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

Twitter Dashboard from ViralheatLet’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.

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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 Policy

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?

  • Xavier Dias

    Ive been using Viralheat since some time now, Must say very good service, simple and easy interface and helps me to see data of quite a few days. Now that they have facebook too its going to be exciting..

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great to know, Xavier. I'd love to know more from users once they see the
      Facebook integration. Please be sure to swing back by and report back.

  • Sarah Senna

    Jason, Radian6 has more knobs which 90 percent of people don't need. I'd say Viralheat is the Apple of this space and rightly so.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Probably a fairly accurate assessment, Sarah. Radian6 is the market leader
      for a lot of reasons, those knobs being one of them. But it can certainly be
      overwhelming and much of it unneccessary, depending upon your goals for
      monitoring. ViralHeat distills down their tool to a need set that can
      satisfy a lot of customers. The higher-end solutions are always going to fit
      certain companies needs better, though.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • AmberNaslund

      Hi Sarah – As Jason says, we're not the solution for everyone, certainly. Listening needs vary widely, and most of our customers want not just the aggregation of posts, but broad and deep coverage so as not to miss a thing, the ability to analyze the data from a bunch of different angles, as well as engage with their communities, build internal workflows, do detailed reporting. But we're definitely designed to be comprehensive, and that muscle might not always suit the needs of some folks. :)

      Thanks for the feedback. And if you'd ever like to discuss in more detail which of the “knobs” work best for you or don't, I'd love to connect and learn. Email anytime at amber@radian6.com.

      Best,
      Amber Naslund
      Director of Community, Radian6
      @ambercadabra

  • jurgencastro

    This looks great, I've been looking for a good piece of software that allowed us to build more searches for less cost. Still, I'm finding a lot of these services are geared more towards brands and there's a lack of offerings for agencies. My agency would love to be able to sign up for an affordable solution that allowed us to do in-depth research for all of our clients. Right now this looks like the best option but I wish Radian6 would tackle this problem too. An all-you-can-search subscription model is sorely lacking, unless I've missed one? Thanks for writing these up by the way, it's great to read reviews from someone who really uses these services and gets something tangible out of them!

    Jurgen Castro
    Carton Donofrio Partners
    http://www.stoptheadness.org

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Jurgen. Radian6 does allow you to have any number of searches live
      for 7 days before charging you. That's their big agency carrot because it
      allows you to set up and search for, say, new business pitches, without
      having to fork over the full amount. Other services do similar
      short-term-free searches, too. But ViralHeat certainly does offer a simple
      and cost efficient solution. Thanks for the comment.

      • http://www.scoutlabs.com/ Margaret Francis

        Hello Jurgen (& Jason): Another option is Scout Labs. We give you an allotment of searches, usually between 5 and 100, depending on the plan, and you can edit/ change them as often as you like. We do provide 6 months back data on search creation and we don't charge by number of results, so you can search for “obama” or “toyota” without fear of the cost. I don't know if this fits the bill for an all-you-can-search solution, but we have many agency clients who use Scout Labs for just the purpose you describe. There's a 14 day free trial, let us know what you think!

    • AmberNaslund

      Thanks for the great explanation, Jason. And Jurgen, would be more than happy to chat with you again about the way our agency solutions work and learn more about your specific needs for research, as well as how we might learn a bit from what you're trying to accomplish. I'd be happy to contact you, or you can drop me an email anytime at amber@radian6.com.

      Thanks for the comments and feedback, both! Appreciate it.

      Best,
      Amber Naslund
      Director of Community, Radian6
      @ambercadabra

  • http://alteriansm2.com/ Connie Bensen

    Jason,
    Thanks for another great overview of a tool in our space!
    And thanks for the mention of Techrigy SM2 (now Alterian SM2).

    It is true that many are looking for a low cost entry point in exploring social media monitoring. Many of our customers have started with the Freemium version of SM2 . And many (including consultants) still use it because it works great.

    The ability to filter results, segment them and drill in is really important. We've heard many people express frustration in trying to deal with a river of data.

    Connie
    Director of Community Strategy, Alterian
    @cbensen

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Connie. I guess I need to catch up with Alterian again. On the list
      … again. Heh.

    • Carl

      There are several limitations on the Freemium version of SM2 and not to mention its very confusing to even get started. Haven't tried Viralheat yet, but will give it a shot.

  • http://themaria.me/ themaria

    Great review, Jason. Although I haven't tried Viral Heat yet, and thus can't speak to the tool in action, it does seem appropriate for a smaller size casual user. The inability to look at more than one topic at a time can be a hindrance for a brand that wants to measure and track share of voice (and our tool, Biz360 Community, can do quite nicely :). At the same time, being able to prioritize your blogger outreach by focusing on the the bloggers and tweeps with the highest reach, is key when doing outreach.

    And to answer your question, we do have a measure of “impact” in our tool as well, that allows to estimate how many people actually read an article. And of course, you can slice the data by source, sentiment, and sort and drill in many ways. I have a demo account with your name on it, come check it out when you are ready to do more comparisons. Curious to see what you think, since you definitely know your tools!

    • http://twitter.com/vishals vishals

      @themaria Cute answer, but factually incorrect. It is not a “light-weight casual” tool as you have put it. Its a platform for people looking to do some serious engagement on Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

      Why is Viralheat revolutionary?

      * We do our own data aggregation and do not use any third party data providers like Biz360 does. We control the data, analytics and above all the cost as we don't have an overhead like you guys.
      * Our analytics are done in real time, we just don't vomit up a bunch of mentions and charge thousands of dollars for it. We deliver metrics that are computed in mere minutes instead of days, such as Biz360.
      * It is easy to get share of voice, and switch between campaigns, the user interface is clean, and not clunky.

      We have hundreds of Brands, PR Agencies and wide variety of companies world wide using our Technology to power their social media campaigns. In fact, we have major Fortune 500 and 1000 companies using our system and our amazing APIs to do some serious social media outreach Above all our users get enterprise grade features, detailed analytics, traffic trends, influencer segmentation, sentiment analysis and deep viral analysis of content at $10/month. Can Biz360 do that? I bet you anything you can't even come close.

      Peace,

      Vishal Sankhla

      • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

        Thanks for the continued discussion, Vishal. Maria obviously isn't as
        familiar with your tool. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt there. Love
        your passion and your work!

        • http://twitter.com/vishals vishals

          Hi Jason.

          Yup, competition breeds innovation, and users win ;). Thats what we want, the users should benefit at the end of the day. Most of the brands and agencies use multiple services anyways.

      • http://themaria.me/ themaria

        Thanks for stopping by, Vishal!

        I guess it's been a while since you checked out Biz360, as your statements are also factually incorrect. I would recommend that you give it another look.

        Yes, we get our data from external sources, but that also means that we get an extra level of spam protection (the data sources provide a level of spam filtering, and we layer another level on top of that after we get it). What does your spam filtering look like? We get the data and then index and store it, so we do control it after we get it. We control our analytic 100%.

        We get the data in real time, and apply our analytic on top of it, which measures sentiment, tracks trendlines of mentions as well as sentiment, and helps you discover conversation topics around your keywords via tag clouds and lists. We help measure share of voice against competitors. It is my understanding that ViralHeat won't allow me to do that, as I can't display more than one topic at a time (correct me if I am wrong here, I am sure you will).

        We also allow to drill down by data source, by sentiment, by date and prioritize by impact and reach, to allow for most targeted social media outreach.

        Also, we do not charge thousands of dollars, we are one of the lower priced solutions in the space. The professional solution costs $399, which is pretty far removed from “thousands”. And also, our metrics don't take days. At the most, it will take a couple of hours, but that's how long it takes to score sentiment (we use NLP). We can actually measure sentiment on the article and topic level. We, along with the rest of the industry, are moving towards as close to realtime as possible.

        I've never heard of our UI as being called clunky. It's one of the most easy to use tools I've seen in a long time.

        We cover blogs, microblogs, forums / discussion boards and online news, with more sources to be added shortly. What sources do you cover? We also have an API. Can you qualify an “amazing API”?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Maria. 360 is on the list. I look forward to it. I hope you don't
      misconstrue the post, however, to mean that I think ViralHeat is for the
      casual user. It's a powerful tool. Yes, it has some limitations, but it's
      technology is solid and the data it offers is awfully close to the expensive
      solutions. Thanks for chiming in, though. Seems these posts bring all the
      monitoring community managers out of the woodwork. Heh.

      • http://themaria.me/ themaria

        Perhaps I mis-spoke. The low-end version is good for a casual user. The business version is obviously a lot more powerful. I haven't played with the business version yet, so my understanding is based on reading product reviews, watching demos on the site and reading about features. The way I see it, ViralHeat is great at realtime web and Twitter, but doesn't allow to really go deep into blogs, forums (except for Facebook) and online news. For more sources, it seems that other solutions are best. The fact of the matter is, there are enough different solutions at this point to fit the varied needs of clients, and that's a good thing!

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Fair enough. Just trying to make sure we keep it civil here, which I know
          everyone will. Thanks for your continued discussion!

          • http://themaria.me/ themaria

            Civil is the name of the game :)

  • http://twitter.com/vishals vishals

    Thanks for a great review, Jason. Appreciate it.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thank you for your work and your comments, Vishal. Great tool you have
      there.

  • http://twitter.com/EdHartigan EdHartigan

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for highlighting Viral Heat. I checked them out a few months ago and was impressed with the interface but thought the results were very heavily focussed on video…which I thought was cool but a bit unnecessary! I will check them out again as I am keen to see the Facebook results you mention. The price is attractive to a small business such as mine, but having trialed R6, SM2, ScoutLabs, SentimentMetrics plus others…I am no nearer knowing which will be the best solution as they all have pros and cons which either fit or don't fit a clients brief…the search continues.

    thanks

    Ed

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Ed. I think the search will continue beyond. No one tool is ever
      going to nail it. We all have different needs and preferences. It's good
      there are several good ones out there to choose from. Thanks for the
      comment.

  • Ana

    I would be curious how this one compares to Hubspot

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I'll check into that, but I don't believe Hubspot offers a monitoring
      solution, specifically, but Mike or someone can correct me on that if they
      don't.

      • http://twitter.com/mvolpe Mike Volpe

        Someone say my name? I found this conversation in HubSpot's software. ;)

        HubSpot is an all-in-one inbound marketing software system, meaning that it has a little bit of a lot of different things, all connected in an easy-to-use way. But that also means our social media “conversation tracker” will never replace an enterprise monitoring system that a large PR agency or large brand would use. There are lots of good solutions to that problem, and there is no reason to compete with them.

        We believe medium and small businesses don't need a bunch of different complicated but very powerful pro tools (Radian 6, Eloqua, Omniture, etc.), they need one system they can use to get found by more visitors and convert more of them to leads and sales (HubSpot). I'm not saying anything bad about those companies – in fact they all have great products that I have seen and used and like. I have friends that work at those companies (Hi Amber!), and I recommend those products to large businesses frequently. Those products just are not the right solution for 100% of the companies out there… there are over 2 million small and medium sized businesses in the US (and so far 2,100 of them are HubSpot customers).

        http://www.hubspot.com/products/social-media/

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Werd up. The fact Mike jumped in here so quickly speaks volumes about what
          Hubspot has to offer. Thanks, Mike.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marshall.sponder Marshall Sponder

    Hi Jason,

    Great seeing you a few weeks ago in NYC and I took your lead in writing about Viralheat and wrote one of my own which I hope adds to this conversation.

    I think you said much the same things I did – but as a data analyst type, I was frustrated with the inability to update the data fast enough to answer any questions in realtime. ON the other hand, the cost is so low that the features it doesn't have are quite understandable – all things considered.

    http://www.webmetricsguru.com/archives/2010/02/

    Would be interested in your thoughts – and yes, VH did extend my access so I can play with it some more (when I have the time).

    Thanks,
    Marshall

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Marshall. Great read through your post just now. Lots of information
      to digest there. I think we both agree that it's a nice solution, but could
      use some work. Still, for the price, it's rock solid. Thanks for diving in a
      layer or 10 more than I do! Heh.

  • http://twitter.com/mikeschwede mikeschwede

    Good post. We made a evaluation for a Swiss Brand of Radian6, Sysomos, Viralheat, Scoutlabs and some other. At viralheat many interaction elements were missing. We think it's a nice monitoring tool for US small caps. Some steps ahead of trackur.

    But the important concerns from our non-english perspective:
    - Language and country includes/excludes where not possible
    - Complex queries and filters were hard to set up or not possible
    - Important sources/posts where missing, especially important german and swiss blogs

    We use Radian6 and Sysomos right now. Scoutlabs is on our watch list, because they are doing a really good job (but US centric).

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for sharing, Mike. Can't disagree with your assessment. I wish I had
      more time to test more deeply, but thank you for sharing your results.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks Marshall. Great read through your post just now. Lots of information
    to digest there. I think we both agree that it's a nice solution, but could
    use some work. Still, for the price, it's rock solid. Thanks for diving in a
    layer or 10 more than I do! Heh.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for sharing, Mike. Can't disagree with your assessment. I wish I had
    more time to test more deeply, but thank you for sharing your results.

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  • http://twitter.com/antonelneculai Antonel Neculai

    Excellent post! Thank you Jason! I was looking for a low-price tool (at least compared with the big players, like SM2 or Radian 6) for my agency to handle a few clients while still providing the necessary metrics to do a good job and your review helped me a lot. Thanks again.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Glad to help!

  • http://www.unifiedstream.com kaaist

    Thanks Jason for some very useful information. I'm trying to decide between ScoutLabs, Alterian, Radian6 and ViralHeat so finding this post on Google was a big help. I think I'll give ViralHeat a spin.

  • http://www.smoeye.com Smoeye

    Thanks for sharing.Smoeye (http://www.smoeye.com) is a social media monitoring tool.You can get reports of your social media accounts activity :Here are the currently supported plateforms :facebook,twitter,youtube,dailymotion,linkedin,viadeo,flickr,foursquare-venue,wat,google-plus,digg,vimeo,foursquare-people,vkontakte,quora-topic,quora-people,metacafe,slideshare,deezer,last.fm

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