Social Media Monitoring Tools: Buying Guide: Page 2

As your IT organization evaluates social media monitoring solutions for Data Loss Prevention, here are five questions you should consider.
Posted November 23, 2011

Jeff Vance

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2. How accurate is the tool?

Georgiana Comsa, Managing Partner of Silicon Valley PR, a boutique PR firm that focuses on storage and cloud computing startups, tried out Radian6 and another large suite, Tap11, which was recently acquired by the founders of YouTube and will be part of their new company AVOS.

“When I tested various tools, accuracy was a problem,” Comsa said. “When I did searches, the number of relevant Tweets that would show up varied greatly from tool to tool.” Comsa ended up signing up for UberVu’s service because it is both accurate and offers the feature set her firm needed.

3. How is sentiment determined?

Accuracy is about more than just search. “Showing a Tweet is one thing, but how much influence does that person have? How many people have read the Tweet?” Comsa added.

Determine sentiment (or the mood, opinion or emotional state of the person posting something) can be tricky. Brooke Gabbert, director of PR and Social Media for Service Magic, a site that screens, rates and recommends home repair service professionals, warns that tools that measure sentiment only through natural language analysis won’t be accurate enough. Analyzing purely factual text is one thing, but with social media, natural language analysis will miss irony, sarcasm and context.

The popular tool Social Mention, for instance, looks at things like emoticons and symbols to help determine sentiment. That may not sound like much, but when you consider that when human beings are asked to determine sentiment, we often disagree. For instance, a word like “conservative” will return a vastly different sentiment depending on your political point of view.

Or take a statement like: “my hotel room has a view of an alley.” Most tools will probably rate that as neutral, whereas most people will consider it negative.

4. How well does the tool monitor your competitors?

Social media monitoring isn’t just about keeping tabs on your own organization. Proactive firms also use it to monitor their industry and their competitors.

“Knowledge is power. With the amount of information about every business available on the Internet, smart businesses have an opportunity to gain an advantage over the competition by harvesting that data in real-time,” said Steve Farnsworth, Chief Digital Strategist at Jolt Social Media, a social media consulting firm.

How do the tools compare competitors? Is it simply mentions and followers? How well does it determine reach? Is sentiment included in competitive analysis?

5. What are the security implications and how will the tool help you address them?

As you scrutinize competitors, rest assured that many will study you as well. “Most companies miss the bigger picture. They need to be as concerned, if not more so, about the security aspect of social media as they are about reputation, because for many of them a breach would create a negative public backlash and possibly put them out of business,” said Shane MacDougall, Principal Partner at Tactical Intelligence, a consulting company that helps organization gather competitive intelligence.

Unfortunately, social media monitoring tools aren’t looking for data leaks, and, to be fair, that’s not what they were designed for. Meanwhile, most DLP tools focus on classifying information and securing egress points. They don’t scour the web and social networks to see what risky information is out there.

Social media monitoring tools won’t have built-in DLP features, but certain features can help. If you are a large organization with developers on staff, look at the availability and quality of APIs. For organizations of any size, look for the ability to generate granular reports and to set alerts sent via email or IM.

Surprisingly, many of these tools lack the capability to trigger real-time email or IM alerts. In fact, Gabbert dumped Radian6 for Postling simply to get email alerts, which Radian6 lacked back when she was using it (email and IM alerts have since been added).

“I've seen executives sail through’s [a website that provides an insider’s look at companies and positions within those companies] forums focusing on some disgruntled ex-employee, completely oblivious to the fact that in the same forums current employees were inadvertently giving away the farm information-wise with posts about upcoming projects and product plans, reshuffling of executives, new sales territories, and so on,” MacDougall said. “Information that a competitor would pay good money for. Why? Because the reputation management tools pointed them to the negative comments.”

If IT security pros are pulled into the process, they will look at the information through a different lens, focusing on data loss and IP theft risks, rather than reputation. That alone could be the difference between success and failure in a hyper-competitive market.

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Tags: security, social networking, social media, data loss prevention, monitoring, DLP

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