We have reviewed and worked with many of the leading technology companies curently providing consumer generated media (cgm) monitoring solutions for brands. After having done two enterprise-level evaluations for global brands - each with different geographic focus - it is clear that the market is shifting.
We just went through a deep-dive on Microsoft's Looking Glass which points to a further evolution of the market towards in-house and integrated solutions. Is that defiance of the SaS model or are they accurately anticipating where big brands need to go in the future?
Before I get to Looking Glass, Here are a few of the trends I am seeing:
1. the early lead of service providers who do everything from the technology to the insights is falling away. In its place are dashboard technology providers that put the tools in the hands of brands and agencies - the folks that know the brand business. Even Nielsen has a simple dashboard solution.
2. technologies are focusing on 1-2 of the 7 major purposes of Listening Posts. They are slowly focusing their strengths in certain areas and being more open about admitting what their solution or organization cannot support
3. there is a whole new set of technology providers who are building a flexible framework to be applied to multiple language markets. Once you broaden your view to identifying technologies that work across 4 or 5 language and geographic markets, you suddenly see a whole new set of providers like eCairn, Attentio, Brandwatch and others popup.
4. automated sentiment rating continues to be a holy grail (solutions with 60% accuracy are near-useless) except amongst a very few who have made progress notably Crimson Hexagon and Collective Intellect.
5. brands are splitting between those that want simple and fast and those that want tailored and highly relevant. Radian6 smartly stepped into the simple and fast space and continues to excel there even as others launch comparable "monitoring-only" solutions. A few brands have buy-in to invest the time and money for more tailored solutions. Which brings us to:
Microsoft's Looking Glass
We recently met with the development team at Microsoft responsible for their monitoring/listening solution dubbed Looking Glass. The solution is a 3 server-based model and sits on top of or integrates with Silverlight for the display layer, SQL server and Sharepoint. It is a work in progress and has some significant advantages over other solutions depending on which of the 7 reasons you need a Listening Post and what other Microsoft investments you have made.
Here are 4 reasons that Looking Glass may be great for enterprise listening:
1. It uses Bing for blog and Web search. That engine will likely provide a strong heart for teh service for years to come.
2. Its real power is in the customizability down to its ability to pull in new data feeds. That means that enterprise can combine data feeds that are most relevant to them (the future of Social IRM is in the integration with CRM databases. This platform will handle that.
3. The Silverlight-powered display is good-looking. Don't underestimate the power of great information design to make listening solutions usable.
4. Like Visible Tech it features task-delegation functions. If you want to assign someone to respond to a Tweet or a post, you can do that within the system and track those responses.
This is meant for the more advanced enterprise willing to invest the integration and customization hours never mind the hosting/serving of it. As we move towards more advanced models of integrating cgm listening into the enterprise like the Social IRM model, the Looking Glass model may be a strong solution. Everyone awaits the debut of the next Google Labs experiment where they deliver the 30 ton megaton bomb on teh listening market with their own solution. I only presume that is somewhere inside their skunkworks....