on meeting the challenges of this discipline.
Unlike pure SEO management tools (e.g., Web CEO, SEO Powersuite), social media monitoring tools (e.g., Radian6, Alterian SM2), or inbound marketing suites (e.g., HubSpot), gShift isn’t a point solution, but a single integrated tool to manage all aspects of WPO.
What sets this software apart is its approach as much as its functionality; the people behind gShift understand that SEO, online PR, social media, PPC advertising and other tactics are each pieces of the larger web presence puzzle. They aren’t silos, but tactics that need to be used in a coordinated manner to maximize and optimize an organization’s online presence. gShift is the first software built from the ground up with that approach in mind.
gShift enables marketers or agencies to track unlimited websites, web pages, social media accounts, external pages (e.g. media mentions), competitors and countries. The only limit is on keywords tracked, which is the basis of gShift’s pricing (see “Limitations and Concerns” below).
The software doesn’t provide a way to automatically segregate branded from unbranded search keywords (which would be nice), but this can be set up manually using “Campaigns.” Campaigns are gShift’s method for creating different keyword groups to track (e.g., by product line, country, competitor, etc.). The ability to show country-based rankings (e.g., U.S. results for a company.com site, Canadian results for a company.ca site) is helpful.
gShift automatically tracks organic vs. paid vs. mobile (an increasingly important segment) traffic and goal conversions for each. Yes, you could do this from Google Analytics (GA) as well (in fact, gShift pulls a fair amount of its reporting data from GA) but gShift presents it all in one spot, attractively graphed out.
Backlinks remain a key component of SEO. gShift displays backlinks by site, backlinks by page (very helpful), backlinks by competitor, and even provides a list of “recommended backlink” sources. For your website, gShift will display your top backlinks by authority and referral visits, along with changes in backlinks over time.
For your competitors, the software identifies their target terms (anchor text in backlinks), top backlinks and ranking. From a pure competitive research standpoint, gShift isn’t quite as robust as a tool like SEMRush (which provides AdWords keywords and click costs in addition to complete target organic keywords), but it does offer significant integrated functionality nonetheless.
The ability to track external pages is another nice feature. gShift enables you to set up external pages to track in different categories: Press Releases, Blogs, social media accounts, videos, and shortened URLs (e.g. bit.ly URL links). It also finds and shows you “other pages in your pool,” referring pages you may not know to track. The software displays traffic, conversions, bounce rate, social shares and search rank on assigned keywords for all of these pages. Again, most of this data (other than search rank) could be pulled from GA, but gShift makes it much easier and faster to track these metrics.
SEO is a core element of WPO, and gShift covers this pretty well. It provides daily rank checking (but charges weekly—see “Pricing” below), with comparison to the prior day’s, week’s or month’s rank highlighted in green (improvement), yellow (no change) or red (decline). The tool offers page-level auditing (specific page+keyword combination), showing what’s done and supplying recommendations for optimization improvement across a wide range of attributes (meta tags, keyword density, alt tags, headings, code fixes, etc.). Helpfully, gShift also rates the relative difficulty of each recommended task.
For any given keyword, gShift will show the top ranking page on your site by search engine (though it won’t identify the page with the highest internal gShift score for that keyword, which would be another nice feature). gShift has partnered with WordStream for its integrated keyword research functionality.
In addition to the keywords you are tracking, gShift will display recommended keywords from GA as well as all keywords that have produced at least one goal conversion. What’s more, gShift recently announced capability that gives search marketers a pretty good idea of what’s behind the “not provided” keyword data in GA, by showing you which pages are being accessed along with the top keywords driving traffic to those pages.
gShift features extensive social media tracking capabilities as well, pulling analytics from Twitter (e.g. number of mentions and retweets), LinkedIn and YouTube all into one spot. For your videos on YouTube, gShift displays rankings for those videos on specified keywords with YouTube’s search function as well as Google rankings for those videos by keyword phrase.
Again, most of these social media metrics are freely available, but gShift saves the time and effort of tracking them all down from their native sources. gShift currently provides about 75% of the data available natively from the top social networks, with more metrics on the product roadmap (e.g. expanded LinkedIn metrics are anticipated to be added within the next 30-60 days).
The power of gShift lies in its efficiency for reporting (GA-type site data, social media metrics, and ranking plus performance of external assets like guest posts or news releases all in one tool), its SEO improvement functionality, and its actionable on-site and off-site metrics. Reporting is flexible; gShift enables administrators to add explanatory or analytical text comments to virtually any metric within a report.
Few (if any) other SEO and/or social media management tools provide the type of detailed data about a blog post, web page, external article or news release that gShift does because other tools don’t “ask the right questions.” Competitive tools tend to be more siloed, while gShift takes a web presence optimization-centered approach.
gShift Labs co-founders Krista LaRiviere and Chris Adams come from a digital marketing and software development background. In the early 2000s, they developed the Hot Banana web CMS product, which was acquired by email service provider Lyris in 2006.
gShift aggressively updates the product with new features. Among plans for coming releases are “engagement signals,” which will display, for example, how many people have commented anywhere (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) about a specified blog post or other piece of content.
gShift’s closest competitor is possibly SEOmoz, a powerful SEO suite which just recently added social monitoring. From a straight SEO standpoint, it’s hard to beat the deep functionality of SEOmoz. However, what gShift may lack in depth in this area, it makes up for in ease of use and overall user experience. Put another way, gShift is arguably a better tool for marketers looking for reporting on site and external asset performance, and optimizing those assets for improvement. SEOmoz provides more raw technical data for hands-on webmasters.
Limitations and Concerns
Backlink checking is limited to the “top” 500 backlinks for any site, page or competitor. For internal site pages, that’s generally more than sufficient, but home pages on even moderately popular websites can have far more than 500 backlinks. There’s no way to know what’s missing (other than using a separate backlink checker tool).
The internal keyword tool shows monthly volume, but doesn’t indicate ranking difficulty—a key oversight. It does little good to know how popular a keyword phrase is without also knowing if it’s feasible to try to rank for that phrase. This should be high on gShift’s list of features to add, but for now, users will have to utilize a separate tool or technique for this function.
In my opinion, gShift’s pricing is a tad high (for the SMB market) and the model is unnecessarily convoluted. The software is priced on the basis of “keyword rankings” (KRs). A KR is one keyword, on one website, in one country. And each keyword rank is automatically checked on a weekly basis, so a single keyword consumes four KRs in a month (or five in some months, one would suppose).
gShift’s baseline Small Business package (500 keyword rankings at $99 per month) sounds pretty reasonable, until you realize how quickly that can add up. 100 keywords, checked against one website in one country consumes 400 KRs per month. Add all of those keywords to one other country and that’s another 400 KRs. Check 20 of those keywords against three top competitors and that’s another (20 x 3 x 4 =) 240 KRs. In order to really make inroads into the SMB market where this product fits best, the pricing should ideally be somewhat lower and a whole lot simpler.
While gShift Labs doesn’t necessarily provide the single best tool specifically for SEO management, or backlink checking, or keyword research, or social media monitoring—it is the only software currently available that combines pretty darn good functionality in all of these areas in a single platform.
gShift Labs is the first software vendor to approach SEO, online PR and social media as parts of the integrated whole of web presence optimization. Small to midsized businesses in the B2B space who want to maximize their online footprints and opportunities to be “found” when prospects are searching for what they offer should definitely evaluate gShift Labs.
FTC Disclosure: gShift Labs provided no compensation in any form for this review.
Vocus and Cision are both powerful and popular PR monitoring and management systems. Both provide PR and social media professionals with extensive capabilities for tracking and growing media coverage of their organizations or clients. Among their features:
- • An extensive database of professional journalists and social media influencers, with biographical information.
- • Ability to monitor media coverage and brand mentions across a very wide range of sources.
- • Capability to set up monitoring profiles for multiple keywords, topics, companies and products.
- • Competitive and share-of-voice analysis and reporting.
- • Optional social media monitoring and management.
- • Online news release distribution.
So which is best? Well, “best” is obviously a subjective term, a matter of opinion. And people can reasonably hold different opinions. The fact is, both tools can do the job pretty well (hence their popularity). But there are clear differences between them. If your company or agency is weighing a decision on selecting a PR and social media monitoring and management tool (or perhaps making a change), here are five areas of comparison you may find helpful.
Both tools offer extensive databases of publications, media professionals and bloggers. In the judgment of the PR professionals I work with, Cision’s database is just a bit more comprehensive.
User experience, unfortunately, isn’t a strength of either system. Both tools have complex, cumbersome user interfaces and are unnecessarily difficult to use. Both could benefit from a major UX/UI upgrade. The Cision interface is slightly better, but it’s like saying the Windows 95 interface is better than Windows 3.1. True, but neither meet modern standards for clarity and usability.
Overall, the Vocus team was outstanding to work with during our trial. They were friendly, knowledgeable, and training was customized to our needs and around our schedules. The company doesn’t quite merit an “A” only because there were some inconsistencies between individuals. But overall, Vocus customer service was excellent. Cision’s service on the other hand was dreadful. Training was regimented, and waiting 48 hours for a non-helpful response to an email is unimpressive. The company could clearly use some improvement in this area.
Online News Release Distribution
Vocus owns and utilizes PRWeb for its online distribution; Cision uses GlobeNewswire. According to an analysis from Comscore and Experian, as well as evaluations from other sources, PRWeb ranks among the best services for both media reach and SEO. GlobeNewswire takes up the rear.
Social Media Monitoring
This is a tough criteria to grade because while both tools offer this option and perform social media monitoring and management quite well, the two vendors take completely different approaches. Vocus built its own tool, which is fully integrated into its PR monitoring system; Cision white-labels the Radian6 social media monitoring tool.
The advantages to the Vocus approach are that integration means one database, one system, and unified results and reporting. Also, since they own the tool, Vocus has the flexibility to negotiate on price with prospective buyers, who may thus get a better deal. Integration means there is only one user interface to learn. The downside: it’s the Vocus interface.
The benefit of Cision’s best-of-breed approach, on the other hand, is that the system combines the extensive Cision media database with the power of the highly-regard Radian6 tool for social media monitoring. The disadvantages are in pricing and the need to learn two separate systems. Also, the freshness and elegance of the Radian6 UI makes the clunkiness of the Cision interface even more obvious. It’s like parking a Ferrari next to an old Buick station wagon.
Other areas on which the decision is pretty much a wash include the amount of historical data available (both are limited to a few months, and could use improvement in this area) and search speed: Google can return a search on its index of the entire web in milliseconds, while it takes both of these tools several seconds to provide results from a much smaller database. Cision may be just slightly faster, but it’s not a big difference.
In the end, it’s a tough decision. Either tool will provide robust PR and social media monitoring management capabilities; it’s a matter of which strengths you need and which disadvantages you can live with.
So, you may ask, what decision did the b2b technology marketing and PR agency I work with make? A mix. We went with Cision for PR monitoring and management (a consensus decision, though not a unanimous one), but use PRWeb for online news release distribution. We use a mix of tools for social media monitoring, not having settled on one tool that can “do it all” tool yet.
Got an opinion on which tool is best? Leave a comment.
FTC Disclosure: I have no financial interest in either product—no dog in this fight. Both vendors provided free trials of their software systems for evaluation purposes. Other than those trials, there was no compensation offered or provided for this review.
Social media marketing has gone well beyond the hype stage and is now mainstream business practice. Still, questions remain: how do I use social media most effectively across the enterprise? Which social media monitoring tools should I use? What should I monitor for? How do I use my time and resources most effectively? What social media developments and trends should I be watching?
And of course, there’s the ongoing social media ROI debate: how do I measure this? Can social media ROI really be measured? Influential voices like Olivier Blanchard and Jacquie McCarnan present formulas and methods for ROI calculation, while Steve Goldman contends that social media ROI can’t be measured in isolation, and Jackie Cohen reports that more than a third of CMOs still have no idea whether or not social media marketing is producing any ROI.
What to do? Read on for answers to these questions and more from some of the best minds in social media in some of their best blog posts and articles of 2011 so far.
Social Media Strategy and Best Practices
9 Ways B2B Companies Can Use Location Based Services by Social Media B2B
The always-insightful Adam Holden-Bache contends that location-based services like Foursquare aren’t just for consumer marketers, and supplies ideas on how B2B marketers can capitalize such as through partnerships with non-competitive local businesses, incentives and rewards, and in event marketing (“Are you seeing a lot of your contacts attending certain business events? Whether it’s a local tweet-up or a major conference, this knowledge could be useful to help you plan what events you should sponsor or where you should set up your next booth”).
Is Social Media Really Living Up to Expectations? by B2B Lead Roundtable Blog
Brian Carroll talks with MECLABS Director of Research Sergio Balegno about the disconnect between social media activity and results in the B2B environment, and concludes that “marketers are expecting way too much too soon.” Social media adoption on both the buyer and vendor side is happening with incredible speed; the tools that we’ve developed to track other web marketing activities haven’t kept pace. As social media monitoring and integration with CRM systems improves, marketers will have the metrics and analytical tools to more accurately assess the value of various social media efforts and continually improve them.
The B2B Social Media Landscape: a portrait by Beyond
***** 5 STARS
The social media approach that nobody wants to hear by Hugo Guzman
Hugo Guzman explains the importance of listening and planning before jumping into social media (failures also noted previously here in the dirty dozen top 12 social media mistakes to avoid). He lists nine steps its imperative for companies to take in order to “build enough social karma (yes, I said karma) to facilitate things like guest posting opportunities, retweets, likes, etc.”
19 Social Media Best Practices [VIDEO] by Social Media Explorer
30 Ways to Use Social Media for Business People by SEOptimise
Citing a recent study showing that “94% of businesses actually do not use social media even for the most obvious task it’s good for: Getting feedback”–and another demonstrating that those businesses are less competitive–Tad Chef supplies a list of 30 ways businesses can use social media, among them to get feedback, get attention, debunk myths, forge relationships and build links.
5 ways to use social media to build a crowd for your event by Socialbrite
Tamara Mendelsohn of Eventbrite details five guiding principles for promoting events, including choose the right platform, publish your event to Facebook, and “define success metrics and don’t underestimate the effort required.”
Organizing Your Social Media Strategy by CompuKol Connection
Influence in social media: how to find the top bloggers by blur Group
The most underestimated social media asset by iMediaConnection
Noting that “the proper framework of enablement and empowerment can turn a company’s workforce into the most effective means of advancing the goals of the business through social media,” Lori Luechtefeld details IBM’s experience with transforming its business be empowering employees to actively engage as part of the company’s social media strategy.
It’s Not Your CEO’s Fault He’s a Social Media Moron by Social Media Today
Expand Your Social Media Mix: Twitter Alone is Not Enough by Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang
***** 5 STARS
Deftly weaving in a dinner analogy to social media, Jeremiah Owyang compares Twitter to shish-kabob (bite-sized morsels of information) that are tasty but need to be supplemented by “steak”–infographics, Slideshare presentations, blog posts–and topped off with online video for dessert.
26 Ways to Use Social Media for Lead Generation by Social Media Examiner
***** 5 STARS
Debbie Hemley compiles another brilliant A to Z post, this one focused on using social media for lead generation. Her list of tactics begins with Assets, Branding and Compelling messages and continues all the way through Word of mouth, eXcellence, adopting a Yes attitude, and demonstrating Zeal in your social media activities and relationship building.
Social Media Tools
10 Steps to Finding the Influencers in Your Market by Junta42
***** 5 STARS
The brilliant Joe Pulizzi details 10 steps for finding and cultivating relationships with the key influencers in your market space. For each step, he identifies the overall strategy, useful tools, and helpful tips for execution.
9 Social Networks Your Business Should Be Using by Likeable Media
The Social Media Strategists Power Tools [Consumption] by NewCommBiz
Social Media and Online Video
9 new rules for YouTube marketing by iMedia Connection
Greg Jarboe lists nine helpful rules for video marketing, such as “Rule 1: YouTube marketing is the new video marketing…YouTube gets more than 86 percent of visits to 77 video sites in this country.” (Hulu, at #2, gets less than 4% of visits.) And “Rule 2: You can’t make it on YouTube alone…even with close to 2.0 billion out of the nearly 5.2 billion viewing sessions in the U.S., only 38 percent of all viewing sessions occurred at YouTube.com…45.13 percent of viewers discovered videos by going to a video site (i.e., going to YouTube and running a search or clicking around the featured or related videos). But 44.24 percent of viewers discovered videos embedded on blogs or other websites.”
Social media: Adding video to your digital marketing plan by SignOn San Diego
Erik Bratt expounds on the popularity of video marketing (“video capability was the fastest-growing website feature for small-business advertisers in 2009, with one in five hosting website video by the end of the year”) and the different types of videos businesses can consider using, including screencasts, customer testimonials and video email.
7 Little Known Tricks That Will Get You More YouTube Views by SocialTimes
Social Media Case Studies
The Fantabulous Lists of Social Media Case Studies by Social Media Today
Looking for examples of social media success to emulate? Giedrius Ivanauskas supplies 17 lists of social media case studies such as WOMMA’s Case Study Library and 35+ Examples of Corporate Social Media in Action from Mashable.
B2B Social Media Example: GE MarkNet by Social Media B2B
Social Media Trends and Predictions
2011 Trends: Make Your Corporate Site A Social Media Hub by Business 2 Community
Pam Moore outlines a dozen ways companies can fail at social media marketing, from not understanding the social media “ecosystem” for their industry or hiring the wrong consultant/agency for help to assuming social media will fix a broken business (it’s won’t–it will expose it) and having unrealistic expectations in general.
Social media: What lies ahead? by iMedia Connection
Shelly Palmer predicts that Facebook will face increased competition from better tools, that smart phones will continue to advance and account for a higher share of online traffic, and more in this 11-minute video.
Are These Social Media Trends of 2011 Part of Your Strategy? by Social Media Today
It is the structure of social networks that shapes influence… and the structure is changing by Trends in the Living Networks
Ross Dawson delves into the concept of influence networks to explain why some tweets go viral and others don’t, noting that this is a rapidly evolving area and that research shows “professional blogs are the most influential news media in sports and the second most influential media in politics and national news, while personal blogs are the most influential in entertainment and the second most influential in technology. In general the influence of blogs tends to decay more slowly than other media.”
Social Media Policies and Regulation
10 Steps to Managing Employees on Social Media by Write Speak Sell
**** 5 STARS
Noting that “Well-written (social media) policies prevent public relations disasters and potential legal liability. In addition, when done properly, they also create environments that foster productivity and loyalty among employees,” Kyle-Beth Hilfer provides an outstanding 10-step list to use as a guide in writing a social media policy.
Social Media Policy Unites Social Media Initiatives by Social Media Today
Going down the same path as Who Should Write Your Social Media Policy?, Tim McCord emphasizes the need to create a team when crafting a social media policy and selecting monitoring tools.
NLRB Says Companies Can Not Discipline Workers For Posts in Social Media by iMedia Connection
In news that every company needs to hear thought most likely don’t want to, Chris Boudreaux reports on a recent case wherein the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that “companies can not discipline workers who post criticisms on social-networking sites.” Chris concludes with: “This clarification by the NLRB is a big deal for a lot of companies in the United States.” Indeed it is.
Social Media and SEO
Why social media optimization is the new SEO by iMedia Connection
Noting that many people now “receive the majority of their news on Twitter or via posts on Facebook and LinkedIn before resorting to a Google search on any given topic…How many times have you seen an article posted on Facebook or Twitter that has either made you click on it, or urged you to suddenly search about the topic? It’s a fascinating process,” Dennis Franczak explains why social media optimization (SMO) is now taking center stage in online marketing and how to go about it successfully.
Jennifer Sable Lopez offers a nine-step checklist to making social media activities SEO-friendly, such as incorporating keyword research and making sure your content is easily sharable across the most popular social networks. She uses the word campaign unfortunately, but otherwise it’s a helpful post.
Why Not Be The CMO Of Everyone? by MediaPost Search Insider
***** 5 STARS
Writing that “every person in an enterprise is potentially an authentic, invested content producer, networker or influencer. Very often, employees in large enterprises are actively evangelizing their brands or products and no one in the home office even realizes it,” Derek Gordon advises CMOs to solicit content from the broadest possible array of contributors within an organization in order to develop more valuable, search-optimized copy.
Social Media Monitoring
20 free, awesome social media monitoring tools by Socialbrite
Top 20 social media monitoring vendors for business by Socialmedia.biz
J.D. Lasica and Kim Bale review 20 powerful fee-based tools for professional social media monitoring, among them Radian6, Lithium, Alterian SM2 and Attentio. For guidance on how to evaluate these tools, check out 9 Criteria for Selecting a Social Media Monitoring Tool.
Top 10 analytics tools for social media by iMedia Connection
Pam Sahota provides helpful mini-reviews of 20 free social media monitoring tools worth checking out, from Twilerts and Backtype through Proxlet (which, among other features, helpfully filters out those annoying Foursquare checkin tweets) and Trendrr.
Social Media Dashboards by CompuKol Connection
Neil Glassman raises a number of questions to help focus social media monitoring activities (e.g.,”Does your query language mesh with your consumers’ language? Or is it industry language?”) then makes three key recommendations to help organizations really get value out of social media monitoring.
Social Media Metrics and ROI
6 Critically Undervalued Social Media Success Metrics by Convince & Convert
Jay Baer details the half-dozen social media metrics and tools he views as the most meaningful yet undervalued, from the Klout scores of your Twitter followers (rather than just number of followers) to share of voice and inbound links.
Social media metrics: 5 things to learn in 2011 by Ragan.com
Social Media Strategists Look Hard at ROI this Year by eMarketer
According to research from The Altimeter Group, “when it came to social media programs, 82% of respondents reported they would be investing in brand monitoring in 2011, while 77% cited staff budgets and 78% training budgets…Creating ROI measurements tops the list of internal social strategy objectives for 2011, with 48.3% of respondents highlighting that goal.”
3 Ways social media market research can impact your business by ListenLogic
Noting that “Market research is now beginning to leverage social media in a revolutionary way that provides insights and impact across the organization,” Chris Karnes explains how social media listening can be used to measure marketing campaign effectiveness, drive purchasing decisions and inspire product innovation.
6 Buckets of Social Media Measurement by Take a Peck
Jason Peck details six “buckets” of metrics companies should use to evaluate the success of various social media initiatives, including business metrics, awareness (e.g. website traffic, searches for brand terms) and engagement (Facebook likes, blog comments, retweets, etc.).
Social Media ROI for Idiots by Social Media Today
Hmm, not to sure about the title of this post, as idiots are unlikely to get social media ROI. Or even to get social media for that matter. But regardless, Jacquie McCarnan helpfully provides several different formulas for calculating social media ROI, based on different factors such as qualified leads, employee retention, and customer engagement.
Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel by SocialSteve’s Blog
***** 5 STARS
Contending that social media ROI can’t be measured in isolation, Steve Goldner recommends instead measuring its contribution to the business through key performance indicators (KPIs) including awareness, consideration, loyalty and advocacy. His brilliant “Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel” graphic makes the post worth a look in itself.
Social Media ROI business measurement by Slideshare
***** 5 STARS
Social Media Research, Facts and Statistics
Gordon MacMillan reports on research from McKinsey showing that “companies that are starting to do it (social media marketing) well are being rewarded for their efforts (e.g., with higher operating margins and market share). More than that, it says those that fail to implement social media could be making a ‘critical mistake.’” He also shares four key steps McKinsey suggests executives should take to move their organizations forward.
Chris Boudreaux cites a study concluding that nearly 9 in 10 large-company CEOs believe social media is important to their business strategies, and that “43% of CEOs say they will ‘significantly change’ their strategies in the next three years to respond to customers’ increased use of social media and mobile devices.”
STUDY: Return On Investment In Facebook Eludes CMOs by All Facebook
Jackie Cohen summarizes and comments on a recent Bazaarvoice / CMO Club showing that “Nine out of every ten Chief Marketing Officers participate in at least three forms of social media promotions, yet many don’t know whether these efforts yield a return on investment…(while) 15.4 percent have a significant return on investment and 20.6 percent have an average return…34.9 percent said they don’t know whether they have an ROI, and 8.6 percent have none.”
How much does Social Media cost companies in 2011? by MackCollier.com
***** 5 STARS
Mack Collier very helpfully provides social media consultants, and companies looking to hire them, with pricing benchmarks for common types of projects. For example, ghostwritten blog posts cost anywhere from $50 to $500 per post, with most providers charging $100-$250.