Why Social Media Monitoring?
Social media has changed the face of customer relationships. Consumers have become so accustomed to online communities that it's often their preferred go-to for communication, even with companies. When they have a good or bad experience with a product or service, they want to share it with everyone, not just with the company or a couple of close friends. In addition, some customers are looking for a shortcut to a higher level of management, whether because they don't believe they will get satisfaction at a local level or because they have already tried and failed. Social media monitoring and engagement software allows you as a company to tap into the compliments and complaints so that you can react quickly. This kind of engagement, even when addressing complaints, goes a long way to improving your brand's reputation.
Social media monitoring goes beyond customer care, however. You can use it to track trends, monitor public attitude toward your company and perform market research. You can discover key influencers with whom you can develop relationships and perhaps get them talking about your products and services. This makes it an important part of any marketing campaign, public relations event or product launch.
We've looked at services that suit medium and large businesses with sizable advertising budgets who need software that does more than track tweets and posts, but examines all of the internet for information and then filters out the noise to deliver the messages and sentiments that relate directly to their needs. As such, we found Sysomos, Visible Technologies and Oracle Social Cloud to be the best. If you have a smaller business, please visit our Small Business Social Media and Monitoring site to learn more about some top social media monitoring sites for smaller budgets. Regardless of your business size, check out our useful articles on social media monitoring as well.
Social Media Monitoring Tools: What to Look For
With billions of messages going out across the internet, it's hard to track those that apply to you. Social media monitoring services specialize in honing in, listening, comparing, monitoring, recording and tracking your customer's needs – and even those of potential customers. These software-as-a-service companies also allow you to filter, analyze and build reports so that you can use this data to build and track marketing campaigns, keep an eye on your company's reputation and more. The best companies have combined this with social media engagement software so you can track, analyze and respond to posts all from the same platform.
When studying demographics, it's important to note that they can also vary by platform. Facebook attracts a different kind of poster than Twitter or Tumblr. Therefore, it's good to have audience analysis across several platforms when possible. Social media software looks across multiple platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs and news sites. The best are hooked into Twitter Firehose, which contains the entirety of Twitter activity and requires a huge amount of processing power to sort. Even more, most of these services monitor multiple languages.
The sheer volume of posting across social media sites makes tracking and analyzing what people are saying about your company a daunting task. When you add in other factors that might affect your business, like competitors and trending topics, it can get impossible for one person or even a group of people to monitor. Nearly all the software we reviewed filter out spam messages as well as false positives and duplicates so you get the information that actually applies to you. Most also have the ability to understand slang, so that if you needed information about your store in New York, it would capture posts that refer to "the Big Apple" as well.
Each service has its own way of charging, and most do not list their pricing online. Some charge by how many mentions you receive, others by how many platforms you want to monitor and others by how many users you allow on your program. Other companies have a set fee but limit these aspects instead.
All the social media monitoring services we reviewed evaluate for sentiment: whether the post refers to your company or topic positively, negatively or neutrally. Therefore, we've listed how accurate they are. Human beings are 73 to 85 percent accurate in judging sentiment from a written post, so look within those ranges. Check the reviews for more information on how they determine that score.
Perceptive business owners know that not all information is equal. It's not enough to know your company is being talked about or even if it's being talked about favorably. Who is talking is as important as what is said. All these services can judge by demographics like age, gender and race, but only a few look at profession and education level.
We identified three other features that add to the usefulness of these services. Historical data refers to a service's archives of posts, which are useful to compare trends and sentiment from days, weeks or even years ago. The email alert feature lets you program the software to notify you if a topic of interest sees a sudden spike in activity or if some other key indicator pops up. Google Analytics is a useful feature for tracking who comes to your site, and many services integrate with this tool.
We do not include lead or potential buyer identification. This is a vital feature, but because it's so important, every service we reviewed includes it in their services.
Back Office & Reports
Reports help you break down data into something you can readily understand. Nearly all the services offer reports and allow you to set parameters and drill down, and those that don't offer reports still have data-exporting abilities. We found drag-and-drop ability a nice convenience. Saving to PDF also makes distribution easier, plus you can protect the report against changes if you wish.
Social media monitoring can help your entire business, not just the PR department. The best software integrates with customer resource management programs or has API ability. API – Application Programming Interface – ability lets you route your data into other business platforms.
Being able to assign workflow to other employees and set up prioritization and routing rules is a plus. For example, complaints might go to customer service and feature suggestions to the development team. This makes it easier to manage the information and posts you're receiving via the software.
These days, knowing what people are saying about your company is not enough. You have to be ready to respond quickly. Customers who post complaints on social media expect a quick response from the company. While not all the social media monitoring sites we reviewed include social engagement features, it's an important consideration if you want a complete solution.
When looking at social engagement, you want to be able to plan posts as well as respond to posts made about you. Finally, mobile responsive software means you can access the service from a cell phone or tablet for monitoring while on the go. A mobile app does the same thing.
Help & Support
Optimizing your reputation in social media requires time, effort and knowledge. All the companies we looked at provide knowledgebases, FAQs and dedicated account managers. A dedicated account manager assists you in using the program. Some, however, go the extra step by advising you on your campaigns or by giving advice on how you can get the best use of the information you receive. Quite a few post white papers on how to leverage social media; a few offer specialized training that goes beyond software how-to. Very few have live chat or forums, so if you prefer this form of communication, be sure to look for the services that offer it.
Social media has changed how people communicate and react, and as a result, you need to be able to listen and respond to these conversations in order ensure your company stays current and at the top of its game. Social media monitoring software services can help you not only keep tabs on the interests and feelings of existing customers but also discover new opportunities, expand your influence and measure the success of campaigns in real time. The best social media monitoring services also add social response software so you can expand your influence and build upon your reputation.