What do you like best?
Brandwatch is a very powerful social listening tool, and getting better all of the time. The breadth of the data it captures is impressive, and you are only limited in the tool by your own knowledge of how to use the system. Therefore, if you know how to create smart, tightly structured queries, how to create smart rules to help save manual search and filing, already have a set of keywords to plug in to your query, and know how to use the more advanced chart visualizations beyond the stock ones they provide, you should be in great shape.
The range of historical data, as well as the ability to access it in detail is a definite plus that puts them above competitors if you're looking for long-term historical trends.
What do you dislike?
As my likes may have hinted, if you've never used a social listening tool, there's a steep learning curve. Don't get me wrong, their customer service/account management is fantastic-- they take you through an initial training and are happy to answer any questions you have, but it's hard to articulate what you don't know, just starting out, so there's things I'm only learning how to do after a year of using the tool. I like to think of it as a very power shell/big data source. If you know exactly what data you're looking for and already have the necessary keywords to build a query, you can do great things. If not, it will be an uphill struggle at times.
Many of its competitors have "quick search" type functions that are great for new business pitches or other situations where you're starting from square 1, while Brandwatch does not.
Visualizations are serviceable, they are quite basic don't allow flexibility, so many times I end up exporting the data and creating my own in other tools.
Author/Influencer identification is an area that needs a lot of work. Its system is easily fooled by Twitter spam. When I used the same query and compared against its competitors, most of its competitors found the right authors/influencers for a topic, with much less spam accounts in the mix. It seems Brandwatch relies too heavily on Klout scores and other systems easy to cheat by bots.
I also spend a fair amount of time re-categorizing mis-filed sentiment markings.
Mention limits can be frustrating, especially since they are one of the only competitors that have a mention limit and use that as the basis for charging.
Recommendations to others considering the product
Brandwatch is a great tool for social listening, especially if you already have experience with query building (using Boolean logic, are familiar with Operators, etc.), but sometimes things feel like they're harder than they need to be. Considering it's one of the most expensive products in its category, I would expect more features and functionality right out of the box, and to be far less DIY. And the product keeps adding new features all the time, so I think they're on the right track and only getting better, but still have some gaps.
If you're using it to monitor your brand's social presence only, or if you're in an agency and using it to monitor existing clients and provide reports to them, then this is a great tool and you're hard-pressed to find something better. But if you're wanting it more for new business and discovery, there are tools that do this much better, including Sysomos and Crimson Hexagon.
What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?
Brandwatch allows our company to do social listening for both existing clients, as well as for research on new business pitches. We've been able to provide clients and our sales team with vital info, such as share of voice, brand sentiment, as well as verbatims from customers and potential customers. It's important for a company and agencies to utilize social listening tools to make informed business decisions!