What Social Media Monitoring Won’t Get You

by Jason Falls |

Companies, brands and their respective marketing and public relations managers are clamoring to know what people are saying about them on the web. I would offer that social media monitoring has been the single-largest technology-based industry boom in the last 10 years, though search engine optimization firms might win that title.

Facebook, Inc.
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On a parallel path, Facebook has surged past everyone else to emerge as the go-to social network. Brands grabbed up profiles, then group pages, now brand pages. Some still have all three. (You probably ought to move to the brand page exclusively, by the way.) Naturally, then, marketing managers wanting to tap into the conversation online are ultra-interested in conversations on Facebook. Unfortunately, the aren’t seeing them.

Almost all the social media monitoring services mine Facebook for data and present results when they happen. Unfortunately, Facebook is still a bit of a walled garden and a good portion of the activity there goes unseen and unreported by the monitoring firms. While my friends with several monitoring firms report they’re seeing an increase in volume of data from Facebook, they also agree there’s a lot more there to be had someday.

Facebook’s terms of service and technical firewalls only allow monitoring firms to search public-facing pages, discussions and Facebook groups. This means a public facing brand page wall should show up in your monitoring service’s results, taking care of what you already know. (Assuming, that is, you look at your own Facebook brand page.) When you post something on an individual person’s wall, the monitoring services don’t see it. While the wall is public, users can set their privacy so that only friends see it. This essentially means an individual public wall is actually semi-private.

Unfortunately for brands this is where the majority of Facebook conversations take place.

This is why the recent Microsoft announcement that it would soon include status updates from Facebook and Twitter posts in results on Bing is so interesting. Facebook has long wanted its members to be comfortable sharing more of their information publicly. With the Beacon advertising fiasco, however, they learned the majority of the users weren’t ready for the curtains to be drawn back on their online rooms. The Bing announcement means more of our information will be made available to public searches, and thus to the monitoring firms as well.

This is good for brands. It may not be all that comfortable for individuals. But I would anticipate Facebook learned it’s lesson and will baby step toward opening the door so wide.

Until those status update gates are unlocked, don’t expect to see too many conversations about your brands on Facebook showing up in your social media monitoring service. It’s not their fault, though. It’s just Facebook looking out for its users … whether they really want to or not.


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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).