Social Media Monitoring Made Simple

by Andrew Hanelly |

If you’ve been monitoring social media for mentions of … social media monitoring, you’ll likely have noticed more people discussing how to listen better on behalf of your brand.

There are tools. There are services. And there are case studies on how your organization can sift through social media static and glean out useful nuggets.

The overload of information can be a little overwhelming and after a while all the advice on sifting through the static starts to sound, ironically, like more noise.

We know we should be listening but often times it’s difficult to figure out what exactly we should be listening to and how we should be listening to it. And then once we’ve heard it, it’s difficult to figure out what we should do with the output of our eavesdropping.

So, in practical terms, how can we monitor social media without causing our ears to ring?

Bring in the Noise and Inevitably Bring in the Funk

Image: smoovey

Every day, 100 million pieces of content are shared on Facebook, 90 million Tweets are served, and nearly 50,000 new blogs are created.

And most of it doesn’t matter (to you, anyway).

So what does matter? It depends on what you’re trying to get out of your effort.

  • Are you monitoring social media for reputation management or customer service reasons?
  • Do you want to gather business intelligence and get feedback on your brand?
  • Are you looking to find conversations you can join so your organization can get exposure in front of new audiences?
  • Do you want to keep an eye on your competition?
  • Are you looking to get your ego stroked? (Warning: this is the easiest way to set yourself up for disappointment.)

As an organization, figure out exactly what you want to be monitoring and start there (and start small).

Create a Watch List

Begin with the basics and grow from there by opening up a Word document and making a list. Start with the name of your organization and any variations of the name. List out names of “important” people at your organization and any products your organization produces. Don’t include too many “stretches” or overly generic terms or you’ll end up receiving too much static.

Some examples of what you may want to include in your watch list?

  • Organization name
  • Names of products you produce
  • Names of people at your organization
  • Domain names and URLs you use
  • Handles of social media accounts
  • More (if you want to add any in the comments, that is)

After you’ve created your watch list, circulate it to key members of your organization and ask for feedback (you’d be surprised what you might forget that HR might remember).

Once you’ve compiled the edited list, go to Google Alerts and enter each term. There is an option to “preview” results for any given term. Do this and see how relevant (or irrelevant) the results are. Omit terms that are static-producing and keep terms that yield coherent results (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you try this out).

Additionally, you might want to create a list of relevant news sources and influencers within your industry. Start with the ones you already know and read and then branch out to the unknown. (Lucky for us, Jason Falls wrote a piece on finding influencers yesterday so I can spare you some words here with this link. )

Developing this watch list of branded terms and industry resources will allow you to quickly keep tabs on what is going on in your industry without having to check a bunch of sites or Google yourself and your brand (as much).

I Only Hear What I Want To

Now that you have your watch list, you’ll want to feed it in to a social media monitoring station. Plenty of companies provide this service but you should try the freeway before the toll road.

The freeway: The simplest method in the universe is to follow Chris Brogan’s advice on growing bigger ears, but it’s also a fairly manual approach.

The toll road: Other methods include using a service like Trackur (though they do have a Freemium option), Radian6, or something similar.

In other words, start with an unpaid approach free and figure out if your organization is going to require a paid approach.

For most small organizations (i.e. not Pepsi, Nike, Coke, etc.) using Google Reader will be enough. If you start to drown in noise or want more advanced control over your monitoring, you may want to invest in a tool that helps you better manage your monitoring if you’re in an organization that requires it.

For the rest of us (and especially small business owners) Google Reader will do.

F What Ya Heard?

So, we’re starting to collect data. It’s exciting. We have what feels like an email inbox of our industry’s activity. We’re done, right? Not if you want it done right.

Data without action is just a bunch of information. All the listening in the world won’t matter if you don’t act on what you’ve heard. But what are we supposed to do with it?

Should we respond? Should we ignore? Should we run it up the flagpole at our organization? David Armano provides a great flow-chart for deciding what to do. Start with that and adapt it for what makes sense for your own organization.

At the very least, when you are going through content in your monitoring station, be sure to tag and organize it in ways that make sense to you. We have the tendency to think we’ll remember something later because it was important in the moment but we’re overestimating our own capacity to remember.

Tagging and organizing content as you consume it will allow you to build an easy-to-search archive of information that anyone in your organization could comb through if needed down the line.

And while you’re at it, be sure to post content you find on Facebook, Twitter, your company blog or other social media outlets. It’s the easiest way to find and share content and enter the conversation with something other than your own stuff.

How Soon is Now?

We tend to obsess over what is happening right here and now. Having a real-time pulse on what’s happening in our industry is certainly important, but it’s not the only value social media monitoring can bring. One of the most overlooked benefits of setting up a monitoring station is the archive of information it can provide (especially when using Google Reader).

Think of your monitoring station as a personalized search engine of content relevant to our organization. It is tracking keywords relevant specifically to you and grabbing feeds from resources that you’ve hand-selected. If you’ve tagged and organized content as it comes in, you’ll have the easiest and most targeted search engine you’ll ever experience where all the content revolves around your world specifically. It’ll make finding that elusive social media stat for your next PowerPoint that much easier, trust me.

Your social media monitoring doesn’t need to be as complicated as the trading floor at the stock exchange. Keep it simple, focused, and organized and you and your organization will be able to sift through the static and hear what actually matters.

Ya heard?

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About the Author

Andrew Hanelly

Andrew is SVP, Strategy for McMurry/TMG and for one semester in college, was a sociology major. He writes at Brain on Digital, as @hanelly on Twitter and here on Google+.