How to Navigate the Social Marketplace at the Speed of Light Research

By Ashley Verrill on January 8th 2014

Eight months ago I embarked on a journey into the wild west of social media software. My goal was to create a simple social CRM guide for Software Advice, but the task proved to be somewhat of a moving target. 

Unlike more veteran software markets, the social media software landscape is in a state of flux. Mega companies from Google to Microsoft are snapping up products left and right and branding with the goal of differentiating themselves in a burgeoning software market.

While all of this diversification created new opportunities for buyers (because they can use these programs to accomplish new and amazing things), it also created a problem.

It left many wondering where to even start navigating a market steeped in a complicated web of buzzwords.

Making Sense of the Madness


So, I decided to do something about it. The research for the guide I mentioned became the precipice for a larger project called The Social App Map.

Social App Home Screen

The goal of the app map was two-fold:

  • one, create an interactive tool buyers could use to quickly find the social media system that includes the features they were looking for
  • and two, educate first-timers on the most-common capabilities and social software categories.

To use the map, users can either click on any logo in the “home screen” and a box will pop-up with more information about that application, or they can use the filter to check off features and find out which apps have those features.

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 14.56.18

How I Conducted the Research


My first step in creating this guide was to come up with the most-common categories and features in the market.

To do this, I interviewed more than 10 experts in the field, including other software analysts and founders of innovative products in the market.

From these conversations, I devised the five software categories and 18 features you see listed in the filter (rollover text in the filter provides a description of each feature). This included features for “Social Media Monitoring,” “Social Media Management,” “Social Media Marketing & Advertising,” “Social CRM” and “Social Communities / Business Collaboration.”

Next, I emailed an eligibility form to be included in the map to 122 top-tier social media systems.

I evaluated their submissions against a few criteria, including their market differentiator, unique features, breadth of capabilities, or position in the market as a whole. From there, I selected 70 systems to include in the map.

A Standout in the Market


Brandwatch was among the applications chosen to be included in the app map. In addition to offering every feature in the “Social Media Monitoring” category, the system also offers functionalities from three other categories.

The real differentiator for me, however, was their social analytics offerings. Users can instantly create new data dashboards by choosing from custom, or pre-built templates.

Their Query feature (with boolean search string) is also truly one of a kind, offering extremely accurate data on sentiment, influence, location and more. Finally, the cost of entry for Brandwatch is relatively low, compared with similar products.

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 15.28.33

The Results


The results of this research are encapsulated in the finished tool, which you can try for yourself here.

While buyers should still conduct demos and get detailed price quotes from vendors, my hope is that this tool will provide companies a shortcut to complete their initial research into the market.

So, what you do think?

Tell me what you discover with a comment here.

Ashley Verrill


Ashley Verrill is an analyst with Software Advice. She has spent the last seven years writing business news and strategy features, including as a guest contributor to Wired, TechCrunch and GigaOM.

  • Social Media Outlook

    You don’t even have all the listening platforms from Forrester’s last Wave Report on there? #fail

  • Hi there,

    Thanks for your comment. I was only able to include vendors that submitted an eligibility form. I reached out the the top 122 systems (including those on the Forrester’s list), but they were only included if they responded. I am adding new vendors, however, as they reach out to me and are evaluated.

    Much thanks for your feedback,


  • Anon

    Bit rude … also, did you ever consider that Forrester’s 18-month old report may not be the best example of leading tools available?