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Expion wins our test of eight enterprise-grade social media monitoring tools

As businesses make more use of social networks, the number of engagement, analysis and monitoring tools has exploded. Enterprises are trying to understand their return on social media investments, to find out if their Twitter and Facebook marketing campaigns are actually delivering customers. They want to track social mentions across multiple networks and be responsive to both kudos and complaints.

We found nearly 100 products that fall into this emerging product category, which goes by a wide variety of names including social media monitoring, social CRM, social intelligence, enterprise listening platforms and media engagement. There are many tools that can perform a few tasks for free or nearly so, such as Bufferapp.com, Seesmic's Ping, Tweetreach.com and Tweetstats.com. But if you are looking for a more enterprise-grade tool, then you want something a bit more involved and capable. (We have published a list of all 90-plus vendors here.)

We tested eight for this review: Expion, Gremln, SimplyMeasured, SproutSocial, Sysomos Heartbeat, Ubervu, Viralheat, and Visible Technologies' Intelligence. These eight have a large base of business customers, even though you might not have heard of them. We also invited Google's Wildfire, Adobe's Marketing Cloud and Salesforce.com's Radian6, but the vendors declined to participate, either because they didn't have any way to allow a press review of their service or because they didn't have the resources to support our review process. (Watch a slideshow version of this story.)

[RELATED: Social media monitoring required to attend college]

The tools we looked at supposedly can answer questions such as:

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