Published On: Sat, Aug 28th, 2010

The Ultimate Social Media Dashboard

This weeks launch of Google Real Time has rightly generated a lot of conversation in the Tech community. The new tool features:

  • Geographic refinements to find updates and news near you, or in a region you specify.
  • Conversation view. Google says: “Often a single tweet sparks a larger conversation of re-tweets and other replies, but to put it together you have to click through a bunch of links and figure it out yourself. With the new “full conversation” feature, you can browse the entire conversation in a single glance. We organize the tweets from oldest to newest and indent so you quickly see how the conversation developed.”
  • Realtime Google Alerts: Google says: “You can create an alert specifically for “updates” to get an email the moment your topic appears on Twitter or other short-form services. Or, if you want to manage your email volume, you can set alerts to email you once per day or week.”

In short, Real Time sounds like it could be useful for people working within the social media sector, especially for crisis and issues monitoring.

However, this innovation has got a couple of colleagues and I, thinking. Google is at the forefront of the web and for many people it is the web. Some of the tools that Google gives away for free, namely, Insights, Analytics, Alerts, Trends and Blog Search are astounding – and I use them pretty much on a daily basis. Subsequently, these great tools coupled with enhanced Real Time search, as well as macro and micro demographic and search data would make one almighty social media dashboard. Maybe not the ultimate dashboard, but certainly one that we would be exceptionally useful.

Most paid for tools are great for monitoring conversation and putting this into easily digestible graphics. But to really sharpen analysis (and save time) we need more demographic and platform related information to give context and more specific website information to give detail. The ultimate dashboard for me, would enable easy monitoring, contain a wealth of wider information, but also enable you to drill down and quickly discover data on specific websites or blogs.

For instance, demographic and search trend data, as well as Page rank and estimated views etc would be exceptionally useful. Whilst, many monitoring services seem to be going down the CRM route, there is an opportunity for Google to take a more metrics driven approach. I’m sure this is something that companies would be willing to pay for. I could certainly envisage a Freemium version.

This post is just some initial thoughts from brief conversations I’ve had with colleagues and I’d like to hear your views on this idea. Should Google get involved in the social media monitoring business? It would be a new revenue stream and Google does many of these things already. I’m convinced that there is an opportunity for Google to aggregate such data and provide a comprehensive social media dashboard. To further this conversation, Id’ be interested to know what would be in your ultimate social media dashboard?

About the Author

- Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at and Chief Quaffer at .

Displaying 8 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Jack Josephy says:

    I agree with your points and I would also find it very useful as an analyst to have such a tool. But would you (or your company) pay for such a tool?

    • Ben Cotton says:

      Hi Jack,

      Thanks for the comment. The answer is ‘yes’. Most definitely. We currently use a variety of paid for tools, often supplemented by quality free data obtained from Google products, as well as market reports.

      From my perspective, it would be great if there was a tool that monitored conversation, but also contained wider data from sources like Forrester, ComScore, e-consultancy, Mashable etc to give context easily and quickly.

      If tools are useful and enable people to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, companies will pay for them.

  2. Monitoring vendors seemingly rely on Google’s data to build their products and make a fair amount of dollar doing so. Reliability of data however varies from vendor to vendor as they choose the appropriate sources to import – this leaves marketers using the tools with a couple of issues.

    Firstly, which service to use – how can you be sure of each vendor’s reliability without trying them all?

    Secondly, if all of this data is already available, why not just use Google to bring the analytics to life, for free?

    I’d certainly be interested to see what sort of package Google could come up with, it’d be an interesting project for them to undertake. They could offer a freemium model, releasing varying states of analysis according to how much each company wanted to pay. The main problem for revenue generation it appears to me would be the reliance on adverts that they have – would a free service put users off by bombarding them with ads?

    • Ben Cotton says:

      Hey Matt,

      Reliability of data is the biggest challenge facing all monitoring vendors. However, I’m adamant Google has the infrastructure and capability to provide the most accurate information. It does or is close to providing many of these services already.

      You rightly mention that a lot of this data is widely available, but as Social Media Analysts there is a great need for wider demographic information to be incorporated into the offering to give more context, not just micro detail.



  3. As part of the overall strategy of delivering relevant search results, I can’t see how Google can ignore the social media aspect of this – which is why they have moved to real time. To maintain their market share they need to ensure they are keeping up to date with the trends in the market, and therefore they will have to start doing more around the social media dashboard. They already can identify the different content types such as blogs, forums, and twitter – so it’s not a big jump to display this data in an easy to use format.

    • Ben Cotton says:

      Hey Charlotte,

      I completely agree! It’s does not appear to be such a big leap for Google as they already produce excellent tools, namely, Insights, Analytics, Alerts, Trends and Blog Search. This could be the evolution of their offering.

      As you mention, by expanding into this area, which Google currently surrounds, it’ll be a great way to maintain their market share.

      I’d be interested to know if Google have investigated this growth sector?



  4. Tim Lloyd says:

    A freemium version sounds like the way to go, but the trick with any social media monitoring is how people get best value from the results and their objectives.
    Lots of companies do pay for social media, but then aren’t able to capitalise on the information. Google are well placed to offer training alongside the tool, as with Analytics or Adwords.
    I blogged about social media evaluation here:

    • Ben Cotton says:

      Hey Tim,

      Thanks for the comment… I’m also a big advocate of the freemiun model. You’re right about some organisations being unable to capitalise on the vast swathes of data that monitoring tools produce. This is something I’ve experienced and with an ever-expanding social media usage, it can be difficult for organisations to know where to begin.

      Also, a common misjudgement I’ve encountered is that people believe social media monitoring tools to be the answer to the measurement question. Numbers are nothing without analysis. Tools provide (often a lot of) information, but it takes a skilled analyst and an experienced team of strategists to digest data and then attempt proper measurement and evaluation.

      My greatest concern is that the proliferation of free tools may result in good analysis being sacrificed.



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