In the social listening world there are two main tools: Radian6 and Sysomos. Sure, there are literally hundreds of others, and they all have their uses, but these are the two granddaddy’s of the space. In some ways they are very similar. They both take the terabytes of unstructured social data and store them in a quickly retrievable way. Both provide monthly subscriptions to access and analyze this data. Both have been acquired by large organizations; Radian6 by Salesforce and Sysomos by Marketwire.
I have used Radian6 for years, off and on as clients needed social listening services. I just recently got my hands on Sysomos for a client engagement and so I’m now in a position to compare the two properly.
The user experinces of these tools are very different. Not better or worse, but definitely different. I cut my teeth on Radian6 so it was the tool I knew best, but I’d always been intrigued by Sysomos so I jumped at the chance when a client needed a project that fit its pricing model better than Radian6.
Normally I’m technology agnostic. In theory I shouldn’t care what technology a tool uses to present its interface to me as they’re all reasonably similar now… however… Radian6 uses Adobe Flash and Sysomos uses straight up HTML. Anyone in the industry will immediately assume that Sysomos is better (I certainly did before I used it) but the truth is more nuanced than that.
The Flash interface created by Radian6 is not as bloated, slow, and terrible as you might think. The experience is divided into “dashboards,” eight in all, that can hold collections of widgets. The screen shot here is a capture of a collection of widgets that is looking at an ASH conference.
All of the widgets in Radian6 are interconnected. What this means is that you can look at a trend and quickly open up a wordcloud or a “river of news” to see what is going on inside a spike. You can open a topic analysis bar or pie chart and do the same. This “drill down” feature of Radian6 makes exploration of the data intuitive and smooth. It really is a nice experience.
However… Flash is a resource hog with memory leaks all over the place. After a few hours of usage you need to close and restart your browser to clean it up and regain good system performance.
Sysomos is all HTML so I was expecting it to wipe the floor in the performance department compared to the Flash-based Radian6. Unfortunately, I hadn’t considered the sheer volume of data on the back end for both these tools. It turns out that most performance delays are back-end in nature, not front-end. So, they tie in the performance department.
The experience with Sysomos isn’t quite as integrated as Radian6. Essentially, you’re always creating queries using boolean operators. Once you’ve written one or two of these they are logical and intuitive and the control they afford the analyst is impressive. There is a helper tool to ensure correctly contructed queries but normally you won’t need it.
However… while Radian6 remembers your tools as physical representations on a dashboard, Sysomos simply allows you to bookmark your queries and doesn’t have the same integration in its drill-down capabilities.
The winner for the user interface round is Radian6 with its Flash-based interface. Who would have guessed?
Data: Quality and Quantity
The life-blood of any social analysis tool is its data. These systems try to index the entire universe of social data that is out there and provide it for analysis. There are some common problems with both tools in this department.
Forums and Blogs
The big, centralized tools like Twitter, Facebook, etc. are comparability easy to index but forums and blogs are all over the place. These outlets don’t live in nice, consolidated, centralized places; they live out in the “wild” internet.
Because they are just “out there” these platforms are rife with spam. Some days I think there is more spam than legitimate material in the blogosphere (and that goes for Forums as well).
I have to admit I had high hopes for Sysomos after suffering through Radian6 and the eternal fight to eliminate the “Cheap Drugs without a Prescription” blog posts. I was disappointed in that Sysomos and Radian6 are both just as bad when it comes to data quality and spam.
Missing Forums or Blogs
Another side effect of Forums and Blogs being out in the “wild” internet is that sometimes the analysis tools will miss one that you need. With both tools it’s important to perform manual searches using Google as well to cross-index what you’re seeing and ensure that the big players for your topic are represented. Both tools will add sites to their indexed databases on request so don’t be shy about asking.
By default, Radian6 provides only 30 days of historical data while Sysomos provides two years or more. However, Radian6 can have historical data added on to the profile so it’s not really a technical as much as a cost differentiator.
This one is a tie. Both systems have very good but not perfect databases of social content. They will never be perfect but they certainly drive a lot of value for the social analyst and make the cost of entry worthwhile.
Pricing and Data Access
The pricing models couldn’t be more different for Radian6 and Sysomos. The way I describe the Radian6 model is that they “punish you for success.” That’s a bit tongue in cheek but what it means is that Radian6 charges based on keyword volume in a “sandbox” that gets carved out of the full universe of social media posts. This sandbox then becomes the place where all reports are generated and means that Radian6 pricing can be anywhere from $800 per month for 5,000 keywords in the sandbox to $50,000 or more (to be fair I have never heard an upper limit from Radian6 but I assume it exists and I assume it’s lower than $50,000). In contrast, Sysomos charges more than the lowest Radian6 price, but much less that the top end. The last number I heard from Sysomos was $4,000 per month for the service, but that number is subject to negotiation.
Update (Feb 18, 2013)
The good folks at Radian6 got back to me and it turns out that they have changed their pricing model. There are now two different models:
- Business Model: $600 / month for up to 10,000 mentions
- Agency Model: $950 / month for up to 1 million mentions
- Historical Data: $100 / month going back to 2008 (except Twitter that goes back to 2010) – at this price you definitely want the history
With the Agency Model and Historical Data we have a pricing model with Radian6 that wins for long term use for users who need to handle only one brand (it is limited to one “topic profile” which essentially means one client / brand).
For small engagements where the data set is contained Radian6 will be cheaper. For larger engagements or multiple brands then Sysomos can quickly become the better deal.
Both systems have advantages and disadvantages to their pricing models. As a customer what I really want is better products for free, but allowing that these companies provide superb value for the social analyst it becomes a case-by-case decision on pricing.
For my purposes Sysomos squeezes ahead because when you get access to their data you have free rein to query the entire database all the time. For an analyst working on multiple projects in an agency this is the model that works best.
(Updated Feb 18, 2013) For most purposes where the agency is limited to one brand that fits inside 1 million mentions per month, the Radian6 pricing model will be the better deal. For agencies where larger data sets or multiple brands are required the analyst may prefer Sysomos.
Choosing the Right One for You
First, let me say “I’m sorry.” In comparison articles it is most satisfying to get to the end and have a clear winner. I wish I could say brand “X” is the one to buy in all cases. However, I can’t do that as I like both these tools and the one you buy may depend on your project requirements. As of today they are both in my toolbox of analysis tools for client engagements.
(Updated Feb 26, 2015) We have a new comparison post, Sysomos vs. Crimson Hexagon. Can Sysomos retain it’s preferred status for our needs?