Social Media Dashboards, what makes us pay for them?

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Two weeks back I posted this article on the Social Penguin Blog, I’ve been a little busy of late which is why I’m so late in posting here. As always you can view the comments from this post back on the Penguin, please feel free to add yours.

Previously we touched a little on the debate of free versus paid when it comes to social media tracking. I emphasised that even the free tools aren’t actually free when you account for the time you spend using them. So while it is possible to use free social media tools online to gather metrics, what you are saving in money you sacrifice in time. Deciding what is more important to you (time or money) can be a difficult decision.

When social media is done well it can be incredibly time-consuming so it’s no surprise that those of us that can afford it would gladly pay not to have to worry about dealing with the more extensive tasks involved with social media marketing. Less time spent on fiddly things like metrics means more time you can spend on fun things like creating great content, developing relationships or pursuing new business opportunities which is why dashboards have become increasing popular as social media has become an accepted part of the marketing mix.

For those of you who aren’t on social terms with Dave our resident expert social penguin let me share something with you. He’s pretty tight money wise (I mean it’s not like he has pockets to keep cash in is it?) so when I approached him to ask for some cash to try out some of the pricier social media dashboards on your behalf he told me in the politest fashion to take a hike. However all was not lost as our friends at Sodash offered us a trial of their software instead. We at the Social Penguin Blog always try to support the “local” talent in Scotland so we were pleased to be able to talk about paid dashboard services developed here in Edinburgh.

Sodash platform showing searches
Sodash platform showing searches

Sodash was created by Daniel Winterstein and Joe Halliwell of Winterwell Associates originally for an environmental group called Restore the Earth to help promote their campaigns and encourage people to make a personal pledge as to how they were doing their bit to save the earth. Knowing that conversation was the key to engaging with people through social media Restore the Earth was looking for a platform that would help streamline the processes involved and so the earliest incarnation of Sodash was born. Sodash helped Restore the Earth connect with people, encourage them to pass on the idea of the pledge to their friends and the autotweet features meant they could retweet anyone taking part. The campaign was massively successful, gaining thousands of followers for Restore the Earth and the use of Sodash meant time was so appropriately managed it could be coordinated even whilst only checking the account once a day.

USP of the Social Dashboard

The features of a typical social media dashboard boil down to being an aggregator, they allow you to view the content that is relevant to you and your interests instead of viewing everything at once. This makes trying to co-ordinate any kind of presence on social media much more efficient as you don’t have to waste time trying to find the relevant conversations taking place, a dashboard will do that for you. They will also usually contain some kind of analytics function in-built or allow you integrate your Google analytics account.

What makes Sodash much more special than a typical dashboard is the artificial intelligence system in place that actually learns from your activities and will eventually begin to emulate them. Using a tagging system you can teach the software to do things for you such as identify positive or negative comments about your brand. More and more brands are using sentiment analysis in their social media metrics and whilst I’ve been dubious about how effective a computer can be at detecting the emotion behind a tweet it was fascinating to hear that Sodash have been trying to teach their system how to recognise sarcasm and jokes.

Sodash Filters and Tweet box
Sodash Filters and Tweet box

Unique from other dashboards is the way in which conversations are tracked through Sodash. The system allows you to easily keep track of how conversations play out between multiple users, displaying all the tweets from everyone who took part in the conversation. This is something that Tweetdeck in particular fails at, when using their “reply to” function it’s easy to lose other voices from the stream.

At the moment Sodash only works with Twitter however as part of their ongoing development plan integration with other social media platforms, like Facebook, is currently being explored. It will be exciting to see how Sodash will change and adapt to the different social environments of other platforms.

Free vs Paid-for

It all really comes down to what is more important to save, time or money? I can’t tell you what is right for you or your business as everyone’s situation is different. Personally if I could afford to I would use a paid-for dashboard as I have had firsthand experience of how long it can take to perfect a social media monitoring process and a dashboard would do all this for me. However not being a brand or organisation of any kind it’s hard to justify using a dashboard when there are very little people to connections and tweets for me to manage. Often people will use free tools initially and turn to dashboard services when their usage and levels of online engagement have grown too large for them to manage otherwise.

Dashboards are also perfect for people who don’t feel they have the experience or confidence to get started in social media by themselves. In an ideal world we would have the time and inclination to use and learn from the many free tools available online. The reality is that many aren’t prepared to invest the time needed to develop something from the ground up, they want results now and dashboards can offer an element of that.

Thanks to Kelly for another great post and to Sodash for letting us use their service. If you would like to learn more about Sodash you can find them at


One thought on “Social Media Dashboards, what makes us pay for them?

  1. I agree that paid tools may not be for everyone, but for larger companies that can afford to use them it makes sense. Especially companies that get talked about a lot. With a lot of content it becomes hard to sift through it all manually.
    Software like Sysomos allows you to sort all your pulled in content through filters, so you can see ones directly related to what you’re looking for rather than sifting through every mention for the particular topic you’re looking for.
    You were correct when you said it comes down to time vs money, but I think if companies can afford it, the money spent on tools could more than make up for the time spent doing it without them.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

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