I was encouraged to write a list of free social media monitoring tools after a previous post where I argued why organisations have to monitor social media. Admittedly, this post has been a long time coming, but as someone who uses a variety of free and paid for tools everyday, I believe it is important for the next generation of PR practitioners to have an understanding of their use.
As a result I’m hoping this post will primarily be useful to two groups of people:
- Students or people who want to work in the social media side of PR – essentially, those who want to acquaint themselves with a few of the tools and principles of social media monitoring.
- Organisations who have heard a lot about social media and would like to see (for free) the conversations taking place around their brand.
Before we start, I would also add, that in order to get a fuller understanding of the conversation around brands, I would advise using a variety of these monitoring tools in tandem, rather than relying on just one service.
This is a fairly lengthy post and one that I hope people will find helpful, however I feel it deserves some justification. Well here goes…basically, the amount of conversation occurring on social media platforms means that there is a whole load of data out there ready to be mined for our clients – and this data, ultimately can and will help support the decision-making process. It has got to. For too long, Public Relations relied on instinct or even worse group-think, rather than data to inform communications strategy. But that is changing.
As a result PR agencies are increasingly hiring people to solely analyse online conversation, as well as looking for people who have a firm grasp of the basics. Hopefully, this post may enable you to do just that. Social media monitoring is the evolution of offline media monitoring, but agencies want this technical skill along with analysis to be in-house. We have a situation where clients not only want to know what journalists have written, but what consumers have said and importantly, how they can respond.
Another reason for this post is my passion for equipping the next generation of PR practitioners with the right skills for the job. On a daily basis I work with people whose role is to monitor and analyse WOM around our clients and I think there is a case for universities to show students the relevant tools to equip them with the right, practical skills for the job. It is an important to skill to be able to work out where conversations around brands are taking place. I’m hoping this post will point people in the right direction and give them the impetus to play around with the plethora of tools, gain an understanding of how they work and the data they provide.
Alexa is a web information company that allows you to track the performance of any website. It can give you all kinds of useful data and organises them by country, language or in a custom category. I would recommend downloading the Alexa toolbar to get a better understanding of the information available.
Tip: Check out the Alexa and Google Page Rank plugin which can easily be added to your Google Chrome browser.
2. Blog Pulse
BlogPulse describes itself as an ‘automated trend discovery system for blogs’. Essentially, it is a search engine for blogs that analyses and reports on daily activity in the blogosphere. BlogPulse offers plenty of trend and other analytic information which can shape decision-making and let’s you understand the ‘buzz’ around a brand.
Boardreader is a search engine for forums and boards, enabling you to get fast and quality search for your own forum. Boardreader is a great tool for issue monitoring and identifying where conversations around particular brands are taking place.
Ellerdale is a site that helps you understand what is being said on Twitter. It shows you what topics are trending in sports, politics, music, products and more. Ellerdale has the ability to curate a real-time Twitter view of any topic, including which users are the most rewtweeted on that subject, the top articles and the time of day people are most engaged today.
5. Google Alerts, Google Analytics & Google Trends
Google has changed the web forever and it is much more than just a search engine. Have a look at Google Alerts which allows you to sign up to receive email updates whenever specific names or phrases are mentioned. This is a great tool for issues monitoring and let’s you know when people are talking about a brand or issue.
Google Analytics is an excellent web analytics dashboard that gives useful insights into your web traffic. Google Analytics’ greatest strength is its ease of use coupled with comprehensive data which allowing you to analyse who is visiting your website.
Google Trends allows you to understand what is popular online. It allows you to enter up to five topics and see how often they’ve been searched on Google over time. Google Trends also shows how frequently your topics have appeared in Google News stories, and in which geographic regions people have searched for them most.
Next: Once you have familiarised yourself with Google Trends, have a look at Google Ad Sense and think how you could make it work for a client. An understanding of online Above-the-Line marketing techniques is always valuable.
6. Ice Rocket
IceRocket is an Internet search engine that has expanded into searching popular social networks, such as Twitter and MySpace as well as allowing searching of news sites and the web.
Tip: Familiarise yourself with IceRocket’s Big Buzz feature that allows you to search blogs, Tweets, news, images and more all from one page.
It’s Trending is like Ellerdale, except that it lists what people share publicly on Facebook. The site serves as a zeitgeist for news, videos, technology, entertainment and more. Whilst, this service is useful, you can only view what people publicly share, so it serves more as signpost for trends and qualitative data, rather than quantitative data.
Technorati is another great blog search engine. It indexes millions of blog posts in real-time and surfaces them quickly – it is an excellent starting point and brilliant to keep track of breaking stories, opinions, photos and videos across the web. Technorati not only tracks the authority and influence of blogs, but offers an index of influential blogs.
Twitterfall is a Twitter client specialising in real-time tweet searches. New tweets fall into the page and it has many features which make it great for tracking conversation as it happens. This is great for monitoring conversation around a brand or issue.
10. Twitter Search
Twitter Search enables you to search, filter and interact with the large volumes of conversation on Twitter. This search application helps you filter all the real-time information coursing through Twitter.
If you are well acquainted with some of the tools listed, I’m confident that this knowledge will stand anyone in good stead at a PR job interview. Alternatively, if you are an organisation I’m hopeful this post will act as a solid introduction to social media monitoring, although I must stress, the free tools are the tip of the iceberg.
I appreciate that there are many, many tools out there and I would be interested to hear what free social media monitoring tools you use and more importantly what you would recommend.