Social media monitoring keeps getting more and more interesting. Not only are the existing players continually improving their wares but start-ups and under the radar players are bringing interesting features and thoughts to the marketplace.

One such company is Kansas City-based Spiral16, a two-year-old, privately funded social media monitoring service I spent some time with recently to explore their tool. The central differentiating feature Spiral16 pitches is their ability and willingness to use the social media monitoring algorithms, search features and natural language processing components on outside sets of data.

Sentiment view in Spiral16's dashboard. (Click for larger view.)

Sentiment view in Spiral16's dashboard. (Click for larger view.)

In a sense, they’re a solid social media monitoring service (more on their core competency in a moment) that will take your customer surveys, call center data, point of sale data and so on and pull out trends, sentiment and tone, popular topics and the like.

The example they showed me was a fast food restaurant’s in-store customer satisfaction card survey data. By pushing the data through a tool meant for social media monitoring, the restaurant can identify trending problem areas in their points-of-sale or points-of-service. By overlaying each store’s data on a mapping element like Google Maps, they can see problems tied to certain geographic or demographic regions, franchise owner groups and more.

Pretty smart stuff, but, when you think about it, pretty simple. Take a tool meant for one thing and see what other data looks like with it. As uncomplicated as that sounds, it’s that kind of outside-the-box thinking that can set a service apart.

Another differentiator Spiral16 offers is a 3D data visualizer they call, “The Virtualizer.” By viewing a certain topic, like a product launch, you can map and view, in time lapse fashion, buzz beginning, building and even exploding in online conversations. If anything, it’s a dramatic reporting feature to wow your management team. By comparing one topic or event to another, however, you can draw significant insights in differentiating how and how fast each’s buzz build/spread/explosion happens.

Spiral 16's Virtualizer (Click for larger view)

Spiral 16's Virtualizer (Click for larger view)

The bubbles you see popping up (seen in the screen capture here) represent pieces of content online. The lines are inbound links to that content, visually showing the appearance and spread of a topic. Watching the time lapse of the topic’s virtualization, you see how fast/slow the buzz spread and can “see” how impactful certain content providers were with the topic. Check it out in action in the YouTube video below.

Aside from those two main factors, Spiral16 is pretty standard fare for social media monitoring sites. They pull in data (as opposed to indexing it) that shows up across 20 top sources. If I understand this correctly, they essentially start with a consideration set of information that is already filtered by what is most frequent or popular. Sure, pulling in data from search engines, Twitter and etc., is going to cover most of the web, and other social media monitoring tools may be using similar methods, but it seems like there might be a chance something could be missed.

The dashboard is easy to navigate, features widgets that you can add and customize to see the information most important to you. The tool automatically reports sentiment and tone, a process which currently includes some human vetting. It also scans the gamut of online websites, including news sites, forums/message boards and more. You can manually add sites that may not show up in your searches.

None of the main features you would expect to see are missing.

They currently do not have, however, an internal workflow tool as I’ve reported before as what sets Radian6 so far apart from other tools. I’ve since learned that Techrigy also has a work assignment feature and promise to dive into their tool more completely soon.

Spiral16’s pricing is in the same ballpark at Radian6 and Techrigy, though the model is a little different. They price per topic with five keyword searches and one user as part of a topic for their entry level of $500 per month. You can add users and searches for $50 each per month. They do have a pricing packages for large brands or agencies that might need upwards of 10-20 queries to cover their brands which are more economical (roughly $2,600 monthly for 30 queries and unlimited users). There’s even a mojo version with 200 queries for around $10,000 monthly.

I’ve never been extremely comfortable judging pricing. Each tool is different and each company values the service differently. The fact that the low end pricing is comparable to two of their main competitors makes it seem reasonable in my eyes. The higher end pricing seems a bit much to me, but is probably worth it depending upon the breadth of your monitoring needs. The one pricing judgement I have and can offer is that ScoutLabs seems to still have the lowest barrier to entry for this level of a tool.

I should note that bringing in third party data to analyze in the Spiral16 platform is additional cost. That’s to be expected as data structures vary and normalization of it can’t be reasonably predicted without assessment.

Overall, I think Sprial16 is a legitimate contender for social media monitoring consideration. Their ability to analyze and better inform your research from other areas in addition to the social media data is certainly appealing for brand and marketing managers. I asked if they had an example of a company that had used third-party data analysis and then compared it to social media results to see if relevant insights could come from such a view. They didn’t have an example, but I’d bet they will soon.

This could be an early snapshot at a process that might become answering the all-important question of how we measure return on investment in social media. I would challenge all the other monitoring firms out there to consider that.

My hope is that some of you use Spiral16 and can offer some more depth to the insights I’ve provided here with a cursory exploration of the tool. I’m sure some of the other monitoring folks will chime in with perspectives. Monitoring is their jobs, after all. Tell us what you think about Spiral16 and perhaps what types of data could be used to overlay with social media monitoring to produce interesting insights about your product or service. We could be starting a discussion here that might produce some interesting outcomes.

The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.spiral16.com/ whitney

    Jason – How flattering. Thank you so much for posting about Spiral16.

    We're here to answer any questions that anyone may have about us (either in the comments or through our networks). Please don't hesitate to ask.

    Whitney
    Social Media Manager
    Spiral16
    @spiral16
    http://www.spiral16.com

  • http://www.spiral16.com/ whitney

    Jason – How flattering. Thank you so much for posting about Spiral16.

    We're here to answer any questions that anyone may have about us (either in the comments or through our networks). Please don't hesitate to ask.

    Whitney
    Social Media Manager
    Spiral16
    @spiral16
    http://www.spiral16.com

  • kellykearney

    Jason,

    Thank you so much for the kind words about Spiral16. As a company, we recognize the increasing value of social media metrics. But more importantly, we understand that social media is one key metric amongst many for a company. As soon as we are able to share a custom, client dashboard that incorporates other data sets, you will be one of the first to see it.

    Best,
    Kelly Kearney
    Spiral16
    @kellykearney

  • kellykearney

    Jason,

    Thank you so much for the kind words about Spiral16. As a company, we recognize the increasing value of social media metrics. But more importantly, we understand that social media is one key metric amongst many for a company. As soon as we are able to share a custom, client dashboard that incorporates other data sets, you will be one of the first to see it.

    Best,
    Kelly Kearney
    Spiral16
    @kellykearney

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaybaer Jason Baer

    JF -

    Good post. I love Spiral16, and have used them a bit. Good company and good people. A couple of my clients are using it as well.

    One thing I can like about Spiral16 is the granularity of their sentiment scoring. It's a full 7-point scale, whereas many other providers use a 5-point scale. It's a nice feature.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaybaer Jason Baer

    JF -

    Good post. I love Spiral16, and have used them a bit. Good company and good people. A couple of my clients are using it as well.

    One thing I can like about Spiral16 is the granularity of their sentiment scoring. It's a full 7-point scale, whereas many other providers use a 5-point scale. It's a nice feature.

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  • jimmygilmore

    Jason,
    Great to hear your insight. I'm currently evaluating social media listening tools for Kilgannon and talked to Spiral16 yesterday. The granularity, graphing and the ability to import data from different sources were what differentiated them for me. As far as work-flow tools, Visible and Collective Intellect also had nice features too. Coming from an advertising prospective, the ability to import data from more than “social networks” seemed very powerful.

    You pointed out that they're more of an aggregater than an indexer. Another potential problem for some users is that you have to rely on them to develop your searches. This requires time that's not always available in an agency environment.

    There are so many great tools out there, each with their own benefits and weaknesses. I was wondering how many agencies use multiple paid tools.

    • http://www.spiral16.com/ whitney

      Jimmy – Thanks for the feedback! We enjoyed talking to you on Tuesday.

      Your point about query building is well taken. It's definitely one of our top priorities as our technology continues to evolve.

      We look forward to hearing from you again soon!

      Whitney
      Social Media Manager
      @spiral16

  • http://jimmy-gilmore.com Jimmy Gilmore

    Jason,
    Great to hear your insight. I'm currently evaluating social media listening tools for Kilgannon and talked to Spiral16 yesterday. The granularity, graphing and the ability to import data from different sources were what differentiated them for me. As far as work-flow tools, Visible and Collective Intellect also had nice features too. Coming from an advertising prospective, the ability to import data from more than “social networks” seemed very powerful.

    You pointed out that they're more of an aggregater than an indexer. Another potential problem for some users is that you have to rely on them to develop your searches. This requires time that's not always available in an agency environment.

    There are so many great tools out there, each with their own benefits and weaknesses. I was wondering how many agencies use multiple paid tools.

  • http://www.spiral16.com/ whitney

    Jimmy – Thanks for the feedback! We enjoyed talking to you on Tuesday.

    Your point about query building is well taken. It's definitely one of our top priorities as our technology continues to evolve.

    We look forward to hearing from you again soon!

    Whitney
    Social Media Manager
    @spiral16

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