From real-time customer service to reputation management and competitive intelligence, B2B marketers are quickly discovering the powerful and versatile effects of social media. With interactive marketing forecasts projecting social media spend to outpace all other types of online marketing at a compound annual growth rate of 34% from 2009 to 2014, and research indicating 86% of B2B firms use social media, it's clear social media has become a key component of any online marketing program.
A recent co-sponsored study by Business.com and BtoB Online of more than 450 B2B marketers showed 97% of online marketers currently use at least one social media resource; however, when it comes to measuring social media efforts, only 47% of marketers are currently using a social media monitoring tool.
Clearly, the measurement of social media lags behind its adoption. But, as social media focus and spend continues to trend upward, proper measurement will become essential for justifying and growing future social media budgets.
Business.com wants to help B2B marketers make more informed decisions when it comes to choosing the proper social media monitoring solution to help measure and optimize their social media strategy. We've compiled a list of some of the most popular social media monitoring tools on the market and included product summaries, user feedback and a clear- cut comparison chart to guide you through the decision-making process.
In this whitepaper, we'll cover:
- General guidelines and key questions designed to help you select the right social media monitoring tool
- The most common free and paid social media monitoring tools Recommendations and additional considerations to best guide you toward selecting the right tool or mix of tools
Whether you're a small to mid-sized business with a limited budget and resources or a large agency with numerous client reputations to monitor; this report will connect you with the right tool for your business. We suggest marketers begin the process of tool selection by asking:
Who – Who within the company will be using this tool? Will you be the primary user, or are you an agency looking to also share access with a client? Will the primary user need an intuitive interface, or can they handle the more complex, tech-savvy systems? Taking a moment to reflect on who will use the tool can help you determine the best option based on ease-of-use, system design and requirements for multiple user licenses.
What – What key performance indicators (KPIs) will you be measuring using this tool? Knowing specifically how you're going to measure and benchmark your social media efforts is an integral part of a social media monitoring tool decision. If sales revenue is a key KPI, you'll want to invest in a tool that integrates with your CRM system to best help you track impact. If metrics like numbers of retweets and Web site activity are more important, a Twitter-specific tool might be in order.
Where – Where on the Web are you currently engaging, and where do you plan to monitor social media conversation? If you're only focused on specific channels like Twitter or Facebook, then you may be best suited with a tool specifically designed for these channels. If you're looking for an all-encompassing tool to monitor mentions across the Web, then you might opt for a more general tool that also monitors new sites, forums and more.
When – When do you want to be alerted of conversations and mentions? Daily? Weekly? In real-time? Will a general reporting dashboard suffice, or do you want to receive notification via E-mail alerts or RSS feeds? Establishing preferences for your reporting and clients, if relevant, will help drive tool selection.
Why – Probably the most important of questions: Why are you engaging in social media? To manage online brand reputation? To engage with clients and potential customers? To provide real-time customer service? Or, to drive traffic to your Web site and influence SEO?
Knowing 'Why' will help you determine whether you need a tool that allows you to both monitor all online channels and engage with the online community and establishes the level of reporting and keyword information required. It can even help you identify whether a combination of tools is necessary.
Once a company has clearly defined these parameters, it's important to compare social media monitoring tools and create a shortlist of the top tools that fit the criteria specified above. To assist marketers with shortlist creation, we've detailed key features of some of the top free and paid social media monitoring tools on the market.
What it is: Social Mention is a social media search engine that aggregates user-generated content from more than 100 channels across the Web into a comprehensive dashboard. With Social Mention, you can search by keyword or phrase and refine your search by social media channels of interest such as blogs, social networks, news outlets, online question-and-answer (Q&A) communities and more.
Reporting features: An easy-to-understand dashboard featuring sentiment analysis, top keywords associated with your brand or search term, identification of social media reach and top influencers in the space who are talking about your brand. Social Mention also pulls in articles, videos and other user-generated content mentioning your brand.
Feedback: For a free tool, it's one of the best on the market, but it doesn't provide depth or trending beyond a month. James Chai, an agency marketer for real estate clients, has used Social Mention in the past for clients and said it's easy to set up and a great tool for smaller- sized companies that aren't engaging on social media channels on an enterprise level.
What it is: TweetBurner is a URL shortener that lets you track specific link activity on Twitter and FriendFeed.
Reporting features: Provides basic link-sharing statistics for Twitter and FriendFeed including number of clicks on a shared particular link and click-through-rate (CTR).
Feedback: A basic tool worth testing if your primary social media focus is Twitter. For more robust reporting and a more comprehensive tool to both monitor and manage your Twitter accounts, check out Hootsuite.
What it is: Hootsuite is a social media management solution that allows you to monitor multiple social media networks and directly engage with your online community from the same user interface. It provides basic reporting on your brand's social media presence and lets you publish to social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MySpace, and WordPress.
Reporting features: Hootsuite allows you to analyze the CTR of embedded URLs, click volume, retweets/shares and presents reporting and metrics in an easy-to-read tab format that's customizable. Reporting features include geographical and referrer information and can be broken out by time, URL or social media resource. Hootsuite features clickable HashTags, allowing you to access all Twitter Search information. You can also organize Twitter streams and segment your Twitter community through lists. When publishing to social media channels, you can also upload files and photos, schedule tweets in advance and save messages as drafts.
Feedback: A great time saver for those managing multiple social media accounts and looking to do so from one interface or with shared responsibility among multiple employees. Although Hootsuite monitors many major social media channels, it is not a comprehensive social media monitoring tool and lacks the ability to include information on YouTube, Q&A sites and forums.
Cristina Caldera, Business.com‟s social media manager, uses Hootsuite to manage Business.com's Facebook and Twitter accounts. “I‟m a fan of [Hootsuite's] easy-to-use interface. I can easily schedule tweets for the week, create new streams to monitor keywords, and engage with my online community. I especially like the filter selection which allows me to easily sort tweets based on individual Klout score or by keyword,” said Caldera.
What it is: Google alerts is a free tool that enables you to set up automatic E-mail updates for particular keywords, topics, brand or competitor names that appear in Google's most recent search results. You can choose the social media channels you want to monitor in addition to news and video sites, discussions and forums.
Reporting features: Customizable E-mail alert schedule (e.g., real-time, daily, weekly, etc.); Featuring 20 or 50 results per E-mail.
Feedback: Jason Falls, a social media and digital marketing consultant and author of the Social Media Explorer blog, said Google Alerts is a great free tool for those who want to keep up-to-date on mentions and news about their particular company or product. While Google Alerts is a great way monitoring tool, it lacks reporting and quantifiable metrics to contextualize all reported conversations.
www.trackur.com – Basic free version; paid version ranges from $18 to $400 per month
What it is: Trackur lets you scan all the major social media channels as well as news sites, videos, images and forums by a topic, keyword or brand. Trackur's free version allows for one saved keyword search; additional saved searches with more robust reporting options are available through a monthly package.
Reporting Features: Trackur's easy-to-read dashboard displays mentions, conversations and articles for your saved keyword search. You can refine searches by social media channel and include additional keyword parameters or exclude specific domains from your search. Trackur does not provide automated sentiment categorization, which allows users to see not only what the conversations are about, but whether or not the conversation sentiment is positive, negative or neutral. Without the automated sentiment analysis, Trackur users have to manually tag conversations and mentions "positive," "negative," or "neutral." Trackur offers multiple user licenses and lets users bookmark or save searches or tasks for future action.
Feedback: If you're looking for a tool that lets you monitor conversations about your brand and is easy to use, Trackur is an affordable option for all company sizes. Companies that rely heavily on sentiment analysis may find Trackur a bit more manual and cumbersome - lack of automated sentiment analysis will require them to manually tag each conversation.
www.scoutlabs.com – From $249 to $749 per month
What it is: Scout Labs lets you set up keyword searches for your particular brand, product, competitor or industry to track activity and conversation across more than 100 million major social media channels, news sites, blogs, forums, photo and video-sharing sites.
Reporting Features: This intuitive dashboard provides a snapshot of mentions and sentiment by week and month and share of voice. It easily digests conversations by presenting frequent words, buzz metrics and features an easy-to-understand sentiment graph. Users are able to override auto-selected sentiment if they disagree with system tags.
Graphs are customizable, interactive and allow you to drill-down into individual data points. Scout Labs offers multiple user licenses for work flow management and shared reporting; you can save assignments for follow up and delegate specific tasks among users.
Feedback: Ken Okumura, director of business strategy at Itizen.com, is familiar with Scout Labs. “Scout Labs is a cost-effective solution for research and discovery about topics and mentions,” he said. Overall, Scout Labs is a robust tool that's great for real-time information on conversations and keywords associated with a company or brand. Pricing depends on the number of user-specified searches.
www.meltwaterbuzz.com – Annual subscription $13,000
What it is: Meltwater Buzz monitors more than 200 million of the major social media channels, blogs, micro-blogs, forums, video and photo Web sites, product reviews and user- generated content sites to provide a comprehensive picture of company presence, influence and sentiment across the Web.
Reporting features: The tool offers intuitive charts and dashboards that provide data by day, keyword, channel, conversation, sentiment, influencers and more. Meltwater Buzz provides data on top influencers/brand advocates for your industry or your product and a visual mapping of the most commonly used terms associated with a brand, product or competitor. You can also compare brand performance to competitors for overall market share of voice. All charts and graphs are interactive and allow for geographic, demographic and sentiment-specific drill down. Automated sentiment tags can be overridden.
Meltwater Buzz offers multiple user licenses and lets you save tasks for future assignment among team members, and you can set up automated report sends to non-users and license holders – like clients.
Feedback: Comes with a dedicated account manager to assist you and help you get the most out of the tool; automated E-mail alert creation for non-users allow you to easily send clients reporting to keep them in the know. This tool is recommended for agencies managing client accounts who are particularly interested in competitive analysis and identifying key brand influencers and brand advocates.
www.radian6.com – Starts at $600 per month for Dashboard & Engagement Console
What it is: Radian6's Dashboard and Engagement Console products, when paired, allow you to monitor, measure and engage with the social media community. Radian6 aggregates content from more than 100 million social media sites including blogs, forums, online news, rich media and social networking sites. The Engagement Console is a complete, real-time Web client that allows you to manage Twitter and Facebook accounts directly from the interface.
Reporting features: Extensive, customizable reporting with more than 50 reports ranging from basic metrics (e.g., vote count, Twitter followers, etc.) to more advanced data including analysis of influencers, popular keywords and competitive comparisons. Reporting and graphs are customizable and interactive; users can also choose from more than 40 preconfigured widgets that allow for drill down by social media channel, demographic and geographic data, language and engagement statistics.
Radian6 offers both real-time and long-range historical data to help establish trends and understand metrics over time and can be integrated with Salesforce.com and Webtrends to better integrate online marketing efforts. Radian6 also offers multiple user licenses and allows you to tag and assign posts, comments or mentions for future assignment among team members. The Engagement Console lets you update Twitter and Facebook in real-time.
Feedback: Subscription includes a dedicated account manager. The comprehensive package with Dashboard and Engagement Console allows you to monitor all social media channels and directly manage Twitter and Facebook accounts. Salesforce.com and Webtrends integration allow for a more cohesive online marketing program and provide your sales team insight into client and customer interactions and brand sentiments. Okumura has had a positive experiences using Radian6 for clients. "Radian6 gives you good coverage, strong workflow, but most importantly an influencer algorithm that you can adjust," he said.
www.vocus.com – Starts at about $3,000 per year
What it is: Vocus Social Media Monitoring Software lets you monitor more than 20 million of the most influential blogs, and other major social media sites for key influencers, overall brand sentiment and industry trends. Users can integrate social media monitoring and metrics with traditional coverage through combined use with Vocus Public Relations software.
Reporting features: Includes standard dashboards, charts and word clouds displaying the most popular conversation keywords and trends. Vocus offers robust reporting and analysis for blogs and automated sentiment analysis to manage your online brand reputation. The reports and dashboards are customizable and allow you to identify and rank influencers as well as filter results by social media channel or blog. Multiple user licenses are available.
Feedback: For marketers who rely heavily on blog-specific conversations, its scope of more than 20 million blogs makes this product a wise choice. Word cloud reporting allows for easy identification of new and existing keywords that can be valuable for uncovering customer language or for building search marketing keyword lists. High-profile brands expecting to monitor more than 30,000 conversations per year may need to upgrade to the 120,000 mention package.
Pat Heffernan, president of Marketing Partners, Inc., has been helping clients with social media programs for the past few years and has used Vocus. Heffernan says she likes Vocus for the reporting and project ranking features; however she finds maintaining proprietary lists and updating the database can be cumbersome processes, and the interface itself can sometimes be less than intuitive.
www.sysomos.com – Starts at $500 per month
What it is: Sysomos offers two main social media monitoring products – the Media Analysis Platform (MAP) and Heartbeat. Both tools allow users to monitor conversations across all major social media networks, channels, blogs, forums, media sites, news sources, message boards, video sites and more. MAP and Heartbeat show key metrics around product buzz, identify influencers, conversation trends/sentiment and competitive trends. MAP offers unrestricted access to key influencer information, unlimited searches and an unlimited number of drill-down filters for reporting and access to data as far back as 2006.
Reporting features: Both tools provide robust reporting drill-down capabilities by industry, demographics, time period and geography and make it easy to identify key brand influencers and advocates. MAP offers full contact information to make for easier direct engagement. Sysomos also has a proprietary language processing and text analytic tool to analyze and report sentiment of conversations. You can analyze social media metrics, segment data and generate multiple reports to capture social media measurement and overall ROI. The MAP dashboard is more customizable than the Heartbeat dashboard. Users can create custom reporting and charts in both, and multiple user licenses are available for managed workflow. Heartbeat integrates with Salesforce.com.
Feedback: Falls said he finds Sysomos a moderately-priced and powerful tool. Overall, both tools offer a comprehensive solution for measuring, understanding and reporting on a brand's online sentiment and footprint. For those looking to dig deeper into historical trends and data analysis, the 2006 data window is ideal. Heartbeat‟s integration with Salesforce.com makes it easier for companies to further integrate their sales and marketing intelligence and better understand client and potential customer engagement online.
www.alterian.com – From $500 to $15,000 per month
What it is: Alterian's Social Media Monitoring Software (SM2) provides direct insight into your brand and your competitor's conversations across social media channels and international conversations. SM2 monitors all the major social media channels, blogs, and more and can be integrated with Alterian Content Manager (ACM) to directly engage with the social media community and publish content on Web sites, microsites, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
Reporting features: With SM2, you can analyze daily volume, demographics, location, sentiment, share of voice and trending keywords and organize conversations by search terms, social media channel and categories. SM2's search functionality allows you to create "buckets" of relevant keywords for reporting and trending. The report drill-down reveals additional data including the most popular keywords for a particular subject and which post generated the most inbound links. Author Tags allow you to view reporting in a Word cloud format and shows search terms people are using to tag content on social media sites. Reports and graphs are customizable, and data extends back to 2007. ACM can integrate with WebJourney and other Web analytics tools to help users analyze and quantify the impact of their social media efforts.
Multiple user licenses are available for prioritization and workflow management. You can pull reporting on team member activity and auto-assign reports to specific users based on set criteria. According to Alterian‟s Public Relations Specialist, Salesforce.com integration for SM2 is slated for Q4 2010.
Feedback: Alterian provides customized packages for agencies and enterprise-level companies that include training, analysis services, profile set-up and data scrubbing. The extended data window allows for historical trending, and their Author Tags are a valuable resource for marketers turning to social media for keyword discovery. Combined use of SM2 with the ACM tool can make for a powerful solution for marketers looking to monitor social media efforts and engage with their online community.
www.viralheat.com – From $9.99 to $89.99 per month
What it is: Viralheat is a social media monitoring tool designed for agency marketers. It lets you monitor all major social networking sites, channels, blogs, news sources, media sites message boards, video sites and more. Its real-time Web features and proprietary content aggregator allow you to discover new blogs and Web sites where brands are being mentioned.
Reporting features: Viralheat offers sentiment analysis, influencer identification and influencer analytics including identification of detractors and advocates as well as geolocation to identify where brand conversations are being held. It offers unlimited mentions, robust, exportable charts and graphs and multiple user licenses.
Feedback: Unlike the majority of other social media monitoring tools that rely on a third-party aggregator, Viralheat has its own in-house technology and content aggregator, so it can be a great complement to other tools to identify even more conversations. Plans are affordable and include Basic ($9.99/month), Professional ($29.99/month) and Business ($89.99/month), and customer service is unbeatable.
Selecting the Appropriate Social Media Monitoring Tool
Selecting which social media monitoring tool (or tools) is right for your business can be an easy process as long as you take time to clearly establish what you're hoping to accomplish by employing a social media monitoring tool. In addition to asking Who, What, Where, When and Why, marketers should also:
Consider company size and current online reach – are you a large brand that's continuously the topic of online conversation, or are you a smaller company just getting started engaging with the online community?
If it's the latter, consider starting out with a free and easy-to-use tool that will allow for general monitoring and reporting – like Social Mention. Being able to see an overview of the social media landscape is important and useful; by identifying key social media channels where customers are congregating, you'll also be able to prioritize social media channels and better allocate time and resources to fleshing out content on the most relevant channels.
Larger brands or agencies monitoring large brand conversations should consider a tool that offers unlimited mentions or a particular tool that will allow for enough mentions and results to best capture social media conversation in its entirety. Consider tools like Viralheat or Sysomos.
Consider the primary social media goal – are you most interested in using social media for branding or online reputation management, or are you hoping to boost customer engagement and lead generation?
If multiple goals are equally important, make sure to find a tool that will support all goals. For example, if Twitter is your primary social media channel and budget is tight, Hootsuite is a great option. If you're a big brand or agency that needs sophisticated reporting and multiple user licenses and can spring for a premium product, consider Radian6 or a combination of Alterian's SM2 and AMC products.
Have a budget in mind – knowing up-front how much you have to spend can be a guiding force in selection of one tool over the other. However, we caution marketers who use budget as the main decision factor for tool selection, regardless of their intended use for the tool.
With so many tools on the market and such a broad spectrum of pricing, we're confident marketers can find a tool or a combination of tools that will suit their social media goals, objectives and wallets.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match – the reality is, depending on what you're looking to accomplish, the best social media monitoring option may be a mix of tools. For example, the combined use of Google Alerts and Hootsuite provides a free method of properly scanning all conversations and activity across the Web; many social media channels have built-in reporting and resources that are also excellent options, including Twitter Search, Facebook's Insight, and more.
Many marketers, particularly agency marketers, are finding the propensity to mix and match tools to achieve multiple goals and cross-verify reporting. For example, Okumura says he often relies on the combination of Radian6 and Scout Labs to maximize clients' social media programs.
In the end, selecting the right social media monitoring tool comes down to clearly defining social media goals, understanding how you want to measure the impact and defining who will use the tool and when they'll need to access it. Whether you're a small business just dipping your toes into social media or an agency that's been offering social media marketing to clients for years, there's a social media monitoring tool, or combination of tools, that can suit your goals as well as your budget.
To read this article from Business.com, go to: http://www.business.com/info/social-media-monitoring-tools, where you can download your own copy of the report in pdf format.