Social Media Monitoring Tools – How to Pick The Right One

July 7th, 2010

Guest post by Katie Van Domelen, the social media manager at Off Madison Ave in Tempe, Arizona. She specializes in social media strategies that lead to actionable plans to achieve real world objectives.

I’ve spent a lot of time working with various social media monitoring tools and I’ve whittled my list of favorites down to two or three. But I get a lot of questions about why I like particular tools better than others and how I decide to use which, so here’s a summary of my thought process that I hope will help you make a similar decision for your client or your organization.

First – What are the objectives? What questions are you trying to answer?
• Competitive analysis: How does your brand stack up to the competition?
• On-going monitoring: What are people saying about your brand and how can you use that information to either repair your reputation or identify opportunities?
• Research: How do people talk about your industry and who are the influencers? How can your brand participate in this space most effectively?

Second – Are there any special types of information you’ll need? That could be things like:
• Filtering by region: How specific will you need to be? County, region, state or city?
• Languages: Will you need to analyze foreign languages and do you have anyone in house to translate or will you need the tool to handle that?
• Demographics: Do you want to be able to filter by the demographics of the author?
• Sentiment: How much are you willing to automate verse check by hand? In other words, how accurate does it need to be?
*Note that although various tools might measure this data, it’s inclusion is dependent on the data being available on each mention so in most cases only a subset of the total mentions are counted in this type of analysis.

Third – how will you be handling the monitoring?
• Are you working with a team or collaborating with a client?
• How much control do you want to have to be able to make changes yourself?
• How frequently will you need to create reports or check the filters? How easy is it to pull a quick dashboard without a lot of work on your part?
• What’s the client/competitor/industry name(s)? How hard will it be to filter?

Fourth – what are the operational/resource concerns?
• What’s the budget? How much can you afford to spend on the tool?
• How much volume do you expect to get? You might want to test this.
• How much time will you be able to allocate to this project? (based on budget or schedule)

Once you’ve answered those questions you can compare major social media monitoring tools. I’ve started a comparison chart, based only on my own experience and opinion, for you to use and update as you see fit. To be fair, I’ve only included those I’ve actually used (Radian6, Sysomos, Spiral 16) or tested (Meltwater, SM2).

Social Media Monitoring Matrix

The main pitfall to avoid is flashy graphics for the sake of flashy graphics. Something that I couldn’t translate into the table above is how comfortable you feel using the UI. You need something that’s easy for you to use and that will be practical for the application you have at hand. Don’t be afraid to ask for demonstrations or trial accounts (even if you’ve already had a trial with that provider before.) They’ll often work with you to make sure you feel comfortable you’re making the right decision. You can also ask for training to make sure you’re using all the features to the best advantage. Another piece of advice I’d offer you is don’t get too caught up in budget. It’s much easier to pay a bit more to have the best tool for your needs than to start off with something that doesn’t have the power you need and have to upgrade later. You risk losing a lot of history and having to do a lot of work to get the program back on track.

And that’s how I pick the right social media monitoring tool for the job. What about you? Any factors you look for or service you use that I didn’t mention? Leave your additions, and any questions, in the comments!

Bonus: My list of social media monitoring tools that I collect to share with others and test myself.

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