Social Media Monitoring is all the buzz. There are some amazing tools out there with price tags that run the gamut. There are few that provide interesting results.
And while we hate to be the bearers of bad news, none is good enough on its own.
Just add thinking
Social monitoring tools (and even manual searching) provide you with results based on your query. Once you clean for spam and relevance, you have great fodder for insight, right?
Well, wait a second there bucko. Who decided on the query? What was it based on? Is it thorough? Too broad? Biased by the query creator?
Unless you’re really different than most, the answer is that the query might not cut the mustard. (We both hate mustard, by the way.)
What to consider?
Language and sources
- Does your query language mesh with your consumers’ language? Or is it industry language?
- Have you done broad searching and reading to test some broader concepts and language? Are there additional keywords and concepts that might be in the conversation?
- Are there consistent irrelevant results that you can exclude by changing your queries?
- Are there sources that your system of choice does not cover well? Can you add them?
- Do you have the right tool for you? While we love so many of the tools out there, we contend that each is best at something. Is that something what you care about most? Text analytics for theme analysis? Categorization of like results? Filtering by learning your preferences? It’s also interesting (to geeks like us) to note that while there is duplication of results between various tools, each tool does bring in results that others don’t. Does that mean you should use more than one tool? Perhaps. It depends on what you’re trying to capture.
- Are you getting too many results to find meaning in them? Perhaps smaller query sets, but more of them, would provide easier access to trends and knowledge.
- Have you tried your searches with other tools? Experimented with broad concepts in free tools to help inform your ongoing strategy?
You might ask what the best tools are. We have opinions, but haven’t tried all of the several hundred choices out there. (But we’ve tried a lot!) Though we don’t believe we’ve yet read the perfect article that describes what we think are the best, here is a link to a search showing results that you’ll find useful. And this Forrester report from 3rd quarter might be a good nighttime read.
The hardest part for many to understand at the onset of a monitoring or listening program is that while technology is wonderful and has taken incredible strides that were beyond our imaginations when we started doing monitoring by hand over seven years ago, no tool can give you what you need without human intervention, tuning, and regular attention. We talk to people in the industry all the time and have never gotten disagreement on this. But yet, many expect to plug and play. Sadly, it’s not reality.
Is this providing actionable learning?
It all starts with your goals. What is it you want out of the monitoring equation? There’s oh so very much you can discover once you start digging. But what you find and what you find relevant to your ultimate goals might well be two very different things.
So, that’s where you start – with your goals. What are your monitoring goals?
- Are you monitoring your brand to be able to provide great customer service?
- Are you monitoring and gathering intelligence for new business prospecting purposes?
- Are you looking to gain insight into consumers’ language and thoughts?
- Are you monitoring for competitive analysis purposes?
- Are you monitoring for every day brand awareness and mentions, so that you can potentially get out in front of any potential crises that might occur?
- Are you monitoring a specific campaign to see what kind of results it’s delivering so that you can tweak and modify accordingly?
- Are you monitoring because you care what people think, say or need?
Yes. That last one above, that’s the clincher. The key to success is about so much more than just monitoring the online space for brand mentions. And this is the part that jazzes both of us.
It’s about context
What people are saying in the context of everyday life matters so much – and is so rarely taken into consideration. The morph to social networks and the rapid adoption of social behavior tells us something important. People want to belong. They look for connections, like-mindedness, kinship and the comfortable feeling that comes with being with people they have something in common with.
That’s where so many brands – and monitoring tools – fail. They fail to consider context and how integral it is to the process of even remotely understanding what makes a human being tick – and what might resonate with them. And they fail to understand that without having people as part of the monitoring and analysis process, the results you think you get might not be relevant at all.
When you care about context, and we do, you look beyond the queries, the semantics, the numbers and the results that just deliver brand mentions. You look for patterns. You look for similarities. You look for the little threads that you can weave together that can lead to things you might’ve never considered, were it not for that thread – that pattern. That nugget that you had to dig for, but which, once discovered, makes all the sense in the world.
Humans comprise the social landscape. And humans – not algorithms – are what ultimately make the process that is social media monitoring and intelligence gathering valuable. Or not. Want to use social media monitoring and really get great value out of it? It’s really ridiculously easy.
Here’s our advice
Include humans in the process. Data in and of itself, without interpretation and analysis of people who are looking for the right things, isn’t really all that valuable. Believe it.
Focus less on the tools than on the people. People are driving the data. Pay attention to what they say, where they say it, and a myriad of other things. Context is infinitely more important than ever.
Take what you discover, from looking at the data, at the context in which the data was discovered and the nuances of those conversations — and make that the basis of your analysis — not numbers. Pay attention to the people, the patterns and the little details. Care enough to listen to what they are telling you.
This isn’t groundbreaking, revolutionary thinking, people. It’s the same thing we learned from our teachers, from the earliest days of the educational process on — listening is key. Paying attention is key.
When brands think less about what they’ll do, produce, provide, etc., For people and more about what they’ll do as the result of listening to, engaging with, trading ideas with and putting people and data into context, we’ll naturally see better relationships, better ideas and, finally, better products and services.
So there you have it. Should you use monitoring tools to monitor the Internet for brand mentions? Absolutely? Are some tools better than others? Sure – it depends on what you’re looking for and your budget allocation.
But the real secret sauce – make sure you integrate humans and human analyses – along with the context of online conversations – into the equation. Then, and only then, will you really be positioned to do things that matter with the information, patterns, feedback, thoughts and ideas that have come about as a result.
Wendy Goldman Scherer is a partner of The Social Studies Group, a social media research firm she founded in 1996. They provide primary research and geographic information services, news aggregation and monitoring. What Wendy loves most is social media research. Her focus for clients for many years has been on monitoring, reporting, building custom knowledge dashboards and virtual ethnography reporting.
Shelly Kramer is the CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing, a full service digital communications agency. She is a marketer, strategist, content creator, speaker and social media savvy geek focused on new media and all forms of digital comms and marketing. To the astonishment of her many mathematics professors, she’s also become partial to stats, numbers, analyses and measurement of all kinds.