At Digital Visitor, we like to be at the forefront of all things relating to social media.  So recently, we went on a hunt to find the best social media monitoring software for our clients campaigns.

There are so many social media monitoring services out there, each offering different functionality at different prices, but we wanted to make sure we were getting the best for our clients in terms of performance and price. So, after some research, we decided to tryout the following three services;

Firstly, we found that social media monitoring tools share many of the same functionality.  To best compare the three we have researched, we will show how they differ from each other. Here’s how we got on:



We found Radian6 to be the most polished and sleek. It has an attractive and user-friendly interface and is well designed. More importantly, they are not tight on your keyword allocation either and they give users the ability to use a variety of Boolean functions and exclusions.

Keywords are the core of any monitoring campaign because they influence the type of information you will find. If you just want to find out what people are saying about your brand name, select keywords that are deeply connected with your brand, such as your brand name and product name.  If you want to conduct some industry research, use relevant keywords of topics and trends in your particular industry.

Boolean functions help you build specific search strings by using words such as “and”, “or” ,”not”, “and not”.

Once you’ve entered the keywords you have chosen, you can then sort the information you will receive in your feed by deleting irrelevant posts.  At the same time, you can also sentiment mark the stuff that is most relevant to you. Radian6 offers an automatic sentiment marking service, but be warned: as with most things automated, it is not perfect.

There are also a number of different tools you can use on your data to create charts and diagrams. The Topic Analysis module allows you to create pie and bar charts, segmented by different types of data. For example, you could find out how much of your data is coming from blogs & forums, or perhaps compare your keyword volume against that of a competitor.  The Topic Trending module helps you chart the volume of conversation over a certain time period, where you can identify where the conversation was lowest or highest. You are however limited by the fact you can only look back for conversation in the last 30 days and up to 10,000 posts, unless you wish to pay for more.

The Conversation Cloud module creates a tag cloud to show common keywords in your feed, all leading via a simple click-through to the list of posts that mention that keyword. Finally, you are also able to identify the people and sites who are leading the discussion in your chosen searches by choosing the Influence Viewer module. This is excellent for identifying people online who are influential in your industry.

Radian also has a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) function attached to each post it finds. This means you can add notes and tags to the post, whilst assigning company complaints or opportunities to engage with customers to other members of your team.

Prices currently start at £460 for 10,000 pieces of data per month.


Meltwater Buzz


Meltwater has a simple interface and clean design which makes for easy navigation of your data. Content and tool wise, it is quite similar to Alterian, and it even has a beta version of a topic cloud that extrapolates noticeable conversation trends in development.

The automated sentiment marking system can not be edited, but Meltwater get a sample of their posts checked for sentiment by real people every few months, so their system is fairly accurate.

Users are able to use Boolean strings and exclusions to build useful search terms whilst using automatic and manual search terms to classify the data, and feed through a number of different tools to get the results you need. Meltwater also offers a workflow tool for CRM functions and you can look back through data from August 2010.

Meltwater’s pricing system is different from the previous two, currently charging an annual fee of £7,400 for 12 months.


Alterian’s SM2


SM2 is not for beginners to social media research.  It is big and ‘techy’, but certainly contains some excellent monitoring features. At no extra cost, SM2 offers a large range of historical data back to 2007.

As well as insight tools to determine share of voice and volume, SM2 also provides any available demographic information, to allow you to see exactly who is talking about your brand; female or male, young or old.

Similarly to Radian6’s tag cloud offering, SM2 has a ‘Themes’ service, generating popular words based on which keywords or categories you are viewing. SM2 goes further however by offering advanced clouds which extrapolate themes within the conversation.  This makes it easy to identify conversation topics that might be hard to see if you’re going too far into the data.

Two other things mark SM2 out from the others;

1) SM2 allows you to see how people tag content that involves your brand. This doesn’t relate to every posting online, but it can help to build a picture of what words people are associating your brand with.

2) SM2 offers a more intuitive method of sentiment marking by giving you the power to change the ‘emotions’ dictionary.  Of course automated sentiment marking will never replace a real person manually checking for sentiment, especially when it comes to sarcasm, but being able to simply adjust the words that set the sentiment markers off will teach the system how to deal with certain words.

Prices currently start at £400 for 10,000 pieces of data

In summary, all three systems have strong qualities and when it comes to choosing your social media monitoring system, you will need to look specifically at your own needs. For example, an in-house department with a need for a slick CRM feature may find the attractive and user-friendly interface of Radian6 easier to use. Meltwater Buzz on the otherhand might be a good choice for you if you are looking for a system with a unique, human approach to sentiment marking.

We decided to go with Alterian’s SM2 for it’s deep data and in-depth tools that will enable us to really identify the granular data that our clients need. We’re planning to extract all the intelligence we possibly can from our client’s data, and we believe that Alterian’s tool will help us do this.

Find out more about our social media services…