I was given an advanced run though of Synthesio’s new Unity Engagement Console that offers a similar set of capabilities as Radian6′s Engagement Console – but there are some differences and it’s important to point them out.  Alterian SM2 also has an Engagement Console that I blogged about last year, but I don’t know as much about it so I will not speak to it here except to reference it.

There’s been a tendency to want to move people away from Web Interfaces to Adobe Air or other such client software that runs on laptop, desktop or mobile devices – certainly with Radian6, but perhaps even with Synthesio.   The client software (Engagement Console) becomes an effective replacement and extension of most the platform, and that is case here.

Monitoring and Engagement and integration with Customer Relationship Managers such as Salesforce seems to be the natural step after collecting the Social Data for most organizations but I think the devil is in the details. One significant difference is automatic categorization – Synthesio’s data is already cleaned and categorized on the backend, Radian6 data is not, out of the box, cleaned and categorized (but it can be categorized and acted on via Radian6 Engagement Console Extensions, including data coming from Insights Partners such as Klout, etc).

In other words, Synthesio’s Unity Engagement Platform should be viewed as an “extension” of Synthesio’s  capabilities for current customers who probably wanted those capabilities (as they saw Radian6 had most of the same things in their Engagement Console) but the real difference is no so much in the Engagement Consoles but in the choice of platform (in the first place).

Most of Synthesio’s customers, I think, decided to have Synthesio clean, categorize and do most of their weekly, monthly and quarterly reporting. Many of the platforms I have interfaced with, particularly in Europe and Asia, operate with the idea a customer may not be able, for a variety of reasons, make all the necessary choices in query writing and data cleanness to make the information collect via Social Media Monitoring, worth the effort.

That includes the Agencies that serve the client – they may be under more constraints than the client are.

There’s  a big difference in the results – as the Self Serve options (where a customer does everything themselves) often end up costing more and providing less once all is said and done.  At least, that is what I have found what I see when I really look at the offerings I have either touched or have been shared with me.   In many cases, without the proper training, most of monitoring platforms will end up producing garbage.

I don’t mean a few hours of training – I mean, a lot of training – most of the time, the best results, overall, seem to come from data that has been cleaned and categorized on the backend for the client (and in some cases, the verbatim are read and categorized ).  This type of approach  tends to yield better results.

So we can’t look at Synthesio’s Engagement Console without realizing that all the data is being cleaned and categorized, for the most part, for the client, therefore the interactions and resulting dashboards may be more meaningful to the brand or company as a result.

My book on Social Media Analytics will detail what the choices are for these emergent platforms but it won’t tell you what choice to make – that will be left for my next book in a year or two, when platforms and technologies converge and mature.

Getting back to Unity – here’s some more information about the platform:

  • Extensive language coverage: the first engagement platform to unite millions of posts from the social web in 30 languages.
  • Access to online forums (this is significant difference)
  • Qualified sources: Spam and junk posts are left behind
  • The pulse of customer satisfaction: performance indicators based on sentiment, for example
  • A fully customized dashboard
  • A complete view of your customers: Export data as CSV or XML to integrate easily into existing reports or Business Intelligence systems.

Last I checked, almost no one has support in 30 languages, and as mentioned above, Unity data is clean, because Synthesio cleans all their data, as does Brandtology and Integrasco before populating dashboards.  Yes, you can see live data, obviously you’ll need to if your going to engage in real time – but the work done on the back end filtering is much more extensive than the self serve options, again, leading to much cleaner results.   You may pay more upfront, but you get continued returns from much more honed data streams.

What you’ll find, I suspect, in deploying any Engagement Strategy, is that it’s always built on the choices made at the beginning of the project or deployment.   Any of the platforms that offer Engagement Consoles (Radian6, Alterian SM2 and now Synthesio) will give excellent results – all of them, integrate with Social CRM, my guess is that Synthesio’s platform will offer access to Forums that the others don’t – but I’m not sure, but the results will pretty much depend on who set it the whole thing up and how much time and thought went in to it.

That is pretty much true of any platform – there is so much room to mis-configure, or rush, or over simplify the actual choices and per-setup needed (not that good choices aren’t simple, but you know what I mean…. blast a person to the Moon and say .. yeah, we can do that, easy … when it really isn’t).

There’s so much of that type attitude – that’s why I had to write Social Media Analytics … I didn’t want to convey that everything is difficult … no, it doesn’t have to be, everything can be easy, actually, if the right choices were made.

But when the right choices aren’t made – it can take 10 people to change a light bulb – and I have seen that way too often.

So, to summarize, Synthesio Unity, from what I can see and what was shared with me, is the natural extension for those who were Synthesio clients to begin with, and made the choice to work with Synthesio because of their very strong user interface, clean data, and extensive language support.  Everything that comes out of Unity is a result of making the choice to use Synthesio in the first place.  As Synthesio (similar to Brandtology and Integrasco) sets up all your data for you – it’s hard to see where someone would go wrong with it.

On the other hand, it all depends on what your reporting and engagement needs are as every platform seems to offer some unique capabilities that sell in to the needs of certain types of clients – and maybe Synthesio isn’t the ideal fit for everyone – though I have heard only good things about them.

Synthesio also provided an in-depth Case Study for my book on the Accor Hotel Chain – you’ll be able to read it in a few months when the book comes out – but it is far more in-depth than the public version of that case study here.