Radian6, Cision, Wildfire, SocialRadar, Trackur, Alterian SM2, Sysomos, Lithium, Viralheat, Brandwatch, UberVU, Trendrr, Trackur … all good tools with rich featuresets and analytical capabilities. They all have one problem, however.
They’re not Google.
No matter which tool you go with for social media monitoring, it inevitably cannot index as much of the web as Google, which currently has over 3.65 billion pages. Some do an admirable job attempting to keep up by buying access to other indexes of web and social content – but that still isn’t complete and worse, it adds a delay to the process of merging the two databases. As any social media manager will tell you – delays are something they can ill afford.
This missing data causes three major problems:
First, important mentions can be missed (or not accessed in a timely fashion).
Second, the archives are incomplete – looking at the present is a primary concern but historical data can be important as well.
Third, the analytics generated by the expensive social media monitoring platforms aren’t accurate; worse, they seem to get progressively less accurate as the size of the brand decreases. If you’re Coca-Cola you’re okay, but this is a huge problem for most of the brands my colleagues and I work with which are primarily local in nature (which means they have a far smaller footprint online).
Despite their best efforts, none of these tools will ever be able to match Google’s prowess for indexing the increasing vastness of the web in real-time. So Google needs to offer a social media monitoring service – and I would welcome one even if it had a pricetag as hefty as the aforementioned tools (some of which have a BASE price of $500/month).
Tapping Google’s enormous reserves of indexed content is even more difficult now that the search giant has eliminated RSS feeds for Google Alerts when it discontinued Google Reader, and now limits them only to searches of Google News. All of the conversation about the “death of Google Reader” and subsequent scramble for alternatives has so far almost completely missed this critical detail which is, for my money, far more important.
I just went through the arduous process of reformatting a hundred or so RSS feeds I had built using Google Alerts because they’re no longer active. Transitioning them to Google News RSS feeds is okay, but my understanding is that it won’t capture nearly as many mentions as a general Google Search. Google even says as much here in outlining its standards for being included in the Google News index.
I completely understand the need to eliminate content that is not worthy of being considered “news” from the index, but the problem is that social media managers need to be aware of ALL mentions of their company/clients – not just the high-quality ones.
Google is well-positioned to offer this sort of service; they already have the data, they’re excellent at building easy-to-use interfaces, they’re excellent at providing analytics, and they’re well trusted. I doubt we’ll ever see this service, but I’ll continue to dream anyway.