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Is Salesforce really the best in the social media monitoring market?

Salesforce has a reputation for being the best in CRM. But can others rival it in the social media monitoring market?

At the very high end of social media monitoring tools, there are two suites so extensive and powerful that "suite"...

doesn't fully capture them: They are full-blown platforms, worlds unto themselves that offer staggering features and utility -- and price tags to match.

Salesforce.com has long been a formidable presence in online technology, so it's no surprise that it's out front in the emerging universe of cloud-based applications -- and that it exploits its extreme versatility in the domain of social media monitoring. It has a formidable customer base, and can accommodate businesses of all sizes with equal ease.

The Salesforce Marketing Cloud offers high-level one-stop shopping, with ad campaign capability, polling, apps on popular social media platforms and extensive social listening features: mention volumes, location tracking and lead generation. Its sources are endless, including not only Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and video/image sites, but blogs, discussion forums and online news portals.

Its analytics offerings are likewise formidable, including campaign statistics, multichannel analysis and social ROI numbers. Its application programming interface capabilities are well-developed, and it easily ties in to customer relationship management and automated marketing, and offers Web analytics and email marketing.

What more could you want? A cheaper price tag, to begin with. Salesforce charges $5,000 a month for all these goodies. Can anyone offer as much for less?

Expion takes a good run at it. While it can't match Salesforce's deep integration with other systems, it offers features Salesforce doesn't -- mobile deployment on both Android and iOS, for one. And its social analytics are better developed, including competitor analysis (which is increasingly important in the social media monitoring domain) and industry benchmarking.

Though lacking the social listening functions of Salesforce, Expion offers social profiling, which Salesforce doesn't; and its content management features are far more extensive, including a content library feature, content sharing and content templates. It offers social ads, which Salesforce doesn't.

And Expion does all this at half the price per month.

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