If you're using social media for business, you need a social media monitoring strategy. Period. Here's why and what to do about it.
Why Monitoring is Crucial
- Brand Reputation and Awareness - who's talking about you, how often, and is it positive or negative?
- Competitive Intelligence - what are your competitors up to and how are they using social media?
- Managing Your Social Media Team - who's saying what, how often, and what impacts are observed?
- Research and Development - What's new in your market or product line? What new tools or services are available?
- Return on Investment (ROI) - What impacts can you see and measure from your social media marketing efforts?
If you can't answer these questions, then you're flying blind. That may be fine if you're just experimenting with social media, but if you really want to apply it to specific goals, you will need a strategy.
Social Media Strategy and Toolkit
The bottom line is that there is a tidal wave of social media data being produced every second. You need to be able to filter this monster in a reliable, predictable way in order to glean valuable information. There is no one-size-fits-all. Your strategy and toolkit depends on your business goals, size of your market, size and experience of your team and, of course, budget. Importantly, it's not just about the toolkit. You need people assigned to the task of monitoring and policies in place to manage the flow of social media interaction. We can break the toolkit down a bit by looking at the overall scope of your social media program.
- Small Business, Entrepreneur, Freelancer or Individual. If you have a small team with a small budget and are just getting started, there are a number of free or inexpensive tools available. Here's a great guide to setting these up. Also consider Friendfeed, a social media "aggregator" that lets you combine conversations and information from a variety of social media destinations. Check these every day. They will give you a snapshot of what's going on with your brand in social media. Unfortunately, they don't work together (like a dashboard), and they aren't particularly good at analysis or reporting. For that you need to go to the next level.
- Medium-Size Business, Marketing Agency, Online Community. In this case you have available budget for more sophisticated tools allowing you to explore social media, somewhat like a search engine but with more flexibility and better analysis and reporting. At the lower end of the budget are tools like SM2, Filtrbox, Icerocket Trends and Blogpulse. You can read more about these tools here. For larger organizations, there's Radian6, Visible Technologies and Sysomos, offering sophisticated platforms for social media intelligence.
- Fortune 1000, Companies With Well-Known Brands. For this end of the spectrum, many are choosing to build their own branded communities. Their brands are powerful enough to attract thousands of members who are eager to participate in discussions, forums, surveys and events. There are solutions available at this level as well. Powered and Ripple6 offer out-of-the-box community solutions with complete integrated monitoring and analysis. If I have left anybody out, please let me know via comment, and I'll be happy to add you to the mix.
Last but not least, there's assessment. You need to evaluate your program early and often. You have the tools to measure the buzz about your company, products and people. How are you doing? What adjustments can you make to your strategy to improve performance? Where do you go from here? Now you're well on your way to building one of those success stories you hear about every day.