I recently spoke to four different start-ups in the social analytics space, all looking for insight into what features are most important for perspective buyers (PR agencies and their clients).
If I still worked at an agency (and had the weight of Fortune 500 companies behind me), here are the features I would insist upon from my vendor:
Client View/Agency View: There should be a way for an account team to share graphs and data with a client without exposing them to the back-end. This is both for convenience and to ensure they don’t mess it up.
Outstanding Support Forums: Strong documentation as well as a community space where developers and users can share best practices and provide feedback. I find Apple phone support utterly useless, but I can often find the answers I’m looking for submitted by other users in their hosted forums off the website.
Dummy Proof Analytics: Ideally, social media analytics software would be set up by a dedicated social media person within the agency. In reality though, it’s set up by entry-level account team members charged with tracking coverage across all mediums. Furthermore, an agency with 50 clients needs a solution that they can customize for every account, and that can be altered without much effort based on a client’s ever-changing needs. Most of the current services do not support this type of interaction with the product.
Minimal Training Investment: See above. There are already a host of tools an agency expects its employees to learn. Adding one to the list should still result in an overall savings of time (and therefore, money). Do not build the software with a front end that requires someone with an advanced degree and years of analytics research.
Real Time Reporting: There are typically two times when PR people need to share reports with clients — at the end of the day/week of a product launch, or the end of the month. Make it easy to deliver analytics based on both these timeframes.
Incredible Spam Filters: Most analytics services will boast about the millions of blogs/Twitter feeds/Facebook fan pages that they source. They neglect to indicate what percentage of those are splogs, Tweetbots or otherwise junk.
Easy Data Export: Yes, I am capable of making a screen capture, but it would be awesome if my expensive software made it easy to export different types of graphs for my report, which is typically built in Microsoft Word. Or export the highlights to an Excel spreadsheet. I don’t need the names and readership of all 5,000 blogs that referenced my client, just the top data points. That’s all the managers often care about, anyway.
Accurate Sentiment Analysis: What some developers don’t understand is that the mom who blogs about her baby might have two readers (grandma and grandpa), but if it mentions the client it goes into a report at the end of the month and gets treated with the same weight as TechCrunch. This is incredibly inefficient. When the client sees that someone has referenced the company negatively, they invest thousands of dollars in billing hours investigating the blog, building a relationship and passing all correspondence up and down the management food chain. This could be avoided with a bit more research invested into creating more accurate sentiment analysis tools.
What else? If you work at for an agency (PR, Marketing, Advertising), what are the features you think are missing from your current product suite?