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The number of social tools is bewildering: what is the difference between a social media listening tool and an engagement platform? What are Enterprise 2.0 platforms?

For anyone who is perplexed by the number of social tools, here is an overview of eight types, based on a report written by our Social Strategist Miranda Man. 

Please note that this is not an exhaustive or definitive list!

Social media analytics and social listening tools: what do they do?

Analytics tools are valuable for the quantitative analysis of social media metrics that are often taking place on owned social media channels.

They enable companies to gather data from their social media channels for example, the number of fans and engagement rate. Examples of analytics tools include Google AnalyticsSocialbakers and Pagelever

Listening tools extract and filter online conversations from social media platforms. They can help to derive meaning and sentiment from the mass of online noise. Examples of listening tools include Radian 6Synthesio and Brandwatch.

Example use cases

Analytics tools are ideal to determine brand reach and fan demographics. So, if you are not sure of the extent of your brand's online presence or if your social media fans actually match your target audience then analytics tools can help.

Listening tools can help businesses to identify key influencers and to discover what your customers are saying about your brand.

BrandwatchGoogle Analytics

Social media engagement and content creation tools: what do they do?

Engagement tools enable users to take action, respond, engage and communicate with their audience directly on social channels.

Typical functionality includes content authoring, scheduling and publishing, workflow management and real time routing of actions. Examples of engagement tools include Spredfast, Sprout Social and Conversocial.

Content creation tools facilitate the creation and distribution of socially enabled and / or interactive content. Whilst engagement tools also enable users to create content, this content tends to be a Twitter or Facebook update.

A content creation platform includes content creation templates and enables users to distribute content to a number of social media channels. Some platforms can facilitate live streaming. Examples of content creation tools include Thismoment DEC, Scribblelive and Buddymedia (Profile Buddy and Reach Buddy).

Example use cases

Engagement tools are ideal for community management as they offer the functionality of posting to a number of different social media channels from one platform. They can help you to interact with your social media customers quickly.

Content creation tools can help you to create a unified brand presence across different channels and help you to publish content across a range of social media channels.


Analytics, Listening Engagement and Content Creation Tools are Social Business Intelligence Tools and are used to manage a company's social media presence and online brand.

They also enable businesses to derive insight from online customer conversations and take action from those insights. These tools are sometimes referred to as Social Media Management Platforms.

The following tools are Enterprise 2.0 platforms and concern employees rather than customers. These platforms are used to support internal processes and can help to facilitate employee engagement.

Enterprise social platforms and enterprise activity stream platforms: what are they?

Enterprise social platforms are internal platforms that offer portal like functionality in addition to social tools such as blogs and wikis and are used to foster employee collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Example enterprise social platforms include Jive Social Business, Huddle and IBM Connections.

Enterprise activity stream platforms are also used for employee collaboration and knowledge sharing but have a core microblogging functionality and focuses on the activity stream. Examples  include Tibbr, Yammer and Socialcast.

Both platforms feature functionality typical of social media platforms, for example, creation of groups, blogs, news feed and easy uploading and sharing of content.

Example use cases

Both types of platform can be used for knowledge sharing and to improve collaboration amongst employees regardless of location.

However there are further use cases, for example, enterprise social platforms are great for content collaboration and content management. They can also be used to create social intranets.

Enterprise activity streams are good for internal social networking and due to the more transient nature of the activity stream, can be used to provide real time response to queries.

IBM ConnectionsSocialcast

Community platforms and e-learning platforms: what are they? 

Community platforms are used to build online communities and can be used both internally and externally, for employees and customers. Typical functionality include forums and user groups. Example community platforms include Telligent, Lithium Community and Moxie Community.

Social e-learning platforms include collaborative functionality such as blogs and shared spaces. These include both authoring platforms (to create content) and learning management systems.

Examples include Topyx, Composica and Saywire.

Example use cases

Community platforms can help to connect users to experts and to build collective online communities of people with common interests and experiences.

E-learning platforms (in the social context) can be used to create interactive and engaging online assessments. They can also be a means for learners to share their experience with other learners.


It is fair to say that the number of social tools has increased significantly over the past five years and that the social technology landscape is evolving constantly.

Social technology is therefore dynamic and responsive – the eight types of platform outlined above are just a few examples of the type of social tool you could use in your business. We hope we have helped you to navigate part of the social technology landscape!  

You can read the full BLOOM social technology report here: 

Tim Aldiss

Published 10 January, 2013 by Tim Aldiss

Tim Aldiss is the Consultant/Director of ThinkSearch and a contributor to Econsultancy.

4 more posts from this author

Comments (11)

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Phil Reed

Thanks, Tim. Great overview.

over 4 years ago



Nice work Miranda, been looking for a concise list to share at work!

over 4 years ago



Nice overview, @millie_man! It'll be handy to have an overview to share when I get asked about this at work. Thanks.!

over 4 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

There are so many great tools out there, each of which do something a little different for your business, that it's not a question of will you find a tool to help, it's which tools will help! I'm still looking for the all-in-one everything I need and more tool but these are getting pretty close!

over 4 years ago

Tim Aldiss

Tim Aldiss, Consultant/Director at ThinkSearch

You're not alone Nick. I;m not sure that there'll ever be one tool to rue them all, but lots of these tools are now very well evolved in their specialisms.

What area is specifically important to you?

We'll be publishing some more deep dive audits into more specialist tools soon.

over 4 years ago


Brit at Sprout Social

Thanks so much for mentioning Sprout Social in the mix, Tim! Much appreciated.

over 4 years ago


Luke Moore

Crimson Hexagon might also be of interest to people reading the lists above. Why?

Well, most of the other tools in this category are what’s known as “machine classifiers.” And while machine classifiers are relatively easy to build, they can be far from accurate.

At Crimson Hexagon our Forsight platform uses patented statistical theory to analyze unstructured text. Our Quantitative methods refine our analysis by incorporating a “teachable” algorithm that finds real meaning behind Big Data.

Our analysis creates an unbiased and highly reliable result. In fact, we perform with just a +/- 3% margin of error, a result we validate and bring into every analysis we do.

So instead of just learning what people are saying, our customers learn what their customers are thinking. Which means they can solve problems and leverage opportunities faster and better than their competition.

over 4 years ago


Miranda Man, Strategist at BLOOM Social Business

Hi Ilya, thanks for your comment. We based this blog post on our report on social technology in the context of Social Business Intelligence and Enterprise 2.0 - so tools that can help a business to manage their social media presence and to facilitate internal processes such as employee collaboration. There are so many different types of social tool available now so this post was not intended to be a definitive list!

We are researching and renewing new tools all the time and are certainly going to look into social commerce platforms. Watch this space!

over 4 years ago

Luke Moore

Luke Moore, European Sales Director at Crimson Hexagon

Thanks Miranda for your reply and great blog post. I think we fit in social media analytics for insight and listening etc but not focused on engagement. Love to tell you more another time! Luke

over 4 years ago


Gustavo Chavez

Hi Tim - Thanks for mentioning us on your post! I really like how you separated and simplified the the types of tools and explained what they are. Very informative and educational for anyone trying to stay on top of things when having so many options out there!

over 4 years ago


Julie Meredith

Thanks for mentioning Synthesio, Tim! This is a great overview - very helpful resource for marketers. Thanks again!

over 4 years ago

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