The social web is not just a marketing channel. It can help you with customer service, reputation management, market research and more. That's exactly what social media monitoring is for. In this article, I'll explain what it does, how to get started and how to find the right tools.
What is social media monitoring?
Social media monitoring keeps you up to date on what is being said about you, your company and your products on the social web. You can also keep an eye on this for your competitors, or generally for your topic area and your industry. You can draw various conclusions from what you learn from social media monitoring and use the knowledge gained in different ways - more on this in a moment.
In any case, social networks are not only a channel for sending, but also for receiving. If you have chosen the right social media platforms for you, it is not enough to post there regularly. At the same time, you want to be aware when others post something that is important to you.
So that we know what we are talking about, I would like to distinguish the term "social media monitoring" from a few others:
- Social Media Analytics: The aim here is to show the success of your activities through figures. As a rule, social networks offer statistics themselves. Third-party providers try to bring them together as clearly and uniformly as possible in one place and collect their own supplementary data.
- Social Media Intelligence: Here, the figures collected with Analytics are evaluated and conclusions are drawn.
- Social Media Management: This refers to all activities concerning your social presences. How you organize yourself, who is involved, etc.
There is also the term "social media listening" which is used and defined in very different ways. Some understand it as a sub-item of social media monitoring, whereby it is solely about statements about one's own company and its mood ("sentiment analysis", for example classified as positive, negative or neutral).
Others, however, see social media listening as an umbrella term and social media monitoring as a sub-discipline. Yet another definition sees them as a tandem: Monitoring provides the data, Listening derives the consequences. And last but not least, they are often used as synonyms.
As is so often the case in the digital world, technical terms are used in different ways. In this respect, you always have to take a close look at what is meant in each individual case. But please don't let this confuse you. This article is about being informed about relevant statements and posts on the internet - and reacting appropriately.
What can you use social media monitoring for?
Before you go to the trouble of monitoring, you certainly want to know what you can get out of it and how you can use it. This is also important because the following possible areas of application each have a different focus, require different tools and different approaches:
Even if you don't explicitly offer people to contact you or your company via social media, it will still happen. You should answer such requests promptly. This is usually quite feasible, as the users in this case name your company directly, for example via Mention. Or because they leave a comment under a post.
So that's what you see in your notifications - as long as you don't just see social media as a channel for sending and pay attention to that. There are third-party tools that bring all these reactions and signals together in one place.
Reputation management and crisis communication
Likewise, your customers may talk about you on the social web in general - hopefully in a positive way, but certainly sometimes in a negative way. In both cases, you want to know about it as soon as possible. In the case of praise, you may want to share it yourself (share, retweet) and thank them for it. In the case of criticism, you want to show that you take the person seriously and care about the problem. Critical comments in particular can otherwise quickly get out of hand ("shitstorm").
Social media networks are perfect to use actively or passively for insights around your industry. Actively, this happens when you ask your fans and followers about new product ideas or invite them as beta testers. Passively, you can use social media monitoring to find out what questions and problems a potential target group has.
Can you respond to it with new or adapted offers? Should you include it as a topic idea in your content marketing? What is being said about your competitors? What strengths and weaknesses do they have and what can you derive from this for yourself?
If you follow up on comments about your company and your products or about your industry in general, new leads can result. In other words, you convince a perhaps still hesitant prospect to take a closer look at your offers. Of course, you should not approach this with platitudinous sales slogans, but above all show your helpful and trustworthy site.
Basics of lead generation
If you follow the conversations about your topic area or your company on social media, you will come across certain profiles again and again. Such multipliers are often called influencers. They can be interested private people or respected professionals.
Once you have identified these people, they are ideal for building relationships (influencer relations). Or maybe even for joint promotional activities (influencer marketing). Either way, it is helpful to know these profiles as they seem to have a significant influence in the field of your products or services.
Last but not least, you learn a lot about your target group through social media monitoring, which can have a positive effect on your marketing activities. You may find out which social network is actually most important for your target group. Or you can see which campaigns are well received - beyond just numbers.
When it comes to social media monitoring, the first two sub-points are often mentioned. You want to help your customers and you want to know in time if a "shitstorm" hits you. Monitoring can have direct economic effects and support both marketing and sales. Whether this is possible in your industry and with your offers depends on your individual case. But it is worth consideration.
How do you take the first steps?
My favorite motto is always - start small and then expand when required. Because if you try to implement social media monitoring perfectly and seamlessly right away, you will probably be discouraged. After all, this means either an enormous amount of work or considerable costs for you. Instead of abandoning it altogether, it's better to just get started, from my perspective.
First of all, you should be clear about what exactly you want to keep in mind. You create a mental or ideally written list of terms. These keywords can include names like your personal name, the company's name and the names of products or offers. Be aware of typos and spelling mistakes. You may want to add the names of competitors and see what conversations they are having. Another hint - think about terms that are part of customer service, such as "help", "not working", etc.
You could also add keywords related to your industry to this list. The more general they are, the more results you will get. And finding the interesting information in this white noise is difficult. Therefore, you will want to narrow down your keywords by looking for more specific terms. For example, you're doing online shopping with WooCommerce. Instead of looking at everything that is said about the topic "online shop", you would rather include "WooCommerce". You could also keep up to date with typical WooCommerce problems and questions.
In the simplest case, you can go through your list of terms manually. Social networks usually offer a search function. Keywords and hashtags are also very common. On Instagram, you can even follow hashtags just like a profile, which is already a simple form of social media monitoring.
Searching the social networks in this way will of course only give you a limited impression - and it's not particularly efficient either. But as mentioned above, it's better to start small than do nothing. For example, I like to use the free tools Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts to see where my name comes up. Or where projects I'm working on are mentioned.
These basics must be right
To make your social media monitoring worthwhile, you should follow these tips:
- Set clear goals for yourself. A simple monitoring tool is easy to set up. But it won't do you much good if you haven't clearly defined what you want to achieve with it. The possible fields of application mentioned above can be a suggestion for you.
- Find the terms used by your target group. On the one hand, this is important to set up the monitoring correctly. On the other hand, it can help you to find further keywords (see the guide to keyword research). And that in turn will help your marketing, especially content marketing.
- Respond to feedback and trends. Too many companies use social media as a one-way marketing channel, so that even a short response to a post will make you stand out. And if you listen carefully, you'll come across thematic trends and topics of discussion that you should ideally respond to quickly.
The right tools and services
If over time you get the impression that you need better tools, they are of course available. Some of them you can use for free, or at least offer a free trial, to a limited extent. Depending on the provider and the tool, you can also keep an eye on other parts of the internet like news websites.
In fact, the market of monitoring tools is so big that you should ask yourself several questions to narrow it down in advance. Here are some key examples:
- What functions are you primarily interested in? Is it only monitoring? Do you also want to have advanced analysis options or respond to comments and replies directly in the tool? Here it depends on what goals you have set for your monitoring.
- Which networks are indispensable for you? What exactly can the tool do and not do on the respective platforms? Take a close look here, because social networks operate very differently.
- What do the evaluations look like in the end? Can the responsible persons in the company do anything with them?
- Where is the provider headquartered? Perhaps you would prefer a German or European company, if only from the point of view of data protection.
The charges of these services often depend on the number of sources monitored and how many hits are displayed. Additional functions such as analytics are sometimes integrated, sometimes you have to pay extra for them. Unfortunately, only comprehensive research can help here.
Examples of social media monitoring tools
Due to the variety of requirements, it is impossible to make general recommendations. Therefore, I'll refer here to good collections and lists of recommendations:
- The site G2 offers a comprehensive overview of social media monitoring tools - with 210 entries. The top 10 according to the reviews on this site are: Zoho Social, Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Meltwater, Semrush, Agorapulse, Falcon.io, Reputation, Sprinklr, Sendible. As always on the web, you should bring a healthy portion of skepticism with you when reading the reviews. Nevertheless, they will give you a first impression.
- The Content Marketing Institute has published a list of 10 tools.
- In its article, the site "Für Gründer" (German-language) recommends HootSuite, Audiense and Buffer, for beginners. The list also includes tips for more comprehensive monitoring.
- In this current article, Meltwater not only evaluates itself, but also 11 other tools.
- This article from Buffer presents 19 examples. The author also provides a Google Spreadsheet.
Some names appear again and again, but the evaluations and assessments are quite different. A general problem with such overviews and comparisons: Many services now have such a wide range of functions that it is simply not possible to summarize them in one or two paragraphs.
Is all this too complex and expensive for you? Then start with a service like the already mentioned Talkwalker Alerts or Google Alerts. Or take a look at a specialized tool like Mention. On the one hand, it doesn't cost several hundred Euros a month (from 29 Euros or in a free trial version), and on the other hand, it doesn't confuse you with functions that you might not even need.
Social media monitoring has a lot of potential, but unfortunately also requires some training. As mentioned, you can start small and then expand it step by step. The important thing is that monitoring becomes an ongoing to-do for you. Checking once a week will not be enough. Fortunately, many tools offer automatic notifications that remind you to monitor.
Your questions about social media monitoring
Contributing photo: Georgia de Lotz