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!)
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.”
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
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
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.
Tags: Alterian SM2, analytics, Andy Beal, Bacon's clipping service, Cision, Forrester Research, Google Alerts, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, pricing, PRWeb, Radian6, sentiment tracking, social media monitoring tools, Social Mention, Techrigy, Trackur, UberVU, Vocus