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Dell is entering the marketing software wars by launching its own social analytics platform

In case there weren’t enough tech giants competing in the marketing software space, Dell is now the latest company to start offering a social media analytics platform.

The platform, which it calls the Social Net Analytics Pulse (SNAP) was developed for Dell’s own use four years ago, and the company will now start offering it as a standalone service to other marketers. Dell says its platform will be complementary to social media listening platforms such as Radian6, Sysomos and Sprinklr. Social interaction data from those platforms can be enriched by SNAP’s natural language processing and advanced analytics features, making the data actionable for business decisions. (Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that SNAP competes with Radian6 and Sprinklr, however, Dell clarified that its platform is positioned as a complementary product.)

So why would Dell, a company known more for its expertise in hardware, suddenly decide to get into the very competitive marketing software space? Dell’s senior director of analytics and business intelligence Shree Dandekar says the company identified an opportunity within the market for a social media listening platform that focuses on driving real financial results, rather than simply engaging customers or promoting a brand. “If you look at the spectrum of social analytics maturity, most platforms are in the earlier stages, focusing on listening, engagement or sentiment analysis,” says Dandekar. “We’re creating a platform for the later stage, which focuses on social ROI.”

Dandekar says the key feature of the SNAP tool is its ability to asses and score the social sentiment related to the brand and its customers. The platform calculates a Social Net Advocacy (SNA) score based on the thousands of social conversations taking place about the brand, its products and topics that are relevant to its business. Through its integration with Datasift, the SNAP platform has access not just to social media networks like Facebook and Twitter but thousands of blogs, online forums and articles. “You don’t have to use separate tools to analyze separate social conversation sources,” says Dandekar. “We’re providing a place to connect and manage them all.”

After accessing the social data, SNAP uses Dell’s proprietary natural language processing to analyze the sentiment in those conversations, identifying problem areas, advocates, buying behavior and reactions to Dell news announcements. Based on that analysis, the platform calculates an SNA score that reflects how well the brand is doing. This score range can be set from a -100 to 100 or -10 to 10 depending on how a brand wants to measure itself. Dandekar says Dell CMO Karen Quintos receives a weekly report on the SNA scores for each of Dell’s product lines to make sure the company’s brand is operating at the optimal level.

Dandekar says companies can use these listening and scoring abilities for more than just promoting a brand name. Real returns can come from using the tool to troubleshoot customer problems before they get out of hand, and in some cases, it can even be used to generate ideas for product development.  He gives the example of Dell, which used SNAP to figure out that one of its products was underpriced in the market, and the team was quickly able to rectify the problem. “We really use SNAP as an early warning indicator for a problem or anything that looks like an emerging trend,” says Dandekar.

So far, Dell has been testing the product out with brands such as Nissan, Caterpillar and the Red Cross, with successful evaluations says Dandekar. With Dell World coming up this week in Austin, Dandekar says the company will host a number of think tanks and panel discussions about social media analytics and will leverage learning from the SNAP platform. As for pricing, Dandekar says it will be according to the conversation volume the brand wants to handle, but no word yet on a minimum price.

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