Social media has become an important tool for marketers to measure consumer sentiment. With over 140 million Twitter users, 1 billion and more active Facebook users, over 100 million blogs, and 100 million forums on which consumers are airing their views, it is important that organizations begin to make their social data actionable. In the present circumstances where the digital din is growing louder by the day, it seems a herculean task. This has led to the emergence and growing uptake of Listening Platforms. An increasing number of businesses are seeing the great value in social intelligence and are investing in listening platforms to monitor their online mentions. Very recently, Twitter made use of the listening platform functionality -sentiment analysis -to track the US presidential campaigns into November.
Listening platforms allow companies to plug into the wealth of social media, manage and analyze its content through analytics, spot trends and deliver insights through dashboards and reporting services. A recent Forrester white paper defines listening platforms as "technology and analytics infrastructures that mine and analyze social media (and other informational sources) to deliver insights essential to making informed marketing and business decisions." In the past one year, leading IT vendors have been in the news for a series of acquisitions and announcements or for establishing marketing alliances around the adoption of listening platforms.
Broadly, a listening platform's functionality can be divided into three parts: monitoring, analyzing and engaging. Integrating listening platforms with enterprise applications facilitates monitoring of social channels by sifting through massive, unstructured social data to extract relevant information. This data can be further analyzed to deliver new insights, reveal opportunities and risks. An organization can plan its social strategy and assess its share of voice based on such insights.
The current developments indicate that niche listening platforms calibrated for specific industries may soon become main stream. Already such platforms catering to law firms and legal professionals are helping them stay updated on client, practice and industry developments while also keeping abreast of competitive intelligence. According to industry experts, in the days to come listening platforms will be consolidated under three broad categories: general, niche and integration-based listening platforms.
As social media continues to grow, offerings to simplify and make the most of it will crowd the landscape. The adoption of listening platforms is transforming marketing departments, their relationship with central IT and the core systems that run the enterprise. Going forward, social media will further fuel the growth of core listening platforms and will change the way business is conducted.