Before starting a new proposal, you should be aware that the digital space provides you with a lot of information about your brand, your product, and your competitors. But… how do you organize all that data in a way that makes sense? Welcome to social media listening, or the monitoring universe.
Of course, this is a task that you can manage without any extra cost, besides your time. But you are bound to miss information, and you are going to need to invest a lot of extra time to be able to manage all those results and analyse them. You must now be thinking: “There must be a tool for that.” Well, lucky for you, you there is. And not just one, but lots of them!
So, just pick one and start monitoring!
This graph shows just a portion of the social monitoring tools available on the market, and there are more out there that aren’t included in the G2Crowd database. There is a whole universe of great platforms out there, different pricing options, functionalities, reporting… how do you choose one?
I’ve spent several hours, even years, testing and working with social media monitoring tools, from the cheapest ones to the most expensive, and let’s be honest:
I want to share my strategy to decide which is the best social media platform, based on my needs. My key factors are:
- Social Media Channels
- Quality of the results
- Technical support
Social Media Channels
You need to know that not all the monitoring tools track all the channels, as not all social media channels can be tracked easily (e.g. Facebook & LinkedIn). Evaluating your brand’s channels and where your customers are is a good starting point.. If you know that your customers are on Instagram, you need a tool that allows you to take a sneak peak there.
Quality of the results
The good thing when you are testing platforms is that with the exact same query you don’t find the same results. There are some factors involved:
- Source of the data: platforms can use platforms like GNIP or Webhose to extract the digital data, or develop their own crawler to search for it, or even use a mix of different techniques to get the data.
- Technical limitations: they can dress it up as fancy as they want, but all the monitoring platforms work with Boolean searches
These types of operators can run the searches with so many combinations that it can be too complicated for the tool. Generally, these type of platforms, limit the number of characters you can use for each query, or they limit the number of NOT parameters, or the AND parameters. You might think your query isn’t that complicated, but I dare you to search Retina (related with the eyes, not the iProducts). Of course, you can filter manually but… isn’t your time too valuable to spend one hour every day filtering irrelevant results?
At the end of the day you need to present your results in a way that you, your team, or your clients can understand all the data you are compiling. For me there are some things all monitoring tools should have:
- Number of results: breakdown by channel
- Potential reach: it is not just where they are speaking that matters, but how many people they are reaching.
- Most active users, influencers, biggest audience…
- Demographics: who are they? age? gender? where are they based (this one is especially useful when you need to monitor local actions)
- Sentiment: this one is a bit complex. Think about how many times you have misunderstandings with someone, or you don’t get the sarcasm or the joke behind their words… how is a piece of software going to handle this? They are working on it, but much remains to be done. This article explains the importance of sentiment analysis and the different ways to measure it much better than me.
All the tools I’ve tested have the same problem: the ones that are super easy to use are very limited technically, and the ones that aren’t limited are hard to use if you haven’t used tons of these platforms before. As we are based in Spain, we have specific language needs (accent marks, the ñ letter…). Many of these platforms are from foreign countries and are built in English, so they don’t have this in mind. For us it is annoying to need to put camión and camion (lorry, or truck) to be able to find both results, the ones that are spelled correctly and the ones that are misspelled. Or you have surely found yourself asking, “If I want to search for a specific user, do I need to add the @ before their Twitter handle? If I search for a keyword, is it going to also search for hashtags, or do I need to include them? So many questions… and you are there alone, with a long FAQ sheet and, if you are lucky, a chat window to help you. This can be a real time robber. Building your queries is one of the most important things in the monitoring exercise, and if you do it wrong you can miss tons of results, or spend several hours filtering irrelevant results.
Following the previous point, you need to have a fast, efficient and accessible support team for you. And if it is in real time, that’s much better. There are a lot of platforms that now include a chat functionality, which is helpful.
Last but not least, the cost is important, but it shouldn’t be your first purchasing decision maker. The price range is huge, from €50 a month to €1,500 or more per month. At this point, if you are struggling to decide between two, then decide based on price, but honestly, for me, this is the least important point.
The website I always use to help me making the decision is G2Crowd, which has reviews of lots of business software. You can see what users like most and least, and similar software, and compare them.
As I said at the beginning of the post, the perfect social media monitoring tool does not exist (yet), and the most famous one is not necessarily the best one for you. Evaluate your options, compare, test them, and then go for the one that makes you feel comfortable and is going to provide both you and your clients with added value.