SAS Bets Its Social Media Tool Can Predict Social Media Behavior

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Last Monday, SAS, a leader in business intelligence and analytic services, announced that they were releasing a new social media monitoring tool in an already cluttered industry. With tools like Radian6, Biz360, Sysomos and ScoutLabs, the question on probably everyone’s mind was “Will this succeed?”

Well from all accounts of what I’ve seen and heard, it looks like SAS has a leg up, especially with their new tool’s integration with other services and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. And let me be clear, the SAS platform is designed primarily for large companies who plan on using this in an enterprise capacity.

SAS’s Social Media Analytics is designed to do more than just monitor your customers’ behavior and activity in the social sphere. Rather, it’s going to utilize its’ powerful analytics to help you get “real-time, real-world” value to make better business decisions. With this real-time data, you’re going to be able to look at people’s sentiments and conversations and make any immediate course corrections should it go negative or perhaps add more money to your campaign/program if positive. According to the SAS press release:

Global corporations are seeking ways to convert social media data into better customer relationships, stronger customer service, enhanced marketing efforts and improved bottom-line results. They are struggling to derive practical insight from a flood of online conversation data and apply it to real-world decisions. Corporate marketers and agencies want more than the current one-size fits-all offerings. They want to integrate social data across all areas of their businesses, answer key questions, and apply the answers to specific business decisions.

It seems that social media monitoring tools just aren’t enough for large company types that may rival Coca-Cola, American Express, General Electric, Proctor & Gamble or Comcast, for example. Rather, with such large corporations getting behind social media and possibly even seeing “value” in paying attention to what people are saying and doing for their brands, these users are going to have a lot of say in what they would WANT to see in their monitoring tool. It just so happens that SAS agrees and is willing to put together a custom platform for these companies who may also be using some of the other SAS products in their business processes.

It makes sense that existing SAS customers use these tools because like with Google products, everything is well integrated. Each product knows what’s important and there is less need for retraining on new software – it all flows together. However, should you not be using SAS’s existing products, then their social media analytics tool can also work with some CRM systems like Salesforce.

Okay, so what makes this tool better than Sysomos, Radian6, ScoutLabs or Biz360 – some of the more well-known monitoring tools out on the market today?

  • According to Angela Lipscomb, spokeswoman for SAS, the new tool will provide a historical view of online conversations. And when they say “historical”, they mean a LONG time — no longer will you need to say to your boss or requestor that you can’t look the data up because your monitoring service only archives up to 6 months back. SAS’s tool will bring up conversations from up to TWO YEARS ago. When wanting to do research on the success of a campaign or to look for people of some influence, this timeframe would probably come in handy.
  • Predicting future volume & impact on business results is another advantage. SAS’s social analytics tool has a supposed “predictability” feature which uses a variety of factors to determine future conversations and reactions.
  • An open approach to the application of sentiment that allows our clients to merge in human-driven rules with those rooted in statistics, while also allowing marketers to see exactly how sentiment is applied, and make adjustments as they see fit. I can imagine that this means that no longer are the rules set in stone based on the programming. Instead, SAS is going to let marketers who view these metrics have the ability to make adjustments on the fly – going back to the ability to course correct in real-time feature.
  • Ability to use this as an enterprise-ready platform that can drive alerts and workflow directed to the right people at the right time. What this tells me at first glance is that the platform is integrating a communication platform that will let people look at the data/results and assign it to appropriate departments or individuals across the company and not just within a department. Reinforces the belief that social media is not controlled by just one person or group.

This all sounds like a regular social media monitoring tool, right? Except for the fact that it’s an enterprise model with some subtle differences, you’re right…there’s nothing here that impressive…yet. What got me wondering about this new tool is when they said it would be able to align itself with your company’s business strategy and tactics. Just how is this done and would it be any different than how we would establish goals in other services, like Google Analytics?

Lipscomb says that it’s all about the “granularity of the insights”. She cites an example where their customers aren’t necessarily asking to just listen for mentions or the application of sentiment on their brand. Rather, they’re interested in understanding what people are saying about specifically – customer service, quality, experience, cleanliness, price, ease of use, etc.

It’s all about the categorization of conversations independent of the level of attitude. After setting this up, Lipscomb states that it’s available as an “attribute” that you could filter, group or delve deeper into understanding all through a web-based implementation.

What’s the bottom line here? If I had the budget to go out and use a social media analytics tool that could integrate itself with my existing sales and customer support infrastructure, then I probably would look into what SAS has in this latest offering. Make no mistake that this SAS is not for small businesses.

While Lipscomb says that the pricing is “competitive” for small businesses, I would look at what SAS is all about – they’re geared more towards larger companies and for small businesses, it might be more cost-beneficial to look at some cheaper options, especially those that could still give SAS a run for their money like Radian6, ScoutLabs, Biz360 or Sysomos.

Sure, you’re going to miss out on the fancy customization that SAS is offering you, but at least you’ll get the core measurements that you can use to build up the brand and product to make more money and everyone will be happy, right? Then once you’ve burst onto the Fortune 500 list, you might want to look into SAS.

But, for those companies that CAN afford the price of SAS’s new social media analytics tool, having the customization to make it report how you want it, would be a wise investment. Again, if you are already investing in other SAS technologies and products, you might want to look closely at this new service seeing that it would be smart for SAS to have thought about integration before rolling this new tool out. Besides, SAS has clients in practically every industry so why wouldn’t you want to leverage that they know what each industry seems to want in their product so it’s catered to what you want to see?

Frankly, I would love to have my social monitoring tool behave how I want it to and would love the ability to customize what is reported without resigning myself to seeing what other people “think” I’d love to see. But this is what liberties you get for having a large company with an equally large budget. More money equals more freedom.

I do wonder what type of “Chinese menu” approach SAS will do towards small and medium-sized businesses who want to be a part of the program but just can’t afford the full price.

Companies interested in SAS’s new social media monitoring tool can purchase the product immediately.

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