For a significant amount of money, there’s a raft of social media monitoring/listening tools that are currently available. However, if you are a small brand with a limited budget, what options are available to you? Outlined below are several free online monitoring tools available in the market.
What exactly does social media or brand monitoring entail? Simply put, this involves scouring the internet for any mentions or links regarding your tool, brand or service with the intent of addressing any concerns or questions that your users might have as well as an opportunity to gather valuable insight.
To effectively monitor your brand online, you must pick the most relevant keywords applicable to you. This is easy enough if you have called your company or service something quite unique, however you also need to be aware of any dimunitive forms or other keywords that users tend to use online in association with your brand. For example, the Haloid company were the first people to introduce a desktop copier into the market which took off with great success. If they only monitored the keyword “Haloid” they would have missed the fact that most of their consumers actually referred to them as “Xerox”, after their most popular product. (They later changed the company name from Haloid to Xerox.)
We at Clever Biscuit launched a free recruitment sourcing tool a few months ago called Recruitin. To monitor the online chatter following our launch, I monitored 4 keywords, “recruitin”, “#recruitin” and “recruitin.net”, as well as our company name “CleverBiscuit”. It’s important to note that for a word like “recruitin” there will be a significant amount of noise as it is often used instead of “recruiting”. Hence, you need to be aware of the different contexts that your keywords will appear in and recognise which ones apply specifically to you.
If your brand has a social media presence, Twitter.com is generally the first place you will look at to find out what people are saying about you. You can monitor keywords using the search function and scan all tweets that contain the keywords you need. Twitter will allow you to save your searches and even embed the stream on a webpage. As you look through your search results, make sure you have selected “All” tweets to see all the results as the default setting will only show the top tweets.
Hootsuite is probably the easiest way of monitoring several streams of keywords simultaneously. By connecting your Twitter and Google+ account, you can assign a search term for each stream and monitor the feed accordingly. It’s up to you how you organise your keyword streams but the easiest way would be to create one tab for each social network and then create one stream for each keyword. Hootsuite currently allows upto 10 streams per tab.
From your Hootsuit dashboard you can then respond to any status updates that you want by replying to the posters, retweeting them or simply following them. You can also gather insight into which users are influential, judging by how many times their posts are retweeted or shared.
3) LinkedIn Signal
Using LinkedIn Signal, you can search all user updates for mentions of your brand or keywords. From the search bar, all you need to do is select “Updates” from the dropdown menu and you’re on your way. As with other sites, LinkedIn will allow you to saved your serch for future use as well as applying filters to narrow down your results.
In the screenshot below, you will see that the results contain updates that link to Recruitin.net directly as well as a link to any blog posts that mentioned our tool which have been shared on the network.
The results will also show you if anyone within an individuals’s network has liked or shared an update about you. This is especially useful information as you can use this to generate leads and establish connections with individuals who have already bought into you brand.
Within the results you can also see if people have shared a story about you within a particular LinkedIn group that you may not have known about. In most cases, you can easily access the group and the specific discussion around your brand. Depending on the nature of the group you should try to join it and establish a direct connection with your users who can provide more feedback and insight.
Topsy is a free tool that offers social insight. By searching for your brand keyword or domain, Topsy will show you status updates or tweets that mention you or link to your domain from different onlince sources. You can then set up an email alert or RSS feed subscribing to the latest search results.
Bloggers will typically promote articles they have written using Twitter. Topsy scans those tweets and then leads you to the original blog post talking about your brand. By following the post, you can join the conversation in the comments section or simply add it to your press cuttings for future reference.
It is generally difficult to scan Facebook for mentions of your brand in the updates as most people will keep their statuses private or only accessible by their friends. However, there is a significant number of people who cross-post their updates between Facebook and Twitter. Topsy will also lead you to those Facebook pages where possible.
Alternatively, you can also use Topsy to monitor how many people are tweeting about your company’s blogposts or domain and group them accordingly for ease of use. From the screenshot below, you can see that the most recent tweet containing “http://recruitin.net” was from 2 days ago and that to date, the link has been shared on the network 224 times. Topsy will also highlight individuals who are “influential” within the network.
You can also use Topsy to scan Google+ although the tool is still currently in beta mode.
5) Google Alerts
Possibly the simplest alert system there is. You can subscribe to Google Alerts which will send you updates via email from the web, news, blogs, etc. that mention or point to your keywords. You can easily manage the number of sources and frequency of the updates you receive. Alternatively, you can always opt to receive the updates via RSS.
6) Google Analytics
For Recruitin, people generally share the link to the tool within their network as opposed to simply mentioning the name in passing. If people are purposely sharing your website, you can simply go into your Google Analytics account and from the list of referring sources, find out where people are sharing your web address.
By following the links, you might find new blogs or forums that link directly to your site and consequently support your offsite SEO strategy.
7) Open Site Explorer by SEOmoz
If you don’t have access to your domain’s Google Analytics account you can use Open Site Explorer to check what sites are linking to your company domain. You can search up to 3 domains per day for free and by filtering the results for inbound links to you root domain, you will see how many sites are linking to you. You can then simply follow the links to find out what they are being used for and consequently, what they are saying about you.
8. Google Search
Finally, nothing beats a traditional Google search of your brand or company name. It’s a manual and laborious task to search through the dozens of pages that appear in the search results. However, by going through the list of results one by one, you might find a niche forum or site mentioning you which you otherwise would not have known about. This is especially helpful if your product appeals to a spcecific group who are not active on large social networks.
This is just a broad overview of tools available to monitor your brand’s online presence. Generally, each social network or forum will allow you to search within the site for occurrences of your keyword or brand name. It’s up to you to decide how relevant this is to your strategy and whether there is any value in following the conversations within smaller networks.
Remember that social media monitoring is just that, monitoring online conversations. The primary goal is to gather insight about how people perceive your brand or utilise your services. Unless there is an intrinsic value in joining a conversation that you did not facilitate yourself, it is probably best not to jump in aggressively. Respond according to the nature of the conversation. After all, it only takes one knee-jerk response to an unfavourable comment or an unflattering blogpost to unravel your entire social media strategy and plunge you into a media disaster.
By regularly checking in on the onine conversations around your brand, it would make it easier to avoid a media disaster as well as making sure that your brand is truly engaged beyond just maintaining a set of social media profiles.