As of January 2020, Microsoft Social Engagement has been officially discontinued. Users with an active subscription were warned this was coming for the better part of a year. But still many are left wondering how they should analyze social engagement channels in the future.
Microsoft plans to replace Microsoft Social Engagement entirely with the new Dynamics 365 Market Insights, which is currently in preview. Here’s an overview of the new software:
I’ve seen a lot of people discussing the big change on the Microsoft forums. Market Insights hasn’t been fully launched yet, but many are worried about how they’ll manage their social listening needs without Microsoft Social Engagement.
Here’s my two cents on the topic:
Letting Go of Microsoft Social Engagement
Microsoft Social Engagement allowed businesses to monitor social networks, blogs, news websites, and more from one platform. It also used language and sentiment analysis to help marketers make sense of their data and take action.
Valuable features included activity maps, which allow you to visualize a map of terms based on various keywords and campaigns of interests. This gives you a clear picture of consumer sentiment surrounding your products or other topics of interest. The Social Selling Assistant is another tool that helped marketers connect with their audience and personalize engagement with them. These key features were all in addition to the social listening capabilities Microsoft Social Engagement offered.
Despite the benefits, I think Microsoft made the right choice in discontinuing Social Engagement instead of trying to fix it. The Dynamic 365 community overall agrees it is not a particularly intuitive tool to use. Effectively monitoring keywords and competitor performance using Microsoft Social Engagement is a challenge. Nearly every G2 review of Microsoft Social Engagement mentions glitches and difficulty utilizing key features. And the insights it provided weren’t necessarily helpful or actionable, even with D365 integration.
Lots of people used Microsoft Social Engagement because it came free with their Dynamics 365 plan. It could also be purchased on its own, though most who don’t invest in Microsoft tools for CRM prefer alternative options for social listening. The real benefit of Dynamics 365 and its array of related technologies is integrating insights and action. Customers would prefer a tool that provides helpful insights for social and web activities, which is what Market Insights is designed to do.
Looking Forward to Market Insights
Microsoft Insights is a more generalized tool than Social Engagement, and that’s a good thing. It includes social listening capabilities in addition to web insights. In other words, it carries many of the same features of Microsoft Social Engagement, along with additional capabilities.
Market Insights can help you monitor brand reputation, social insights, social care, and social selling. In addition, its search insights capabilities include web age and gender demographics, search trends, search intent analysis, search topic analysis and search theme analysis.
No matter if you’re monitoring competitors, industry trends, or consumer sentiment, web data is equally valuable to social data. Market Insights integrates everything in one place so you can get clear answers to your marketing questions. Market Insights offers a scrollable feed of events, trends and indicators from social and web sources, so you can get a comprehensive view of the topics that matter most to your business.
You can track whatever you want, including customers, competitors, products, and other topics.
Most importantly, the tool uses AI and machine learning to help you make sense of your data. This is something Microsoft Social Engagement really lacked. Feeds include articles and insights curated for your interests and goals. And like with Microsoft Social Engagement, Market Insights helps you easily take action based on insights with Dynamics 365.
Here’s a demo of the software’s main features:
Market Insights is still in preview, so I have zero live implementations of the tool yet. However, businesses in various industries are welcoming it as the latest AI-driven solution from Microsoft (alongside AI for Sales Insights and Customer Service Insights). According to Redspire, Microsoft’s continued investment in AI insights has helped their clients in the banking and finance industry revolutionize product and service delivery, improve productivity, and solve operational problems.
Market Insights is set up to build on this momentum by helping brands understand their position compared to competitors. Not only can they track what consumers are saying, they can also understand and measure real sentiment. It’s also a valuable tool for managing relationships when third party stakeholders are involved. Market Insights takes the focus away from social engagement management and instead offers businesses holistic insights to manage key relationships across the web.
I’m not saying that Microsoft Insights is a complete replacement for what Social Engagement had to offer. Customers who used the tool and got used to it will likely miss out on many things in Market Insights. The Social Selling Assistant is one example of a Microsoft Social Engagement feature that Market Insights doesn’t have. So, while there are some issues by discontinuing Microsoft Social Engagement, I think the improvements greatly outweigh the losses. Rather than continuing to update a problematic tool, Microsoft created something novel and intend it to be more comprehensive. By fully integrating social and web listening with AI-powered insights, they’re also will be giving users more automation and optimization capabilities. Learning new technologies is always a challenge. But I look forward to this change, and think other marketers should too. You can tour the new product here.