The Advanced Quick ‘n Dirty Guide to Social Media Monitoring

by Kat French |

Kat French
Kat French

Welcome to the jungle, baby.

If you thought this was going to be lot like the last post in the series, but with more expensive tools, sorry to disappoint you. We’ll still be doing a detailed post comparing all the social media monitoring tools available now. But the comments in particular on the last post made me realize that moving from the beginning of a social media monitoring effort to the advanced level is so not really about the tools.

Let me say that again:

Moving from the beginning of a social media monitoring effort to the advanced level is not about the snazzy monitoring tools.

It’s about using the tool between your ears.

I’m a pretty big fan of Avinash Kaushik, an expert in web analytics. In reading his blog over the last year or so, he brings up one concept repeatedly regarding professional development for web analytics pros: the difference between a “reporting squirrel” and an “analysis ninja.” Let me quote the Kaushik:

Know the difference between a Reporting Squirrel and an Analysis Ninja? One is in the business of providing data. One is in the business of providing, to use an old fashioned word, information.

Or to quote another source, “I should think that you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge and … heh heh heh… wisdom.”

If you walk away from the first two chapters of this Quick ‘n Dirty Guide with the idea that social media monitoring is about collecting links, reviewing content, assessing sentiment, and then providing a big “data puke” to superiors or clients in the form of a report… then you’ve missed the point.

The point of working your way from purely manual monitoring (like we talked about in the first Quick ‘n Dirty Guide post), up to more sophisticated tools, is to give you insights into what people really think and feel about your organization. Not what consumer surveys say. What people say about you when they don’t realize you’re listening. Or when they are hoping you’re listening, but fear you don’t care.

Social media monitoring is the listening part of a conversation.

Like any active listening exercise, after doing it for a while, you should be able to distill what you’ve been hearing. You should be able to pick out the commonly repeated themes. The things that are real emotional hot buttons. The things that are minor-but-constant discordant irritations. You should be able to apply your “tribal knowledge” of your industry to the raw data. 

I’m not talking about some generic “sentiment” score—negative, somewhat positive, neutral. I’m talking about hearing the voice of your people, your customers, as something coherent and understandable and most importantly, ACTIONABLE. I’m talking about pulling the signal out of the noise.

Tools can make this simpler, but ultimately, it’s down to you and your friend Mr. Grey Matter to distill data into insights, and insights into actionable recommendations.

Monitoring is the listening part of a conversation. Which also means it’s completely pointless if you’re not going to respond. Which means this is “fish or cut bait” time.

Don’t jump to conclusions and assume I’m telling you that your efforts are pointless if your organization or client isn’t going to start replying to blog posts and tweeting like John Mayer on steroids. Responding doesn’t necessarily mean “replying.”

If the distilled insights you’re gaining say that your customers have a pain point, addressing that pain point is responding. In fact, it’s a heck of a lot more meaningful way of responding than hiring a PR person to post cheery, upspeak replies to grousing blog posts, tweets and statuses. Is it even better to have a channel, like a blog or a Twitter feed or a Facebook fan page, where you can triumphantly announce your organization’s efforts to combat that pain point? Sure. But that’s the other side of the conversation: social media marketing. (Which I guess will need its own Quick ‘n Dirty Guide soon enough.)

Anyone can throw some snazzy charts and graphs onto a page. And some bosses are really impressed with snazzy charts and graphs—a few times. And the truth is, sometimes the starting point has to be showing some suits that yes, Virginia, an un-ignorable number of people are talking about us on the internet.

But until you can evolve from the social media version of a reporting squirrel into an Insights Ninja…you can probably be replaced by an intern with a really good grasp of cut-and-paste. And unless the higher-ups or clients are going to take action based on the insights you’re pulling from monitoring social media, then you could probably find a better use for your time than chronicling their customers’ joys and frustrations for your own amusement.

So many people are jumping into “social media,” and that’s great. If you want to move from traditional marketing, or even a totally unrelated field, into social media—the barriers to entry are relatively low. This isn’t brain surgery—but it does require you to use your brain.

So here’s where we have to step off of the yellow brick road of step-by-step instructions. This is where you have to figure stuff out on your own. What’s important in all this flood of information? What’s actionable? What next steps would you recommend for the actionable stuff? What’s a format for conveying that to the decision-makers in your organization?

All stuff you’re going to have to determine on your own, bippy.

Like I said, welcome to the jungle.


To check out the first chapter of the Quick ‘n Dirty Guide to Social Media Monitoring, go here.  

For part deux, click here.


About the Author

Kat French

Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.