Google Analytics is a powerful free tool that you should be using. If you aren’t, stop reading now and call your web guy and ask him to implement it. If you’re a blogger, implement it yourself for your blog. (It’s super easy if you’re on WordPress like me.) If you’re already using Google Analytics, then you may continue reading :).
One of the musts of social media is to monitor what is being said about your brand. There are many free and subscription tools out there for you to use. Here’s a short description of the most popular ones for your review. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend at least using a few of the free monitoring options like Social Mention and Google Alerts. As your brand engagement or social media activities grow, it’s worth exploring the paid options. You should check out user reviews before committing to any of the subscription options. Most have demos or trial accounts so be sure to check them out.
Please note – I copied a lot of the descriptions below from third party sources instead of writing each one myself. I’ve cited the source under each tool.
Free Social Media Monitoring Tools
To start off with, here are some free tools you could try in order to find out what’s being said about your brand in the social world. These tools are great as far as reach, but because most are search engines, they don’t offer the pretty (and useful!) dashboards you get from the paid tools.
Google Alerts is the free, simple and effective way of finding out what’s being said about your brand online. You can choose to have your alerts delivered as they happen, or on a less frequent basis like daily or weekly. Setting up Google Alerts for your brand name as well as names of your key competitors is definitely step one in your social media monitoring efforts. What’s great about Alerts is that they’re quite comprehensive and super fast if you set them to immediate notification. I’ve done random little tests of posting content about our brand and Google Alerts picks it up nearly immediately. The bad thing about this free tool is that there are no trending tools, filters, dashboards or other fun stuff you get from the paid tools.
Yahoo Alerts is just like Google Alerts except for the Yahoo network. What’s kinda cool about Yahoo Alerts is that you can get them delivered via Messenger and mobile, not just email. Although I’m not sure why you would want to deliver alerts to your mobile…
I love Social Mention. It’s simple, easy to use, and it’s free. It’s a social media search engine that lets you narrow your search by type (blogs, microblogs, events, comments, etc.) or lets you search everything at the same time. The search results will give you direct links to articles as well as a measure of sentiment, most frequent hashtags used and a list of users who are making the most comments about the keyword searched. This tool probably doesn’t pick up everything but it sure does flag a big chunk of content about your brand. For a free tool, it’s pretty good.
Daymix is a free social search engine that organises search results by media type: wiki, news, blogs, video. It didn’t have too many search results so I wasn’t thrilled by it, but it’s free so you might as well check it out every now and then.
Whos talkin is a free search engine for social media. Just enter your brand (or CEO’s name or whatever else you want to monitor) and the tool will return a comprehensive list of search results. If you are after results from a particular source, just click the source on the left side of the page to filter results. The big downside of Whos talking is the limited scope of its search engine.
FriendFeed is a free social aggregator. You have the ability to take all of your social accounts, such asYouTube, Delicious, Twitter, blog, and Flickr, and pull them together into a single (Friend) feed. You can conduct searches on your brand throughout all social networks at once using this search engine.
Aside from learning about the latest video or tweet related to your topic, you can analyze comments that people make under them. FriendFeed users tend to favorite and comment on what you share and tracking it will become more important as this service grows in population. You can also receive alerts straight to your desktop with Alert Thingy.
Board Reader is a “community search engine” which crawls blog posts, forums, images, and microblogs. Other social media monitoring tools use feeds from Board Reader to build their dashboards.
Paid Social Media Monitoring Tools
As we have found at my company, the great free social media monitoring tools only get you so far. Once you decide to invest more time into social media, you should probably invest some dollars into monitoring. The major advantage is the customisable dashboards you get with the paid tools which give you a great visual representation of your social brand on the web.
Trackur seems to be quite a flexible and affordable social media monitoring tool, not unlike Radian 6. Pricing starts at $18 per month for an individual user to $297 for an agency. Either way, not bad! Here’s what one reviewer had to say about Trakur had to say: “What will make or break this tool in my eyes is the effectiveness and thoroughness of searching the web. I definitely sense the need for a tool that can do a good job of the aforementioned. One thing that stands out to me initially is the tool is very user friendly. It is simple and easy to use. You can quickly find the information your are looking for and can utilize a “saving” mechanism to come back to searches you have done in the past. Furthermore, you can subscribe to your searches via email alerts and RSS feeds, which is handy.”
Update: There’s a free version of Trackur as well. I totally missed it when I had a look since it was on the bottom of the pricing page. Worth checking out. I’ve signed up for a trial and will let you know how it goes.
Reputation Defender offers four different services, including MyChild (starting at $14.95 per month), MyReputation ($14.95), MyPrivacy ($9.95) and MyEdge ($99). MyChild scours the Internet for all references to your child or teen by name, screen name or social network profile and reports back to you. MyReputation allows you to review everything that is available to you online, and MyPrivacy allows you to remove your personal information from people search databases, such as Pipl and Peek You.
Brands Eye offers reputation management packages for bloggers ($1 per month), small businesses ($95) and enterprises ($350). The tool tracks every online mention of your brand, giving you a score that accurately reflects the state of your reputation over time. Part of the differentiation is that you can actually tag mentions of your brand and rank them in terms of a number of pre-determined criteria.
Like many of the other services, you are paying for keywords that you can track. The frequency of how many times you receive updates grows depending on how big your package is.
Radian 6 is one of the best known social media monitoring tools. According to their website, Radian 6 scans over 100,000 million websites for buzz about your brand. The tool includes a handy dashboard which can be easily shared. It also includes workflow and segmentation tools. Pricing starts at $500 per month for US customers, which makes it a great mid-range paid monitoring tool to try.
Dow Jones Insights
According to the Dow Jones Insights website, their tool puts all results of social media monitoring into one convenient dashboard. It also allows you to benchmark your brand against your competitors. What’s funny is that it’s quite hard to find reviews on this tool. Also, their site isn’t that great. I’ve had great personal recommendations for Dow Jones Insights, however, so if I end up trying it out myself, I’ll update this post to reflect my impression of the tool.
UPDATE: After meeting with the DJ people I’ve realised that their tool is not really a technology but rather a consulting service. They get data from various sources (for example, Board Reader), some of it is automated and the rest – including sentiment – is essentially categorised by analysts. Human involvement seems to be their differentiator. It also seems to be the reason for their hefty price tag of over $5000 per month, plus extra for benchmarking reports. Because the tool isn’t as automated as the others, the dashboards aren’t as pretty or flexible as on the automated tools. Dow Jones does bring a lot of experience and reputation to the table (remember using Factiva in college?) so I imagine they would be a valuable partner to have… for a price.
Nielsen Buzz Metrics
Nielsen Buzz Metrics offers brand and buzz monitoring through it’s suite of products. According to their website, “Nielsen My BuzzMetrics customizable dashboard provides easy access to key brand health metrics and consumer commentary. Nielsen ThreatTracker analyst alerts keep you abreast—in real-time—of fast-moving reputation threats. Nielsen BuzzMetrics Brand Tracking provides an audit of your brand’s online health today and Nielsen BuzzMetrics Audit gives you a picture of your brand’s online health over a specific time period. Nielsen BuzzMetrics Scorecardshows you how your brand stacks up against your competition.” To be perfectly honest, it’s not clear to me what their competitive advantage is.
Dialogix is a social media monitoring tool that focuses on Australian, NZ and UK websites. As with other tools, Dialogix monitors news media, social media and measures sentiment. What’s cool about this one is that it lets you focus in on key influencers for your brand. Dialogix pricing starts at $149 per month for localised Australian results (which may be enough for some brands) and increases up to $1495 per month for international monitoring. It does give you a free trial so you might as well have a look and see if you like it compared to others.
Cymfony offers the Maestro Platform, which is built on a Natural Language Processing engine that automatically identifies, classifies, qualifies and benchmarks important people, places, companies and topics for you. While other tools may focus on keyword analysis, Cymfony claims to work on a more detailed grammatical analysis of text in order to eliminate irrelevant results. They provide some more added value by writing market intelligence studies.
Sentiment Metrics has a reputation management tool that, just like the other services mentioned, helps you monitor what is being said about you, your brand and your products across blogs, forums and news sites. The reports you’ll receive by using this software focus on sentiment (it’s in the name), which tells you if the mention is positive, negative or neutral.
The reports have nice visual graphs and you can break them down by gender, age groups and location. One of the big differentiators and benefits of using this service is that you get email alerts sent to you whenever you have bad press.
Visible Technologies offers the TruCast suite of products, which is a comprehensive solution used by enterprises who want to track, analyze and participate in social media communities all in one space. The differentiating feature of TruCast is TruVoice, their tool that lets you comment on blogs, forums, etc directly from within the tool. TrueCast also includes a crisis management tool to identify potential issues in social media, monitor how they develop and address them using SEO principles (that is, promote positive information about the brand or topic).
Cision offers the Cision Social Media service, which claims to monitor over 100 million blogs, tens of thousands of online forums, and over 450 leading rich media sites. One of the main benefits, just like Nielsen Buzzmetrics, is that these companies have been monitoring and measuring traditional media sites for decades, so they can provide a more comprehensive solution across the board.
Cision’s product is unique in that it offers 24/7 buzz reporting. Their service is powered by Radian6, which is mentioned above. They also have a Dashboard and daily reports, just like the other services, where they tell you what’s going on with your brand twice a day through email.
Biz360 Community is a DIY social media monitoring tool which is priced per user, per topic. For example, 5 topics will cost you $399 for one user license. There are other pricing options available as well for additional topics and multiple user licenses. From user reviews it seems that its Topic Velocity feature seems to be a useful tool. Topic Velocity provides users with information on rate of change of sentiment about a particular topic. It also lets you view this change over time so you can look for and perhaps predict trends more easily. Check out the list of features for more information.
BuzzLogic is another tool I found good reviews for and therefore included in this post. However, it turns out that the social media monitoring tool is no longer available as a standalone product. Instead, monitoring comes as part of BuzzLogic’s advertising platform. The only way to get this tool, then, is with a media buy through BuzzLogic. The write-up from Mashable is below for your interest.
Buzzlogic offers the BuzzLogic Insights application, where you can discover, engage and assess influencers in your industry. You get a collaborative dashboard, which provides you with insight into whose blogging about you and allows you to share this data within your company. There are also watch lists for tracking specific bloggers, blogger profile lists, and social maps (see who links to who).
They divide their services into two major buckets: marketers and PR people. Marketers gain product feedback, understand brand perception and receive monthly readership statistics. PR people are able to build relationships with influential bloggers, discover new influencers and track products that matter to them.
Are there other tools that you know of that aren’t in this post but are worthwhile checking out? Please comment to let me know and I’ll update the content to include them. Thanks!
I love Google. I only worked there for a year but I’m a Google girl now and forever. During this past week I fell in love with Chrome and I’m already taking it for granted. But that’s the beauty of Google’s tools – they’re so intuitive, easy and useful that we take them for granted. So here’s my “thank you Google” blog for the tools I can’t live without and you should use too.
Gmail – the perfect email
There is such a clear distinction for life before Gmail and after Gmail, that I don’t know how I ever communicated online without it. Checking email was always a chore – sifting through spam and deleting emails with attachments was a daily task. With Gmail’s unlimited storage and superb spam filters, email became a natural and easy part of my day. All my conversations are logically organized, they’re fully (and quickly!) searchable, I NEVER have to delete anything and I don’t even remember when I had spam in my inbox. There’s seriously no reason why you should be using anything other than Gmail.
Google Chrome – the reliable browser
As I’m a Mac user I’ve only had the pleasure of using Google Chrome for a short time, but already I love it. Just check my Twitter. I went from “I want to kill Firefox” to “Oh my god how fast is Chrome?!?!?!?” It’s truly amazing. Pages load super quickly. New tabs open instantly. The screen is optimized to display content, not toolbars. It installs in about a minute and takes about that long to import your bookmarks, settings, etc., from your other browser. There’s no need for a search box because you type everything in to your address bar. When you click on a link, it opens in the tab adjacent to the one you’re in, not as the end of the window. These are all simple things we should expect from a browser, aren’t they? Until now, they were things I hoped for but knew I wouldn’t get from IE, Safari or Firefox. Chrome delivered big time. But the coolest feature is the ability to drag a tab into a new window, and vice versa. You literally drag and drop. So cool.
Oh, and I’ve had the same browser open for nearly a week now. I haven’t had a single problem with load speed, freezing, nothing! I’ve had to force-restart Firefox several times on a daily basis before. Finally, a reliable browser.
Google Docs – your mobile office
Like Gmail or Chrome, Google Docs is just another no-brainer way to do something you’re used to, but better, faster and easier. Docs lets you create documents within your browser or, if you prefer, import existing documents from your computer or email. You can easily collaborate on documents or open them up as read only to anyone with an email address. If the styles on Docs aren’t enough for you, you can always open the doc on your computer and update the Docs file when you’re done. It’s all so easy it’s ridiculous. What’s best is that it’s all linked to your Google account and online so you can access your document library without even owning a computer.
Google Analytics – data even the marketing department can read
I’ve been using Analytics for years and I obviously think it’s great, but it’s not until I see another analytics tool that I appreciate the Google Analytics interface. All your data is at your fingertips. It’s easy to manipulate, it displays beautifully and exports easily. It’s so easy to read that you can show a screen to someone who’s not web savvy at all, and they’ll know exactly what they’re looking at. It makes data understandable no matter what your role you’re in. Last month Google launched a huge update to Analytics which now includes a broad spectrum of actions you can measure as well as very useful customized alerts (like, when your bounce rate goes above a certain level). There are entire blogs on Analytics alone (check out the best Analytics blog of all) so there’s no point for me to expand more. To make a long story short, Analytics empowers you really understand what’s happening on your site without spending thousands on software or staff.
Adwords Editor – SEM made easy
If you run a business, chances are you’re running an SEM campaign on Google. The Adwords web interface is super easy to use, but when it comes to bulk edits, I still prefer Adwords Editor. It’s a piece of software that you install on your computer which lets you update your CPC campaigns quickly and easily. It uses all the same keyboard shortcuts that you’re used to in other programs, which makes bulk editing a breeze. Since it’s on your computer, you can use it offline and upload your changes later.
I can’t wait to see what Google thinks of next. I think Wave has tremendous potential for changing how we communicate, but it hasn’t reached full Google-ness yet. That is, it’s not as slick and intuitive as Gmail, for example. Google’s phone should be quite phenomenal as well. Thanks for keeping our digital lives interesting Google!
I was having a mild case of separation anxiety on my flight over from Sydney to Hong Kong because I knew that Twitter was not allowed in China. My short stopover in Hong Kong on my way to Beijing was to be the last time I got to tweet for a week. *gasp*
Then when I did check Twitter in Hong Kong, a good Samaritan came to the rescue. @RichardMabey recommended I try CoTweet, which is essentially the same thing as Tweetfunnel (I feel a comparative blog coming on!). Duh! Both must be set up before you leave for China, both post to Twitter and both can be used in China. Awesome! (Apologies if one of the 100,000 Chinese government web monitor people pick up this blog and start blocking CoTweet and Tweetfunnel. That would suck.)
Here’s the low-down on using Twitter in China:
Using a proxy – Tried that, didn’t work well. It was fine for about 5 minutes and then totally messed up my browser. Not sure if it’s just the one I tried (hot spot shield) but I didn’t like it.
Express VPN – @mmmichaelfox is also currently in China and told me about Express VPN. It’s $12.95 per month to use, but at least he’s happy with it (unlike me with my failed proxy attempt…). There’s a 30-day money back guarantee, so I guess you can’t go wrong!
Tweet Deck – Kinda works, but very slowly. It takes a good 5 minutes to post a tweet. Oh, and it just died as I’m typing this so I guess it’s not reliable. I hope it comes back to life because that how I’ve been reading tweets until now…
Tweetfunnel - Great to post to Twitter especially since it auto-shortens URLs, which is helpful because you can’t get to bit.ly without a proxy. The downside is that I seem to only be able to view the last 30 tweets from others.
Set up before you go – Whether you use Tweetfunnel or Cotweet or some other similar tool, set up before you go. All those tools redirect you to Twitter to authenticate so you won’t be able to do that in China.
Now Google is a whole different story. You can view all Google services if you’re on a proxy, but if a proxy’s not an option for you, you’ll be as confused with Google sites as I am right now. Here’s the Google story in China:
Gmail – Seems to be working just fine, all the time. No complaints here. Chat works well too.
Analytics/AdWords/Webmaster Tools – Also work, but slower than I’m used to.
Reader - Totally random! I can’t figure it out. A couple times I’ve logged on and Reader refreshed. Other times, I get an error inside Reader. Other times still I get a “connection lost” error. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. Either way, I’m probably 800 blog posts behind in reading.
News - Now this is funny! Google News technically isn’t blocked because I was able to view it, search it and refresh it a few times. Then yesterday the headline story was on Obama’s visit to China. The page loaded and just as it finished, I got a “connection reset” error in my browser. This happened until another story replaced the Obama visit one. Coincidence? I think not!
All it all, it’s not as bad as I thought. I can still do 90% of the things I would normally do online.
As I’m watching the first two seasons of “Mad Men” I can’t help but draw comparisons from that era (the ’60s) to our world today. The most striking difference is the characters’ attitude towards smoking and alcohol. Nearly every character in every scene smokes regardless of their gender, age or job. They drink hard liquor at morning meetings. Hell, there’s even a scene of a pregnant lady with a cigarette in one hand and martini in the other! It’s amazing how far we’ve come in the past 40 years.
One topic that hasn’t come up in the show yet is availability of data and protection of privacy. Seeing as I’m currently immersed in the 1960’s with “Mad Men”, my brain immediately thought of that era when I recently experimented with Google Latitude and other modern “communication” tools.
Example 1 – Catching a cheating husband
Imagine you’re in the 60’s and when doing your husband’s laundry you find some lipstick on his collar. Being a classy lady, you don’t just go up to him, throw the shirt in his face and kick him out of the house. No, you keep the shirt as evidence and on your next trip to the grocery store you pop by the local detective’s office. There, you speculate a lot about what your husband may be doing, you guess his exact whereabouts so that the detective could trail him and you wait for weeks to get any incriminating photos.
And today? With the help of Google and GPS, you have yourself a modern detective’s tool kit. And best of all, it’s all free!
If you’ve found your husband’s shirt smudged with lipstick in 2009, you’d either a) have a mini heart attack because you think he might be gay, b) think to yourself “what tacky woman would wear that colour?”, c) you’d throw the shirt in his face and kick him out of the house just as your 60’s counterpart would have or d) do some detective work before proceeding with a, b and c, in that order.
But where to start? Cell phones seem to be the first port of call and if browsing through his messages didn’t yield enough results, you can use the phone as a tracking device. Introducing Google Latitude. If you (or in this case your husband) have a GPS enabled phone, then Google Latitude can track his whereabouts and display the results to you in your web browser. All you need to do is ever the mobile number and then reply to a text message from that phone. After that, you log in to your Google account and voila! You can see where he is (or at least his phone) at all times. Twitter applications like TweetDeck make this even easier for mobile Twitter users. TweetDeck displays your location directly on your profile for all to see. No detective work needed!
Example 2 – Your online personality and the work place
Nothing you do online is ever 100% protected. Not from identify thieves, not from your friends and definitely not from your boss. In some cases you know this and in others you’d never realise it. Take both Twitter and Facebook. Both social networks default their privacy settings to “public”, thus making anything you write on either available to search engines. With Facebook, even if you set your profile to “private”, your latest wall post still comes up in Google results (Please note that if any of these policies changed and I got it wrong, I apologise. I’m writing from personal experience only, which may be outdated. Here’s an article on Facebook privacy that might help.)
Let’s say you slip and change your Facebook status to “Working at Telstra sucks ass,” your boss may see it and probably won’t react too well. Depending on what you say and in what context, your post could be grounds for disciplinary action or even dismissal. Or it’s the middle of the day and after a bad meeting you put your emotions on Twitter and say “People I work with are idiots.” Unless you set your privacy and notification settings correctly, you may not even know if any of the people in the room saw your post. Heck, they may even have an alert on their phone that tells them your comment immediately! Imagine that working environment going forward. Better yet, what if you’re a disgruntled ex-employee and you insult your former company in any way on a social network. It’s the same as if you stood up in the middle of the city and shouted your statement as loud as you could. That’s slander.
Example 3 – Identity theft
My blog is just one example of my personality online. If you Google me, you’ll find a whole lot more. Some of it I can control (like this blog, my Twitter timeline, or my LinkedIn profile) but others I can’t (articles by me published by third parties, articles mentioning me or even friends social networking profiles that mention me). It may take some time, but it’s not impossible to find out enough about me to do some harm. And if you think you’re safe, think again. Just Google yourself. …. And no, I won’t go into any more details here just in case :).
The point – Know where you stand
Nothing online is 100% private. You have to be aware of your public persona online and take responsibility for any consequences. Be mindful that everything you put online can come back and bite you later, so be smart. You don’t need to hire a private detective nowadays to find out someone’s whereabouts or collect other information on them. A lot of it is public whether we like it or not. We might as well learn to live with it and take responsibility for everything we do online.