Social media can be a business tool. With a plethora of monitoring products available, both in licensable software and freeware, finding a product to help explore this technological marketing niche could be a few clicks away.
It's long been recognized by marketers that "word of mouth" is one of the most reliable forms of advertising. People trust what their friends tell them more than they trust advertising. With social media in such widespread use today, that "word" has expanded from in-person and telephone chats to tweets, Facebook postings, blogs, and other electronic communications. While it was never possible (or polite) to eavesdrop on face-to-face discussions and phone calls among an enterprise's customers, the Internet has blessed (or cursed) all of us with the phenomenon of these casual conversations being permanently recorded for anyone curious enough to find and read them.
It's only logical that people will discuss with their friends and other followers, among other topics, those products and companies that have either impressively exceeded their needs or ticked them off enough to publish complaints. Social media monitoring tools let enterprises tap into those conversations, call attention to the compliments, refute bad raps, mollify those who are discontent with a product or service, and present a more personalized enterprise face to the world.
Last month's installment of this two-part article covered 51 of the licensable software products, all accessible by browser, and offered some tips for getting started in the world of social media for business. Part II covers the remaining 18 licensable products and 31 freeware products, as well as providing some insights into what the future may hold for social media monitoring products and enterprises using them.
Connecting with Brand Boosters
One of the more positive aspects of monitoring social media for mentions of a brand or company is that it can help an enterprise connect with some of its biggest fans. Called influencers, these boosters of brands and companies represent a marketing asset that was inaccessible just a few short years ago. Particularly in the case of blogs, these influencers may have hundreds, or even thousands, of followers. Connecting with and encouraging them can have incalculable value to a brand or company. But what do you do to curry even more favor with influencers once you've found them? We put that question to several vendors active in the social media monitoring tool market.
"The holy grail of social media is word-of-mouth marketing. If your content isn't shared socially, it's just long-format advertising, so finding influencers with large, relevant networks that are likely to share is crucial to any community management initiative," reveals Leslie Nuccio, content marketing strategist, social media, for Meltwater. "In order to introduce yourself to them in a meaningful, productive way, just remember to be human. People like other people who are helpful, entertaining, or otherwise useful. Figure out how your product might help your influencers to further their own goals, and they'll become great allies. An example might be free product for bloggers to give away as a contest on their own blog, which excites their community and acts as product placement for you."
"Be present and responsive. If you're not actively listening and present in the conversations and content being shared around your brand, your industry, or any other topic that matters to your business, you'll miss big opportunities to understand your audience," recommends Eve Sangenito, vice-president of marketing for Brandwatch.
"Be relevant," she continues. "The social Web is overflowing with content. To stand out, and more importantly to be credible, make sure the content you're sharing is interesting, relevant to your audience, and adds tangible value."
"Be authentic," she concludes. "The dynamics of social media have changed what consumers and people in general expect of brands. They want real answers, real information, and authentic, human interaction. Exemplify your brand voice in how you interact online the same way you would if you were speaking in person to a customer, prospect, subject matter expert, or otherwise."
"Maintain the conversation and continue engagement with influencers by referencing any past interactions, replying to their tweets or posts, and retweeting any interesting or relevant information they share," suggests Andrew Caravella, vice-president of marketing at Sprout Social. "Additionally, foster your relationship by socially sharing pertinent info from both your brand [and] the industry as a whole."
"There's no magic there. It's just about people," maintains Ricky Yean, CEO of Crowdbooster. "I think being totally aware that these influencers are also real people [is key]. Many have a real-life interest or hobby that they really care about in addition to whatever area it is they are influential in. You can find out a lot about these influencers as individuals and you can build a real relationship with them using the information you find as starting points."
On the Horizon for Social Media Monitoring Tools
Reading through the brief descriptions of the products provided in this article series, it should be obvious that while certain basic functions are common, there are many products that offer added features. But in a market segment as young as social media monitoring tools, product upgrades can be expected, to say the least. We asked the vendors what those might be for their own products.
"Our users are interested in getting more data about what works and doesn't work on social media, without losing the ease and usability of our platform," comments Crowdbooster's Yean. "They are also interested in having us take the same approach we've been taking in terms of making analytics streamlined and intuitive and applying them to content publishing."
"We always listen to our customer feedback and try to enhance the product accordingly. We plan on launching a host of improved workflow and collaboration tools in the coming months," Sprout Social's Caravella offers.
"From a market perspective in general, users want it to be as easy as possible to access and share relevant data and insights that cut out irrelevant noise. So ease of use and access—without sacrificing depth of detail and powerful analysis that they can further drill into as needed—is always important," Sangenito responds. "As the market and as brands continue to mature in their application of social media to business, more simplified ways to integrate social, unstructured data into mainstream business operations and in tandem with other business data is also key. That way they can have a comprehensive complete view of various aspects of their business (reputation, customer satisfaction, sales opportunities, etc.) without having all of those data types siloed to only particular individuals or teams within an organization."
Social Media Monitoring Tools: The Products, Part II
Some term definitions may help you make better sense of some of the product descriptions. Checkin is a Facebook term that refers to a single visit to an account location. Followers are people who pay attention to social-media posts of particular writers who are active in the social-media sphere. A pin is a virtual bookmark made by a social-media writer to alert their followers to a link or other online reference the writer thinks will be of interest. Psychographics is the study of the varying motivational factors that lead people of differing mindsets to take similar actions (e.g., buying a product). Sentiment refers to whether or not the majority of comments made on social media about your company or brand could be judged as positive or negative. Volume is the sheer number of times (also called buzz) your brand or company is referred to on social media in a given time period. Workflow refers to tools in software that facilitate sharing of information, particularly the passing along of information to different people in a particular order.
Descriptions accompanying the product links below simply summarize a few important features of each product. Be sure to use the links to explore vendor Web sites for more complete product information.
Social Media Monitoring Tools for Business
Source Metrics is a social-media marketing and analytics platform for e-commerce, in-store conversations, and lead generation. It integrates with major e-commerce apps (including WebSphere), provides tracking statistics on customers generated via social media, and automates campaigns across multiple social networks.
Heartbeat monitors social media conversations, tracks metrics such as frequency of mention, and presents the resulting statistics in dashboard formats. It also tracks geography and demographics of postings, helps users manage and moderate Facebook pages, links Twitter accounts to Facebook fan pages, and automatically filters out spam.
Synthesio's Monitoring Dashboard gathers data from worldwide social media sources in multiple national languages and then filters, translates, and summarizes it to help enterprises determine brand awareness and opinions.
SynthesioRank is an algorithm that ranks the influence of various originators of social media content. It identifies influencers mentioning particular brands on Web site, user, and individual-mention levels, including top influential consumers on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks. It samples, filters, and prioritizes brand mentions to provide industry-specific influence scores.
The Unity Engagement Platform helps enterprise users manage their consumer relationships on social media via a single console. Features include team collaboration, performance indicators, and customizable data routing.
Topsy scans social networks and blog sites for product or brand mentions. It displays results instantly, helps users identify key brand influencers, provides alerts for negative tweets, and offers customized reports.
Trackur watches blogs, news sources, Facebook, Google+, and other networks for posts about a brand or company. It helps companies manage their online reputations, measures and gauges online communities, and monitors online conversations about brands.
Talkwalker is a social-media monitoring product that tracks product and company mentions, offers quick setup via a graphical UI, and provides an analysis and reporting tool.
TweetBeep Premium is a pay-to-play version of the freeware product that offers up to 200 alerts, a 15-minute alert option for findings, and filters out advertisements.
Tweetreach Pro analyzes individual or enterprise impact on the Twitter network. The product helps users gauge content performance, contributor engagement, and generate activity reports.
Twitalyzer is a suite of analytics tools for Twitter. It collects more than 50 metrics from tweets, provides a view of any Twitter user's social network behavior, helps pinpoint influencers and quantifies their impact, and presents findings in dashboard-style reports.
Twitter Counter Premium, Pro, and Pro Branded are fee-based, augmented versions of Twitter Counter freeware. Paid version features include historical data, hourly updates of findings, the ability to export statistics to MS Excel, PDF reports, and enhanced customizations for reports.
UMT Delta is an automated media-monitoring app that analyzes the effects of opinion leaders, influencers, external communications, arising issues on posts, and campaigns. It also helps users manage brand and company reputation and generates numerous reports.
UberVU observes brand or company mentions on all major social networks, provides a dashboard-style interface for viewing information and responding on the networks, offers numerous widgets, and generates charts and reports.
ViralHeat monitors social conversations across the Web for keywords, identifies online advocates, analyzes social-media data, manages multiple accounts on multiple networks, automates publishing and scheduling of social-media content, and provides reports on activity. It includes APIs for integrating with existing apps.
Visible Intelligence lets users monitor, analyze, and engage in social-media conversations from a single interface. The product also offers sentiment analysis, alerts, topic discovery, and an API for interfacing to in-house applications.
V-IQ is a social-network performance-rating dashboard that can also combine information from customer relationship management apps, traditional media, Web analytics, and other performance data to provide an updatable snapshot view of an enterprise's social-media profile.
Vocus Marketing Cloud integrates search, social, email, and public-relations functions into an app with a single interface. It scans millions of conversations looking for sales opportunities, filters and suggests content that can lead to sales, and mediates Facebook services and apps to create content without programmer help.
The Vocus PR Suite offers apps that help enterprises connect with journalists and bloggers, send press releases, monitor news sources, reach influences, and measure and share results.
Social Media Monitoring Freeware Products
Buffer manages multiple accounts across major social media networks, offers free analytics on user posts to any network, and provides account access to multiple members of a designated team. For a fee, the company offers nearly 50 additional applications to augment a user's basic account.
BuzzEquity Social Search provides on-demand social snapshot monitoring of comments on a limited number of social networks and sends the results via dashboards, RSS feed, or email alerts.
NutshellMail tracks brand activity and mentions on Facebook and Twitter and delivers summary reports via email.
Cyfe presents users with a unified dashboard that lets them follow their enterprise's activities in marketing, social media, sales, customer support, infrastructure, and more. It includes pre-built widgets for information extraction, can draw data from in-house databases, monitors multiple departments and Web sites, can export results to spreadsheets or big-screen TV monitors, allows data sharing in real-time, and supports numerous customizations.
EdgeRank Checker scans Facebook and scores a company or brand's likelihood of showing up in the Facebook News Feed.
Facebook Insights is an API that helps Facebook page owners measure their page's performance, access anonymous demographic data about their audience, and view metrics via a dashboard interface.
Followerwonk produces statistics for Twitter accounts, including numbers of followers, their locations, their bios, and who they follow. Users can contrast relationships with competitors and friends and match activities to maximize follower gains.
Google Alerts automatically scans the Web for query terms (such as a product or company name) and sends email alerts summarizing findings. It also includes some limited management tools.
Google Blogsearch is a search engine that focuses exclusively on blog posts and displays results in a standard Google format.
Google Reader checks user-specified Web sites and blogs for new content and lets users share the findings with others.
Wildfire ranks activities of any enterprise and their major competitors on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. It also sends alerts, ranks Twitter users by followers and numbers of tweets, and ranks Facebook users by likes and checkins.
HowSociable measures the magnitude of any brand within the 36 most popular media networks and selected Web sites (e.g., eBay), assigns a numeric value to that magnitude, and updates that rating on a weekly basis.
Klout analyzes Facebook and Twitter to determine and score top influencers for particular companies and brands.
Icerocket scans blogs, Facebook, and Twitter and delivers results on a single summary page similar to most search engines.
Addictomatic scans the Web for blogs, news, and videos pertaining to user search terms and reports back in a customizable dashboard.
Pinpuff calculates brand influence and popularity solely on the Pinterest network.
Pinterest Web Analytics shows how fans are reacting to user sites on the Pinterest network. Features include a how-to guide, analytics, and a widget builder.
Pluggio is a management tool for Facebook and Twitter accounts. It helps users manage and separate posts from multiple accounts, access favorite blogs and news sources, and develop a larger following.
Quintly scans Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and compares a user's brand or company ratings against those of their competitors. Quintly evaluates more than 75 metrics and displays results in a dashboard interface.
ShoorK optimizes enterprise Facebook communications. It includes statistical analysis, concurrent monitoring of enterprise and competition Facebook activity, community management tools, and engagement measurement. Fee-paid versions of each major capability are available, which add more features.
Social Buzz views the Facebook, Google+, and Twitter networks to provide real-time searches on one or more keywords, provides search-results analytics, and offers location filtering.
Social Mention is a search tool for blogs, forums, and wikis that lets users track posts about any keyword or brand.
SocialOomph manages enterprise access to the Twitterverse. Features include keyword tracking, tweet scheduling, extended Twitter profiles, account-management tools, and secure, no-password access to Twitter.
SocialPointer offers a social-media monitoring platform for marketing agencies and other users who want to track, monitor, and respond in real time to social mentions and user conversations.
TweetBeep patrols the Twitterverse for mentions of products, brands, companies, or other terms.
Twitter Counter is a freeware app that shows basic statistics for any Twitter account.
Backtweets is a Twitter service that lets users scan for brand names, company names, or other terms in the Twitterverse and gain basic information about those postings.
Designed for power users, TweetDeck provides the scanning service of backtweets but adds abilities such as arranging feeds into customizable columns, filters, and scheduled tweets, as well as monitoring an unlimited number of Twitter accounts.