Monday October 18, 2010
For large business, paid monitoring tools like Radian6 and others seem to offer a lot of powerful features to track online reputation and engage in social media conversations about their brand. But for those just starting out in the online monitoring world, free tools are an easy way to learn about what people are saying about your brand or within your industry. For brand managers, here are four simple tools that provide some interesting insights into what people are saying online:
Using the free Social Mention tool, with one click you can easily scour the Internet for every mention of a keyword or brand name. You receive each keyword alert separately via email, and each keyword mention has platform-specific icons next to them which is incredibly helpful if you want to focus on exclusively on what's happening on Twitter, Blogs or Flickr – which is a need I often have. Facebook page updates are included, but I’ve never seen a LinkedIn mention. Here's how it helps me:
- It’s powerful and seems to catch every single brand mention for brands that I monitor;
- It's easy to create a keyword alert using their incredibly simple web interface. Although it is tricky to find the link to remove the alert, which are at the bottom of the specific alert email. There isn’t a Manage Your Alerts section on their site that I have found;
- The unique icons for each different social platform make it easy to see the context within the data you are viewing;
- No "bold face" font showing where your keywords appeared in the mention. This is one area where Google Alerts still excels.
- Results are displayed by date and time, not by platform. This is keeping with Social Mention's theme of providing "real-time" results. Viewing results for each platform individually would be quite helpful.
After falling in love with this tool several months ago, I started receiving a multitude of daily email alerts. To help keep my email inbox less cluttered I now set some alerts for daily emails, some for weekly ones. Setting an alert to Weekly collects more data and works well when you don't need to track in real time. Also the weekly option is good for less popular terms since it gives the data time to accumulate.
For the client phrases that I track using Social Mention, I am usually finding out about news in their industry before most of their internal managers hear about it, which allows me to either be able to alert them to the information, or at least be ready to launch new web content to address trending topics.
When someone Unfollows you on Twitter you want to know about it, right? Receiving a daily email that shows who follows (and especially who unfollows) my Twitter account was why I started using NutshellMail. It's great to be alerted to who unfollows, especially if was a mistake and they didn't actually mean to unfollow you. Receiving alerts via email suits my habits since I review emails first thing every morning. Each new follower or unfollower that is shown has an icon underneath their image showing whether I follow that account or not. Want to get the attention of recent unfollowers? Try out NutshellMail's cute web-based feature that lets them know you’ve unfollowed them back. Some of the other reasons that this is my favorite social media tracking tool:
- Easy to add twitter searches for specific keywords. Twitter keyword searches are an easy way to find people tweeting about your region or specialty, and makes tracking trending topics a snap;
- Shows status updates of people in your lists and lists you follow;
- All via one daily email - how easy and simple can you get?
NutshellMail was recently bought by Constant Contact and the NutshellMail team has added several powerful features such as providing your contacts LinkedIn and Facebook status updates within the same daily email. Also they now offer email alerts for Facebook Business Page activity.
From the company that created the best way to deliver search results comes the original free monitoring tool. This is the tool that started it all. I used to recommend this to all brand managers who wanted to get started with online monitoring. But now I recommend Social Mention (see below) as the first choice in free monitoring. A few pros and cons of Google alerts:
- It's an old tool that hasn’t improved much over time;
- Has a solid web interface to manage your alerts;
- A clean layout makes it easy to read the info, and easily see how to manage (add/remove/edit) your alerts. A bold-face font shows you where your keyword appears in the alert. But the data itself isn’t that easy to understand. The relevance is poor at least for the short keywords I use. It just doesn't seem to prioritize info from "good" webpages so what you get is a long list without much context;
- It seems to search primarily standard webpages, and is not so great with social platforms.
As with most things Google, with a little more fiddling I think Google Alerts could be a useful tool. Using quotes could help with gathering more relevant data. But with Social mention and other easier-to-use options now available, I suggest using this as a secondary option if at all. Moving on....
Workstreamer is a powerful free tool for "listening" to your competition. It makes it easy to track the online activities of your company and also your competitors. It is based on individual Company name not keywords. So far with the companies I track I'm seeing mostly job postings. But in just the few months that I've been using it Workstreamer has improved the data quality, to include more info from all around the web. Some of my favorite features:
- A powerful website interface. Although the navigation approach takes some getting used to, it's worth it to receive such interesting information.
- Email option - receive alerts via email (or RSS).
- You can easily add (or "start listening to") your own company, and also your competitors. If the company is too small or not active online it isn’t as easy to add it.
- Offers information from LinkedIn, Facebook, Jigsaw and SalesForce
Sign up now for this great competitive intelligence tool, it looks like the free option may not last long.
I hope you'll take a few of these tools for a test spin. I use most of them daily and I constantly find new insights about my clients' online reputation, their competitors, and trending topics in niche industries. Do you have a favorite paid or free online monitoring tool? Or, if you've used some of these, how have they helped you? I would love to learn about your experiences – please leave a comment below.