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I agree upon the need to sort things out about providers of social media measurement. I´ve done some research over the past years and also have had the opportunity to meet a lot of people here in Sweden involved in measurement of social media. Here´s my ten cents on how customers can choose between providers of measurement. I believe the categorization and criterias for choice are applicable for most measurement providers. Read this great post by Jeremy Owyang and start categorizing providers yourself if you think it´s of any use to others. Although most cool companies are still based outside little funky Sweden, there are some cool stuff happening over here as well. I personally believe that the Swedish Company BrandStalking is a clever way of using Buzz Monitoring to improve Search Engine Marketing:

Brandstalking gives you reports of how much your brand is talked about in blogs and microblogs – and whether this has an impact on the top 100 results of Google. (from their web page)

I categorize the providers into two main groups depending on customer need:

1. Buzz Monitoring Providers. The main purpose is reputation management. Internet is seen as new media channels and new influencers. Since the Internet revolution, ordinary people have their own means to publish their opinions, thus beeing able to compete with old-school influencers such as celebrities, politicians and journalists etc.

Three smart questions to ask providers are:
– How many types of sources do you cover? Blogs, Micro-blogs, forums, social networks etc?
– Do you provide analysis of negative/positive mentions? How? Manual, Using Data Linguistic or both?
– How do I identify influencers/most engaged people? Sorting by topic, frequency in mentions/linking etc?

Example of providers and their types of sources:

Twingly (blogs), BrandStalking (blogs + microblogs). Early October (blogs + micro-blogs + photo sharing sites + video sharing sites + open forums). Internation providers within this category would be Nielsen Buzzmetrics, Cymfony, Attention and Radian6 to name a few. See Jerry Owyangs list for a loooot more companies!

2. Consumer Insight Providers. The main purpose is brand and product management. Internet is seen as an gigantic ongoing focus group that helps companies understand consumers or the publics motivations. People are leaving a lot of traces about who they are, who they know and what they´re interested in. Social media enables “digital anthropology” making old school surveys or focus groups seem expensive and full of scientific no-no´s.

Three smart question to ask providers are:
– How many voices does the sample contain?
– Demographics or psychographics? How? Surveys, click-stream data or linguistic content analysis?
– What type of additional data do you gather? Related Brands, channels, Names, Contact Info etc?

Examples of providers are:

Motivequest, BrandIntel, and according to this blog post also Cymfony. And last but not least, my own baby PRfekt of course!

I hope this categorization is useful. I´d like to see a check-list where at least the above questions can be checked for each provider plus other necessary information such as price model and level. Are you up to create that web page? What additional ways of categorizing is useful?