February 21, 2017

Eight reasons to monitor social media and a list of tools for doing it

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I think that monitoring social media is one of four key aspects of a social media engagement strategy.

Social media monitoring is a way to figure out what’s being said about your brand and reveals opportunities for engaging in conversations with customers and influencers. At its most basic, social media monitoring starts with what is known as the “vanity search.” Through one of the popular search engines, you set up a recurring search on key terms that will alert you to relevant online discussions of your brand, your competitors, and influencers.

But things can quickly get complicated from there. For example, what if your brand or offering uses a generic term like “Service Oriented Architecture”? How do you separate the specific discussions about your offering from the general conversation?

Furthermore, a vanity search cannot distinguish whether what’s being said about your brand is coming from a blogger with 2000 readers that include your most important customers or from a grad student whose RSS feed goes to his Mom.

The good news is that online conversation is captured forever within the bowels of a server somewhere, just waiting to be analyzed to death. The bad news is that gaining real insight from that data is difficult—though a horde of software developers is working on it.

Social media monitoring software is a fast-growing category of tools designed to slice up online conversations to try to determine things like where conversations about your brand occur most often, or how much you are being talked about versus your competitors.

Since many of the monitoring tools are new, most are available as Software as a Service (SaaS) over the internet, which makes it easy for marketers to try them out. Yet this same newness means that few are integrated with the software that marketers already have, such as CRM.

Here are some of the ways that these tools give marketers more insight into online conversations:

  • Determine tone and sentiment. Some developers are using algorithms and analysis to determine whether conversations are positive or negative and whether the individuals within the conversation are supporters or detractors. But the developers acknowledge that using computers to determine the tone of human conversation is still a work in progress at this point. For example, the tools can’t distinguish between tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and criticism.
  • Assign a response. Some of the tools let you define the types of comments or conversations that deserve a response, flag them, and route them to a designated person for action.
  • See the distribution of conversation. Most of the tools let you segment the different types of social media to determine where conversations are happening—such as blogs vs. Facebook.
  • Trend the conversation. Some of the tools let you analyze the direction and popularity of conversations over time. This is helpful during important periods like new offering launches or in the aftermath of a crisis.
  • Determine share of attention. You can track the amount of conversation about you versus your competitors.
  • Identify influential sources. The tools can determine the popularity of conversations and the sources of those conversations. This helps you decide which blogs you’d like to do outreach with, for example.
  • Locate the conversations. Some of the tools let you see the geographic locations of people involved in the conversation.
  • Track propagation. Track a comment from a blog post all the way through to mainstream media.

Here is a list of companies that do some form of social media monitoring, by category:

Search tools:

Microblogging search:

Discussion Forum Search

Comprehensive (so they say) tools:

Sources: ITSMA research, Ben Barren, Murray Newlands, pier314, socialmediamonitoring.ca, social media monitoring wiki.

What have I left out? Please let me know in the comments.

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