What’s the Best Social Media Monitoring Tool? It Depends

Until fairly recently, keeping track of your organization’s online presence was relatively easy. Other than your company’s website, most mentions were likely in well-known online news sites or trade industry publication sites. Your PR team was aware of most of these as it often had a hand in generating those placements. A simple tool like Google Alerts would pick up most stray citations.

No more. The explosion of social media has led to a corresponding need for more sophisticated monitoring tools that can crawl the hundreds of social networking and bookmarking sites and millions of blogs across the globe. A rapidly proliferating collection of tools are being developed to meet the need. You can find a list of more than 150 social media monitoring tools here or close to 200 here, but—that can seem overwhelming. For those short on time and seeking a shorter list of tools to evaluate, below are nine tools at various price levels that may or may not be the best but are certainly among the most popular and capable social media monitoring tools currently available.

Budget: $0 (I have no budget, I need something free!)

Alterian SM2 Freemium

Though limited (in terms of filters, number of search terms and results) in comparison to the fee-based version of the tool, SM2 Freemium is still an excellent tool for getting a snapshot of your social media landscape—discovering who’s talking about you, your competitors and your industry, what they’re saying, and where they are saying it. Results can be exported to Excel for further sorting and analysis. I’ve used this tool on behalf of small clients for finding hundreds of key influencers on Twitter, blogs and various other social networking sites and forums. The only caveat is that this may whet your appetite for the full version (see below).

UPDATE February 21, 2012: The Freemium version disappeared from the Alterian site. When I inquired about it, I received this response: “Thank you for your question. Alterian (acquired by SDL on January 27, 2012) no longer offers the Freemium version of SM2 online. If you are interested in licensing our product, the initial license fee starts at $18,000 per year.”

Social Mention

Another excellent free tool for finding relevant influencers across the social media sphere, Social Mention is a real-time social search engine that also provides alerts and a cool buzz-monitoring widget you can add to your website or blog. If Google Alerts had been developed with a focus on social media, this would be it. This tool is fast, easy to use, and offers a useful set of filters for finding mentions of a company or topic in specific types of social interaction (e.g. blogs, microblogging sites, social networks, etc.).

Budget: Under $500 per month


An easy-to-use, graphically rich tool that provides monitoring (who’s talking about you, your competitors, key industry terms and trends, etc., and where they are talking about it), sentiment analysis, and collaboration tools for acting on the information. It may not catch everything, but it finds a lot (via blogs, Twitter, social news sites and Facebook public pages) and presents the information through useful charts and graphs. Several pricing options are available, most under $500 per month.


Along with the monitoring and alert features you’d expect, Trackur also includes a proprietary algorithm for displaying the influence and reach of individuals discussing your brand or topic—so you can focus on power users and ignore trolls and spammers. Andy Beal and his team have built a nice tool that’s garnered favorable reviews from TechCrunch and other prominent tech sites. As with UberVU, several pricing / service levels are available under $500 per month.

Budget: $500-1,000 per month

Social Media Monitoring

Alterian SM2

The fee-based version of SM2 does everything the freemium version does plus providing unlimited searches and results, filters, boolean search strings and alerts. Its monitoring covers blogs, message boards, forums, microblogging sites, wikis, media sharing sites, social networks, online classifieds and review sites. SM2 provides enough social media monitoring power to be relied upon by some fairly large brands, at a price point affordable to midsized and even socially active smaller companies.


Popular with agencies as well as corporate users, Radian6 offers a rich set of tools for social media monitoring, responding, tracking, benchmarking and analytics. The Radian6 Dashboard enables you to monitor conversations in real time, while the Engagement Console lets you respond directly or route posts to appropriate individuals or teams and analyze the results of social media interactions.

Traditional PR + Social Media Monitoring


Cision combines its own PR tracking capabilities built on the former Bacon’s clipping service (older PR pros, you may need to explain to your younger counterparts what a “clipping service” was back in the day) with a white-labeled version of Radian6 to provide markets and PR professionals with a 360-degree view of brand mentions and trends across traditional and social media. Cision’s tools are designed to help organizations of almost any size that are active in PR and social media relations “plan their stories, connect with audiences, monitor media coverage and analyze results.”


Vocus provides a rich set of tools for traditional and social media monitoring, media outreach and news distribution. The company’s built-from-the-ground-up monitoring tools cover more than 50,000 traditional media outlets, every major social media site and 20 million blogs. Its database of 270,000 U.S. / 500,000 global media contacts is invaluable for connecting with the right writers and performing effective outreach. Through PRWeb, which Vocus acquired in 2006, it offers extensive news distribution and tracking capabilities. Social media monitoring can be purchased separately for $3000 per year (putting that tool effectively in the $0-500 per month category) though most users combine at least a subset of the PR tools with this.

Budget: We don’t need no stinkin’ budget

Nielsen BuzzMetrics

If you’re familiar with terms like product placement and slotting fees, and your brand is familiar to consumers through prime time TV advertising, you should probably evaluate this tool. If all of those things are true and your company is social media savvy, there’s a good chance you’re already using it. Nielsen’s monitoring covers more than 100 million blogs, social networking sites, discussion boards and other sites where consumers can post content. It provides capabilities for capturing customer insights, response, brand management and social media outreach tracking. Forrester Research has named Nielsen a leader in brand monitoring solutions, saying “the vendor has the strongest strategic vision and currently competes at a scale unmatched by any other competitor.”

These tools are among the best for social media monitoring, whatever your budget and needs. But, as noted above, the social media monitoring space is highly dynamic, with new tools and improvements to existing tools constantly being introduced. If I overlooked your favorite tool, leave a comment below.

Also, as a test—since this post is about social monitoring tool vendors, let’s see how many of them promote it or respond to it, either with a comment here or on other social media outlets, and how quickly they do so.

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  3. Hi Melissa – no, Sysomos is a new one to me, but I will definitely check it out and include in a future post. Thanks for the heads-up!

  4. I’m actually looking at engaging with Radian 6 and will definitely post back with my take if it works well. The agency I work for is going into social marketing more and more and we definitely need a tool that offers real analytics and insights.

  5. Hi Tom – Radian6 is a popular, well-regarded tool. A number of new ones keep entering the market as well. I’ll have an update in a “cool tools” post next month.

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  8. Thanks Mark, glad you enjoyed it. As far as the difficulties with advanced search on Social Mention, I’d ping them on Twitter (@socialmention), see if they can resolve the issue.

  9. Hi Erik, thanks for stopping by and the recommendation. Viralheat sounds like a monitoring tool worth checking out.

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  11. Thanks for the great info. As a business owner myself,I agree that it is very important to keep track of the social media for news and roumours about your company. The free tools mentioned above will help small businesses like us keep a tab on competition. Thanks for the info.

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  13. Yes, social media monitoring tools will pick up and report on whatever criteria you set up – a company name, product name, or specific search phrase.

  14. That’s a really comprehensive list of tools you have listed, and I am tempted to give the freemium one a try, since I am currently on a very low budget and probably will spend most of it hiring a seo expert to help out.

  15. I have a webinar scheduled with Vocus tomorrow and i am really excited to see what they have to offer. I saw that it costs $3000 per year for using Vocus. Is it that they dont have a monthly option or it costs that much cumulatively?

    Thanks for the list though. It looks great!

    P.S : Neilsen Buzzmetric link is dead I guess I am getting a 404 error.

  16. Hi Sanjay – my understanding is that Vocus requires an annual contract (and doesn’t offer free trials) due the setup effort and cost required on their end. You may want to double-check on this and may be able to negotiate something, but that is the latest info I have. Also, thanks for the heads-up on the Neilsen links, I will remove those. Frustrating when an organization of that size can’t figure out how to use a 301 redirect. :-\