There are lots of free social media listening tools on the market. Do you recommend free tools as a way to get started in listening? Any in particular? Should we avoid free tools?
These days, the marketing approach for social media listening tools seems to be “Just take it, try it.” It’s like being at Costco when salespeople offer food freebies..
For the vendors, the cost of giving it away today is less than all that formal sales and marketing stuff, so we have the phenomenon of the “freemium” offering that everyone hopes will at least go viral and bring in a few paying customers.
But is free social listening software worth it? The answer is yes. It’s good for customers to cut their teeth on free software because it takes the risk right out of the equation. Truth be told, we all need a low-risk approach to getting involved in social media, especially listening software.
But I believe it’s in everyone’s interest to try these free listening products. You’ll gain some valuable experience in using these tools, and I am certain you will discover some things about your company and its products (and maybe even your CEO) that you didn’t know and need to fix. How valuable is that?
The thing that concerns me a little about all the free software that is out there is that it can indicate a bubble getting ready to pop. It could mean too much venture capital being invested in green companies that all do more or less the same thing. After you test-drive a few tools, make sure you carefully give the vendors you like a thorough look before committing to one particular tool. In a bubble-popping scenario, the ones with market share survive.
This was first published in September 2011