Each quarter Snoo.ws tackles a new series topic to provide our audience with insight, intelligence, examples and ideas. This month is Monitoring Month where we will cover everything from basic monitoring 101 to the top monitoring tools to monitoring’s role in your overall strategy. So, stay tuned – there’s plenty to come.
A few days ago I posted a list/outline on DIY Monitoring. If you read that post and then found yourself sort of unsure about the nuts and bolts of using those monitoring tools on your own – look no further. While providing some helpful tools, info, and links, my last post didn’t really read as an instruction manual with direct advice or how-to steps. Beginners especially may be looking for a bigger picture, more of a break down.So, let’s zoom out. Slow it down. Go over the process with details included.
DIY monitoring is just simply the act of using social media monitoring tools on your own to discover what the Internet is saying about you. Millions of online conversations are happening right now. Monitoring = scouring the web for mentions of your business as a means of understanding public sentiment about your brand.
All month long we’ve been posting content about monitoring – check out some earlier posts to learn more. The basics, monitoring insights to help your brand, some benefits to monitoring, and how brands use monitoring to build communities.
Not all monitoring platforms are created equally, though.
Some big businesses (or those with deep pockets) may enlist the technology of powerful (albeit, pricey) monitoring software. These name brand tools tap into immense databases and use high-powered search technology to go through the Internet with a fine-toothed comb. These sites offer more than just spitting out links too – many of them offer analysis, breakdowns, graphic data presentations, comparison searches, support, cataloguing, and more.
Check out this awesome list from SocialMedia.biz covering the most notable monitoring platforms in the land. Each description is pretty detailed and you can get an idea of the costs affiliated with these big guns (skimming through I’m seeing price ranges from three to five figures a month – there’s a ton of variety).
Not ready to spend that kind of money on monitoring? No problem. The market for tools like these is vast and great products at both ends of the spectrum exist.
Check back to the list I published a few days ago to see some of the sites I’ve found that are easier on the wallet. SocialBrite, Ragan.com, My Venture Pad, and Dreamgrow all have lists of free monitoring tools – there are oodles to choose from!
You know what monitoring is and you know you want to listen to the web for mentions of your brand. You’ve decided to give it a whirl on your own with some free tools and now you have plenty to choose from.
You’re ready to go – so now let’s actually get to it.
Some Basic Tips for DIY Monitoring:
1. Picking strong key words.
Most monitoring platforms will cull mentions based on a keyword you plug in. Your brand name will likely be a choice. If your company specializes in more than one brand, you may want to run various searches using the different names.
Think about terms commonly affiliated with the brand as well. What terms do consumers commonly use when discussing your company? If a product has different versions, you may want to experiment with differing searches.
2. Use a variety of content sources.
News, blogs, forums, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest – the web is huge. Keep in mind that consumers talk to one another all over the place. They don’t just come to your brand’s social media outlets when discussing you.
Check out specialty forums related to your specific business. Keep an open mind for random conversations about your brand to take place in the most unexpected corners of the web. Even speciality forums for heavy metal fans are likely to have a cooking section – your brand’s designer cookware could be discussed in between mosh pits and groupies.
And always remember to consider the source. Some monitoring platforms will even analyze the authority of a site; specialty professional blogs carry more weight in the public’s opinion than a miscellaneous personal LiveJournal account.
3. Use a dashboard.
Many monitoring platforms come equipped with their own custom dashboards. Some will just simply allow you to pull streams of data – and you won’t really have a homebase to keep track of your information.
Here’s a great resource for dashboard tools you can find online (a post by SocialBrite).
Keeping your searches tidy and organized will allow you to get the most out of your hard work. Especially if you’re trying out different keywords and using varying timelines, a dashboard is an excellent way to stay organized and on top of things.
Some will even allow you to set up alerts, notifications and all kinds of customized checks and balances.
My all-time favorite free and easy dashboard? Google Reader.
4. Compare –> Consensus
To get an accurate understanding of what’s really being said out there, I use more than one platform to perform my monitoring pulls. Then, I’ll take my results and compare them. Again, going back to that “consider the source,” point from earlier – different monitoring tools will specialize in different aspects of the Internet.
Check to see the percentage of tweets a particular tool can access. Look for reviews and feedback to see what others have to say – some tools are only for Twitter, others specialize in blog posts.
Two heads are better than one. So sample data from different platforms to help the varying strengths and weaknesses balance out. And as you use more than one tool to research, keep in mind the majority consensus.
The whole point of monitoring is to get an idea of what consumers think about us. There’s no possible way to listen to every mention on the web and address them all. So we’re going for the popular thoughts, the majority ideas – if you’re getting a certain sentiment from most of the tools you’re using, chances are that it’s giving you a fair picture of how things are.
If multiple sites are pointing out an extreme example of a mention – make sure to address that particular conversation promptly. Perhaps a random forum brought your name up in a conversation and some passionate members went on and on, creating a vortex of sentiment that sticks out. Go there first and check it out.
5. Read, rank, react.
Social monitoring is all about reading. You have to do the work and then take it all in. Go over your results and you’ll start to get a general idea.
Then, you can begin to rank the priorities. The example of the wacky mention that sticks out – you’ll know to go there as a priority only after you have a sense of what the norm is. If you were to react right away, you could spend a lot of time spinning your wheels on something that turns out to be no big deal.
Finally – react.
The whole point of monitoring is to make your company better! So once you’ve located customer service weaknesses, negative sentiment, questions that need to be answered, or what have you – go out an take care of it! That’s why you’ve done all this work in the first place.
Above all – and this one isn’t getting a number because it supersedes all advice and pointers- just use common sense. This stuff really does tend to unfurl in a sensible way, and the more time you spend in the software, the more you’ll get the hang of it. You’ll come to know and expect certain kinds of conversations and mentions, and you’ll also be able to spot something abnormal right away.
If you try out my tips – tell me how they work for you! Feel free to ask questions, always. And of course, I’d love to get feedback and suggestions from my professional peers out there.