The landscape of social media monitoring solutions has always had about four tiers. There’s the mostly manual but free, the entry-level business pricing (around $100 per month), the standard (about $500 per month to start) and the expensive (“research” approaches that go into the thousands per month.) While Scout Labs made a big splash a year ago with their $99 per month price point while still offering much of the same features and functionality of the more expensive options, there has still been a gap in the market.
For the small (or frugal) business that wants less manual work but more features than Google Alerts or Social Mention but can’t afford $100 per month or more on social media monitoring, there is now a solid option. Viralheat launches a new set of features and pricing today that includes an entry price point of $10 per month, a “marketing professional” level of pricing at around $30 monthly and a premium/business price of $90 per month. While there are some features and functionality that are lacking compared to your $500 per month services like Radian6, Sysomos or Techrigy SM2 — or even Scout Labs for that matter — Viralheat has them all beat on a few bells and whistles, too.
Why Viralheat Is Worth Considering
Let’s say you’re a medium to large business. You want to search for keywords around your brand and a few key competitors, plus some industry topics. With Viralheat’s top tier plan, you can search for up to 40 topics — set up as “profiles” in their system — and gather much of the same data the higher-priced competitors offer. Even at the medium package, you get 20 profiles which is more than enough searches for most companies. Viralheat doesn’t charge you by volume, either, meaning 5 gazillion results doesn’t cost you any more.
The metrics you see in Viralheat are spot-on what many marketers and public relations pros are looking for: How many conversations, what was the sentiment and tone of them, where are they happening by platform and who are the top influencers. Viralheat breaks all that data down in a unique way, however. You can look at metrics by platform, say Twitter, and see the individual Twitter users who talk about your brand most, the ones who talk bad about it most and prioritize those lists based on reach. So if one dude is hammering you daily, but has four followers, the system lets you know he’s probably not a high priority for outreach. Today marks the launch of their Facebook integration which appears to give you all the same powerful analysis of your Facebook fan pages and public mentions of your brand there, too, which is a big plus. While others, like Sysomos, do a good job of this, Viralheat calls it out a bit better.
The sexy metric I noticed that isn’t as easy to find, though is probably available in other services, is the “Total Impact” which seems to essentially be an eyeball count. While that metric alone is flawed and not something you should focus on, the C-level folks like telling their chums over lobster bisque, “Our Tweeter presence reached 14.5 million people last month.” (Which is what Dell’s “impact” was according to the charts I saw during my demo.)
While geographic filtering is an inexact science, Viralheat also allows you to filter your data by distance from a zip code, state, province or country. This has enabled the start-up to grow internationally while under the radar in the U.S. (They launched in June of last year.) While you may not be able to narrow all of your platforms (blogs, forums, etc.) down to the city level, if you’re a law firm practicing in one state only, this is helpful.
Compete and Quantcast traffic data is available on websites that pop up in your scans with a single click, which PR folks will probably find very useful. The tool has email alerts for spikes in traffic or behavior so you don’t miss anything significant and the API offers a pretty open pipeline out of the tool. What this means is that your data is very portable and can be integrated into your own metrics analysis or reporting mechanisms. (Most of you will need your developers or IT staff to do this, but trust me, it’s a good thing.)
Another feature that jumped out as unique is your ability to make a top-layer of data public by sharing it with the Viralheat community. Their public-facing data resource, Social Trends, offers up a superficial but insightful scan of the brands being monitored by the system. If you’re big into transparency and sharing the conversations around your company with others to judge for themselves, this is allows a peek behind the curtain without showing everyone all the gory details you may not want to share.
For public relations firms or advertising agencies, the premium level of service also gets you white label privileges. You can brand your email reports/alerts and the dashboard so the service makes your clients feel like you’re on your social media A-game.
The technology is home-grown, which some people see as a negative, but co-founders Raj Kadam and Vishal Sankhla are smart dudes. Smart people trying to solve the same problem usually come up with some different angles on solutions. Their natural language processors feed a custom algorithm (which can be said of anyone who offers sentiment and tone) but their algorithm is different, which can be good. One of these days, I’m going to test 3-4 different services on the same data and see what happens. (Let’s see how quickly all the firms hide from that one. Heh.)
Finally, Viralheat is web-based and a SaaS (software as a service) approach. You can sign up and be running in five minutes.
Why Viralheat May Not Be Right For You
While the 40-profile, $90 plan allows you to search for a ton of information at a reasonable price, there’s no way to lay each profile’s data over another within the Viralheat system. You can look at your brand. You can look at your competition. But you can’t look at your brand compared to your competitors unless you export the data and play with it in your own spreadsheet.
Similarly, if you’re a metrics nut and like drilling down and manipulating the data a hundred different ways, Viralheat is limiting. Relevant posts are brought into the system and are searchable, but appear on pages as one long stream of headlines with little options of filtering and rearranging. The data is there, but the functionality of the tool is rather utilitarian.
The service does pull the content it finds into a database rather than indexing it. This can cause the performance of a tool to be laborious and clunky. But Viralheat is a cloud solution and seems to move along nicely on a strong web connection. Once you start searching for a keyword, your data backfills 30 days worth of content. While backfilling the data (allowing you to see mentions of your brand beyond 30-days past your first search) beyond that is possible, it is not currently supported by the software.
The Bottom Line
Viralheat is an awesome solution for the low-price point customer. As your business scales, you’ll probably need something more robust, but for the small business, consultant wishing to monitor the web for a handful of clients and the price-savvy brand manager who sees social media monitoring as more of a tactical tool than big-picture data resource, this is an excellent option.
As always, my view of this is just one opinion. If you’re using Viralheat, tell us what you like and dislike about it. I’ll be testing it out for a client or two in the coming weeks. If you get the same chance, please report back. The comments, as always, are yours.