Social analysis platforms are consolidating in an effort to combine funds, knowledge, and momentum when it comes to technology-driven insights. This is a big moment in social media: gone are the days when posting on Twitter was akin to shouting into the void. Nowadays the tide has turned and every piece of content requires multiple teams, significant paid investment, and scrutiny in terms of KPIs, all leading up to the question: does it work? Are we engaging customers? Are these conversations having an impact on our bottom line?
It seems like platforms such as Brandwatch, Crimson Hexagon, and Meltwater are all making the bet that yes, social media matters, we just need to be able to report on those millions of brand engagement with more accuracy. Social media has been gradually taking over marketing budgets and brand strategies, indicating an overall maturing of the industry and greater recognition in boardrooms that social media is a business priority. There are exceptions of course; the UK’s largest pub chain JD Wetherspoons closed all social media accounts in April this year as the founder, Tim Martin, felt it was too much of a “distraction”. But with the investment in social media advertising predicted to grow by 28.4% to $185bn by 2022 (according to Statista.com) it is clear that most brands see social as an increasingly important part of their marketing mix and the best way to connect intimately with consumers.
However, social media offers more than just a one-way platform to push out ads – its strength lies in the ability to foster conversations and engagement with consumers. As Giles Palmer, the founder and CEO of Brandwatch observes in an article on Digiday: “The real coupling needs to be happening between the new and old school, traditional measurement and software-driven…We need to be everywhere the voice of the customer can be heard and provide an infinite knowledge of their consumer.” Yet the extent of reporting on those conversations has remained frustratingly limited.
This is the golden rush challenge that social listening and insights-led tools are aiming to conquer – and the industry is paying attention. Brandwatch and Crimson Hexagon have raised over $83 million since 2010, and are now joining forces to tackle the next step. And this is no small challenge: listening in on social media conversations is a technological feat that will have reverberations throughout a multitude of other industries. At the core of this technology are artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) – all elements used in other areas of life from smart home assistants to warehouse processing. This in part explains the need for consolidation in the social media analysis industry: cracking the code on AI and NLP is a big task, with big rewards. “Many smaller players are lacking momentum, growth and resources to survive on their own and must partner or join other companies to expand their product and customer footprint,” says Niklas de Besche, executive director of products at Meltwater, in the same Digiday article.
The impact of these recent consolidation efforts from major players in the industry will likely be a defining element for social media and its reach into our lives. As Facebook is strengthening its hold on our quotidian through Facebook Portal, more reliable AI and NLP will determine much of how we interact with technology as a whole. Let’s see what Brandwatch and Meltwater have to offer.