The newest Forrester Wave on social listening platforms expresses disappointment in the category


The report says there are too few differentiators and not enough integrated use of the data across the entire enterprise.

The coverage by social listening tools is expanding beyond social networks, but there are few clear differentiators between vendors and social data is still not extensively utilized across customer companies.

Those are some of the main takeaways from the new Forrester Wave quarterly report, “Q3 2018 Global Social Listening Platforms.” (Available as a free download from some of the mentioned vendors, such as Talkwaker or Synthesio, both of which require user registration.)

“In our 2016 Forrester Wave ™ evaluation of social listening platforms,” authors Jessica Liu and Arleen Chien write in the newest report, “we acknowledged that the technology had great potential, but its heyday was still to come. We’re still holding our breath in 2018.”

One of the ongoing issues, Forrester says, is that marketing “still primarily owns and uses social data in a silo,” although brands are combining social data with data from other sources, such as market research, audience segmentation and digital ad targeting. But social data is not commonly integrated with, say, call center transcripts, traditional ad targeting, human resources data or in-store data.

Additionally, the data sources tend to be similar across vendors, not only because they draw from the same social networks but because they utilize the same third-party aggregators for social content on web sites, such as LexisNexis or Factiva for news and TVEyes for broadcast TV comments.

recent report from Engagement Labs pointed out that insights obtained just from social data are often not representative of the larger discussion offline. By including offline data in the picture, social listening platforms could provide a more accurate Big Picture.

Possible directions

There’s also the issue that the features and functionalities of each vendor, the report says, “largely look the same from one to the next,” even though most of the tool makers are investing in such technical improvements as more extensive analytics, deeper tech integrations and machine learning.

That’s because vendors’ functions are largely similar, Forrester said, with most platforms offering a quick search offering, audience analysis, a dashboard for visualization and an API for exporting data, in addition to social listening. But, beyond detecting anomalies, the platforms don’t generally offer many options for acting on the data.

The report indicates that loyalty to given vendors is mostly driven by vendors’ account management, such as strategic guidance and professional services for specific customer needs.

But, moving forward, Forrester argues that social listening platforms have to pursue one or more of three possible directions in order to differentiate themselves.

They need to branch out into other social functions, such as the publishing offered by Sprinklr and Sysomos; expand social intelligence outside of its current silo into such areas as call center or marketing performance data; and/or provide more extensive professional services that expand the utility of the social data.

Ten vendors were assessed for this report. Sprinklr, NetBase and Synthesio were chosen in the top Leaders category, while Talkwalker, Digimind, Sysomos, Brandwatch and Crimson Hexagon placed as Strong Performers. Linkfluence and Zignal Labs were judged to be Contenders, and none fell into the bottom category of Challengers.

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About Author

Barry Levine

Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab.

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