Microsoft Tests Social Media Monitoring Product

Microsoft has developed a social media analytics tool that’s designed, among other things, to improve a marketing organization’s ability to adjust to social media phenomena on the fly.

Called “Looking Glass,” the product is still in prototype and will only be available to a few companies in the near term. It sends e-mail alerts when social media activity picks up considerably. The sentiment (i.e., negative or positive) of that chatter and the influence level of the content creator are reported in the alert. Digital flow charts show what days of the week generate the most activity on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and other social media sites.

But interweaving social media data with reporting from other campaign channels may turn out be Microsoft’s most significant contribution to the already mature field of social media analytics. Feeds from social media sites can be connected to other business elements like customer databases, CRM centers and sales data within an organization. The data integrate via Microsoft’s enterprise platforms like Outlook and Sharepoint.

A handful or so companies will begin testing Looking Glass in the coming weeks. According to a spokesperson, the company hopes to release it to the broader marketing public sometime next year.

While testing the system during the past nine months, Marty Taylor Collins, a group marketing manager for Microsoft, said the information acquired on at least two occasions saved her department from a serious misstep. First, the tool halted her team’s plan to discontinue an ad campaign when it helped them discover that a lead character had quietly become popular. In another instance, a PR disaster was averted during the beta-test release of Windows 7, after a system crashed just after launch.

“We love to push out content and [social media] is a great channel for that,” she said. “But if you are not using it as a listening tool, then you are really not getting the complete benefit of a Twitter or a Facebook because a part of [your] job is to watch the conversations on the wall.”

As a possible example for everyday organizational uses, an electronics manufacturer could find out if an angry blogger is at all connected to one of its bigger distributor or retailer customers. Or an automaker could overlay its sales and support data information in the tool and analyze those factors with what’s being said about its brand or car models at Facebook.

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