Even though in most regions of the world, half of the top 20 websites are social media sites, companies rely primarily on web statistics and click-through rates on media campaigns to judge the health of their brands in the online world.
People are discussing your company, brands, products and services, and potentially even talking about YOU or your top people all over the digital ecosystem in places far outside of your control. Doesn’t it make sense that there are many more conversations, probably in high exponential multiples, about these subjects on sites that you have nothing to do with your business?
We’ve seen all the blunders big companies make by not monitoring and — more importantly — not reacting intelligently and expeditiously on social upheaval in the digital space. Can you business reputation afford that kind of negativity in today’s market???
The solution lies in using proper social media analysis tools. Social media analysis tools will literally scour the internet for references to certain keywords you define (your company, key people, products, services, competitors products and services, industry specific keywords, new trends you want to watch, etc) and then provide you with links to the conversations. The best solutions also allow you to define or automatically analyze sentiment around those keywords. For example, you can see if someone uses positive or negative words in conjunction with each keyword.
There are literally 50+ social media analysis vendors in the world today. Some are obviously better then others – so how do you pick the right one?
Here’s my two cents – take it or leave it.
First, evaluate the sources that the service provider reviews. The sources will include:
- Blog posts / Blog comments – Some providers only search posts. The feedback that people leave is just as important. A great tool is going to evaluate the complete “conversation” around any blog post.
- Discussion Boards / Usenet – This includes the ability to search a pre-defined set of message boards and in some cases they previously popular Usenet platform that was much popular in the earlier days of the internet.
- Product Reviews – People are providing invaluable feedback on commerce sites and general product review sites all over the web. Why not get their insight as well?
- Photo / Video Sharing Sites – YouTube and Flickr are too of the most popular sites on the web. There are enormous amounts of conversations taking place around the media being shared. Obviously there are many more media sharing sites then Flickr and YouTube to analyze, but you get the idea.
- Social Networks – Evaluating social networks can be challenging. It really depends on the system. For example, Facebook’s closed friend architecture makes it difficult to do broad searches, but systems like MySpace are far more open.
- Social News – Digg and Reddit, for example, are hugely popular sites for submitting news stories whose popularity and placement on the site are ultimately driven by user votes. People discuss their thoughts and feelings in these forums as well.
- Micro-Blogging – Even though Pounce has been declared dead. Twitter is still growing rapidly. It seems like the blogging community is particularly big on Twitter which makes monitoring the platform even more important.
- Offline Media – Some systems will even monitor print, TV, and radio for mentions of your brands and display it in the same centralized tool. This is particularly interesting, but not very common yet.
There are companies out there that generally take a couple different stances to analyzing all of this information. It’s important to note the distinctions.
Some companies research these sources, some monitor them, and some do both. The difference is that researching sources will look at what’s out there currently — while monitoring them will allow you to setup ongoing watch lists that constantly look for feedback on terms.
Some companies provide web tools that allow you to access your data in real time; others provide reports on certain dates that include their consultative thoughts, and some do both.
I strongly recommend using a firm that has research, monitoring, AND web tools. In this fast paced market, it’s important to be able to review things in near real time. Having a provider that also has consultation and analysts on staff can also be very helpful. It really depends on the nature of your business. For example, we do all of the analysis in house, but if you’re a brand and not an agency, you may not have those resources in house.
Another important feature is language. If you manage a US or UK brand, then you should be fine with only monitoring the English language. The vast majority of providers monitor English, but if you’re doing work globally as US or UK company or you’re specifically working on a non-English speaking region, then this starts to become very important.
For example, Sapient needed a platform that could not only monitor Spanish, French, German and some of the more obvious languages, but we also wanted to monitor Hindi due to our large presence in India.
Why is this all so important?
All of this rich consumer opinion can:
- Create a new series of metrics that tracks your brand’s performance. For example, so what if your banner campaign flopped? You might be the most discussed brand on Twitter or YouTube.
- Unprompted opinions tend to be more sincere. New truths will emerge from this raw data and hopefully new opportunities as well.
- Instant feedback on marketing campaigns. Does before and after testing get any faster? (Motrin staff – take notes….)
- Monitor people’s thoughts on your competitors.
- Watch what your investors might be discovering about your brand so you can fix problems before they become an issue.
I’ve become increasingly more passionate about this subject as I’ve been able to “play” with more and more platforms. It just makes normal web analytics seem so yesterday…
If you’ve had good or bad experiences with social media analysis tools, I would love to hear your thoughts! I also welcome any questions you may have.