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Posted on 07.28.2011

How to Monitor Social Media for Your Business

Are you ready to hear what people are saying about your business online? Monitoring social media can be a daunting process unless you know the right tools to use. Here are some of our favorites: Search Engines: Sometimes it's as simple as typing in your company name into the major search engines and looking through the results. Most search engines, such as Google or Bing, have a NEWS option allowing searches for current news on any topic. If you don't feel like Googling your company on a daily basis, set up Google Alerts instead. Google will search news sites, blogs, forums, and most other places on the web and email you whenever your company is mentioned. Another option for more advanced scouring of forums and discussion boards is to use a service such as BoardTracker. Twitter Tools: Google previously displayed current tweets for searched subjects in its NEWS results but has discontinued providing that service. Google also does a poor job of providing mentions from Twitter in its Google Alerts emails. One solution for this is to use the actual Twitter search engine or the search field on Twitter itself. Another option would be to set up a service similar to Google alerts but specific to Twitter called Twilert. The best option, in my opinion, is to use TweetDeck. TweetDeck is free desktop software that can continuously search Twitter for mentions of your company name and alert you with a desktop pop-up immediately whenever someone tweets about your company. (Learn more from this article on maximizing your TweetDeck alert system.) Assuming you already have a Twitter account set-up, you can respond immediately to mentions directly from TweetDeck and avoid having to open a browser. RSS Feeds: Getting a bit more advanced, another option for monitoring social mentions of your company is to set up a social media monitoring station using an RSS reader. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and allows you to pull a specific feed of information from different sources and display it in a single location (RSS reader) for review. There are many free RSS readers available, I tend to use Google Reader. RSS can be difficult to understand but I like to think of it as a blank newspaper (RSS reader) that fills up daily with all the newest stories from the sources that you choose (feeds). As you read through each story, it is automatically marked read and archived (unless you choose to save it or share it, which are both easily done with most RSS readers). You know there is an RSS feed available when you see the RSS symbol as shown here. It is almost always orange but can be different colors. All blogs and search engines have feeds available. So now you can return to Google NEWS or Twitter's search engine, type your company name in the search field as you did before, and then grab the RSS feed for this search. Another option would be to set up an RSS feed from the service (sometimes buggy) SocialMention, a site that attempts to search all social media services, or from the reputation management search engine SamePoint. Now, whenever new results from these searches are available, they are placed into your RSS reader for quick review. You may also want to consider setting up feeds to monitor different subjects in LinkedIn Answers or for Quora questions, major blogs concerning your industry, and your competition's blogs and news rooms. Influence Checkers: Once you start receiving results for mentions of your company, you'll want to know the amount of influence held by the people doing the talking. Each person, blog, and/or news site online has a certain amount of influence that can vary immensely. Finding a negative article about your company on a blog read by 10 people a month is much different than finding a negative article about your company on a blog read by 10,000 a day. Services such as Compete or Quantcast can be used to measure and compare a site's effectiveness. Klout can be used to measure the influence of specific online individuals. Highly influential people will have Klout scores above 50. This isn't to say, though, that users falling below 50 should be ignored! Paid services: All the services listed above are available for free, but don't be fooled; there is a cost. The cost comes in many forms including your time, lack of capabilities, and overall lack of results.  I've used the above services for years but have recently been working with paid platforms such as Radian6, Vocus, Cision, and Meltwater's Buzz. Paid platforms are going to provide a single interface to review all of the above information and more. They will also provide information on the overall sentiment concerning a certain comment or topic. This is a quick way to see if the general conversation concerning your company is positive or negative, before digging into individual mentions. I've found that paid platforms save me time and locate mentions that I would have missed using the free services above. Another option is to hire a PR and Communications firm already experienced in using these tools, to monitor your company for you. The added benefit here is a good communications firm will recommend appropriate responses when knowing what to say becomes unclear. This helps to ensure the company messaging stays consistent across all mediums. There are plenty of options for monitoring mentions of your business online. Listening, however, is only the first step. Are you ready to start engaging your customers online? Are you ready to start influencing the conversation?  

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