2. Posting and monitoring are two different things. Some services have different capabilities when it comes to both tasks. For example, Sysomos can only post on Twitter and Facebook, but can monitor a wide array of other networks, including Google Analytics, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. So read the fine print on what networks each service supports, and understand that they may not be telling you the entire story.
3. Can you filter by different dimensions? Some can only filter on a time range, while others are more capable. Why is this important? Because you are drinking from several social media firehoses and you want to focus on the particular content stream that is important to your brand and your particular customer set. Let's say you have an international brand: then you want a product like Sysomos or SimplyMeasured that can filter in different languages, and also offer spot translations too. Or let's say you want to look at the age or the gender or the geolocation of the posters, some of the products such as Tracx have the ability to do this. The more capable the filters, the more you will know which social media campaigns on which networks are working in terms of driving viewership and engagement, and which are just falling on deaf ears.
4. How can multiple users in different offices collaborate? If you run a global business with numerous local offices, you want to have the ability to coordinate your posts across different regions, something that Expion handles with ease with a special content "library" that allows you to customize your posts for particular office locations. (Applebee's restaurant chain uses their service for example to manage their social media campaigns for 5,000 different users.)
5. How deep into the network can they go? Some services such as Gremln can post to a LinkedIn discussion group or a Facebook fan page or add someone to a Twitter list. Some can only monitor the top-level postings on each social network.
6. Can I get a free trial of the service? You would think the answer to this question would be a no-brainer, but you would be wrong. Some of the vendors don't give out any pricing information online. Others do their best to obscure their pricing information, or to just say, "call for a quote." Don't you just hate that? Each service has different ways to price things too, based on the number of users or reports or phases of the moon. We went round and round with several of the bigger vendors who didn't want to give us review copies of their service, claiming they had no way of doing that (Google's Wildfire, Adobe's Marketing Cloud, and Salesforce's Radian6 were in this camp). Gremln and Viralheat are very transparent and clear about how they price their products, perhaps because they are two of the cheapest services at a few thousand dollars annually. You should figure on spending around $25,000 per year if you are going to get serious with any of the others, so check out the free trials first to make sure they actually meet your needs.
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