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Navigating the world of social media monitoring tools

Author's avatar By 22 Aug, 2012
Essential Essential topic

Key issues and 11 questions to consider when selecting a social listening tool

To help with social media monitoring, it's possible to track and trace, in real-time, any digital communication if it’s in the public domain. Social media have, of course, created an explosion of trackable online and public dialogue.

Herein lays an amazing opportunity to gain an endless amount of market and consumer insight and intelligence. But herein also lays considerable new challenges for marketers.

The technology is not the issue

In response to the anticipated market opportunity for monitoring and analysing what consumers are saying on social media there has is a plethora of software tools developed that can perform these tasks.
A colleague dedicated over a year to the creation of a taxonomy and guide summing up the main features, functions and benefits of  250 different social media monitoring tools.

Despite the guidance given by the report, the process of selecting the right tools is still a bewildering exercise particularly as and they range in price from free to over £150,000 per annum. So where do you start?

Start with deciding what you want to measure

Unless you want to get totally confused by the masses amount of data you can collect, start by deciding what it is you need to measure.
These measurements should be based on your goals for using social media. Remember, social media is best used in conjunction with your other marcoms activities and not used in isolation. Therefore, refer back to your original marcoms goals and then work out how social media can most effectively achieve these goals by augmenting your other marketing and customer services programs.

Resist being carried away by obvious metrics such as numbers of Facebook or Twitter fans or followers. These stats are good for the ego but have only on vague correlation to tangible goals that social media is great as realising. Goals such as increasing average order value, improving customer lifetime value, reaching more of your total addressable market, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing churn rate.

Having decided on what you can achieve with social media then decide what metrics you need to measure the ROI.
The next step is to start the process of selecting the most cost effective tools that can produce the data you need in easily produced and digestible management dashboard reports. But there are other considerations.

Data integration is vital

The unstructured data gleaned from social media will offer up great insight but will considerably more valuable if can be integrated with and correlated to your other data sets. Transactional data, web data and purchased research data that should be held in your CRM systems.

Knowing who is saying what on social media, their propensity to buy, sentiment, advocacy and social capital or influence is invaluable for building ongoing engagement. But you also need to match that data with consumers buying patterns and market segment classifications. This is what data scientists have started to term as ‘Big Data’. This collection of data enables marketers to know how to better engage with consumers through personalised interactive content.

Therefore, organisations that use CRM comprehensively need a social media monitoring system that integrates Social CRM data with their CRM databases.

Software vendors offer integrated tools

A few technology vendors are starting to build this capability into their software. Notably, a leader in CRM systems, has made a flurry of acquisitions to provide an integrated social system. is tooling up to provide a complete social enterprise platform offering tools that will allow you to listen, gain insight, engage, publish, advertise and measure social marketing programs.

Salesforce have acquired Radian6 a leading social monitoring tool, Chatter an online employee collaboration system and Buddy Media. Buddy Media is used for social media content distribution and moderation, user engagement and measuring the reach of your content and the buzz it generates across the Blogosphere.

Many other social media monitoring technology providers integrate operation capacity of CRM systems with their tools and services. Ideya's report has identified around 62 SMM tools providers that currently offer their own CRM or allow integration with other CRM technologies.

The good news is that systems such as those provided by and many others are provisioned as ‘software as a service’ (Saas). These services mean no IT hardware investment, systems implementation effort and problematic deployment issues and not least, no capital investment.

Start simply

Just get started by trying out a monitoring tool to get a feel of what it can do and use the above tips to plan your way forward. For those of you need to dig deeper into social media metrics I can’t recommend enough reading Social Media Metrics by Jim Sterne. In the meantime consider the following 11 tips.

11 issues to work through when selecting a social media listening tool

1. Be clear about what you are intending to achieve by adopting social media and decide what you want to use a tool for. For example, market insight and prediction, competitive monitoring, customer satisfaction and sentiment analysis, market reach and influence, building social capital, campaign measurement, influencer, conversation and community marketing.

2. Set measurable social media goals against your core business objectives and prioritise them.

3. Decide what the metrics you are going to use to measure your success.

4. Don’t just measure numbers of Fans or Followers.

5. Be clear about the main sources of data you want to monitor e.g. social networks, blogs, microblogs, social bookmarks, video and photosharing sites, news, discussion boards and reviews, smartphones and geographic coverage.

6. Do you need to merge social media data with CRM data? Make a list of the benefits this can bring to your marcoms programs because this is a biggish investment.

7. Decide if you need your social media content distribution system to measure the reach and buzz generated by your content.

8. Decide what management reports you need for different functions of your organisation – customers services, PR and marketing will need different dashboards.

9. Be clear about what you can realistically do with the data to improve your marcoms initiatives.

10. Make sure you have the people with the skills and time to use the insight reports to improve your marcoms.

11. Seek advice from specialists in this field and start simple.

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