Social media listening, also known as social media monitoring, is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand on the Internet.
Conversations on the Internet produce massive amounts of unstructured data. It's important, therefore, to define what the goals are for a social media listening initiative. Depending on the goal, the right tool might be a series of free Google Alerts or an expensive software suite that includes ad hoc analysis and full integration with legacy customer relationship management (CRM) applications.
Both social media and person-to-person information-gathering have value, but social media listening is quickly becoming an important customer intelligence tool. There are several ways to use social media to gain insight, including monitoring online customer support forums, using software tools to gather comments from social outlets such as Facebook and Twitter and encouraging customers to suggest new product features and vote on their favorites.
In a large enterprise, social media monitoring tools can mine text for specific keywords on social networking websites and blogs and in discussion forums and other social media. Essentially, monitoring software transposes specific words or phrases in unstructured data into numerical values which are linked to structured data in a database so the data can to be analyzed with traditional data mining techniques.
What is social media monitoring?
In basic terms, social media monitoring is the act of using a tool to, well, monitor what is being said on the internet.
It sometimes also goes by the name of, or is bundled with, Social Listening, Online Analytics, Buzz Analysis, Social Media Measurement, Social Media Intelligence, Social Media Management, SMM (also the acronym for Social Media Marketing, confusingly) …
How do social media monitoring tools work?
Most monitoring tools work by crawling sites continuously and indexing them. Some are crawled in real time, such as Twitter. Other sites might be crawled less often – say, every 10 minutes, or every day, if they are less important. Some tools, like us, do this crawling themselves. Others use data providers. We’ll let you guess which of those options we think is better.
Anyway, once all those sites are indexed, they can then be searched. Most tools use some form of queries, or search strings, that the user writes to find mentions of specific words and phrases on those pages. It will then bring these (we call them ‘mentions’) back into the tool’s interface, which can then be read, sliced, diced and so on.
Social media monitoring? So it just covers social networks?
In fact, most social media monitoring tools – those worth their salt anyway – crawl all sorts of websites, including forums, blogs, news sites, review sites, and others, along with the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and so on).
Of course, coverage varies between tools and regions, so always do your homework when evaluating different tools. Bear in mind that some social sites have strict rules that mean it’s impossible for tools to cover all of the content on the site (such as LinkedIn).
5 Social Media Listening Tools That Every Business Should Be Using
Google Alerts: Google Alerts is a basic way to discover when a website is posting about you. However, it doesn't capture everything and it certainly doesn't cover social media or most blog sites. Still, it's a good, automated, entry-level way to get some feedback about any kind of search query emailed to you. Sign up at www.google.com/alerts (if you want instant results, mark "as-it-happens" under "how often").
Hootsuite/TweetDeck: Both Hootsuite and TweetDeck offer some tools to consolidate and manage your social media accounts. You can also add search columns that are scanning Twitter in real time. Not everyone who tweets about you will be using your hashtag or tagging you so this is a convenient way to spot what is being discussed and reply immediately.
Icerocket: Icerocket specializes in blog searches. Their "big buzz" option also captures activity on Facebook, Twitter, and image sites such as Flickr too. It's free, easy to use, and does not require registration of an account.
Social Mention: Social Mention collects aggregated data across multiple platforms. You'll see results from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, photobucket, etc. and there are some basic analytics that help you determine if the sentiment is positive or negative, how many different sources are active, etc. It's also free and doesn't require registration.
Topsy: Topsy is similar to Icerocket and Social Mention; the main focus is around social media, especially multimedia and blogs. You don't have to register, but you do have the option of creating an email alert (it ties into your Twitter or Facebook).
Sources: Techtarget, Brandwatch, Huffington
Collected and Summarized by Ha Phuong Miu