Take the pulse of the social Web by hitting these rich targets
Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, brands, businesses, NGOs, educators, independent publishers, individuals. In this social media monitoring series:
• Guide to monitoring social media conversations
• 10 paid social media monitoring services for nonprofits
• How to build & manage a monitoring dashboard
Free monitoring tools may fill your needs if you work for a small nonprofit or your business has no need for more sophisticated services (coming tomorrow). Just remember: Free monitoring tools aren’t really free — they require an investment of staff time and analysis.
And a word of advice: Don’t begin with the tools. Begin with a strategy — a social media game plan. Think of this as a multi-step process: Listen, learn, engage, act and measure. Listening is only the first step — you need to take action on what you discover. (Socialbrite can help you with an integrated approach to social media.)
Yesterday we covered why monitoring is essential to your organization. Today we’ll look at the wealth of free monitoring tools available to you, divided by functionality.
Here is our Guide to Free Social Media Monitoring Tools. Have your own favorites? Please share in the comments.
Monitor social campaigns
Wildfire: How is your brand performing in social?
1Wildfire, a startup focused on creating interactive promotions on social sites, last month launched Social Media Monitor, a tool that tracks and compares how brands are performing on Facebook and Twitter. Wildfire allows companies, small businesses, marketing agencies, nonprofits and bloggers to create their own branded interactive campaigns — including contests, giveaways, incentive-based surveys and sweepstakes — and to simultaneously publish them in multiple social networks and on their websites. More than 65,000 users have done so. As we understand this, the basic tools are free and Wildfire also sells premium services.
Monitor social networks & blogs
Social Mention: Widgets & social search
2Social Mention is a social media search engine that searches for keywords on social media platforms — including blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos and microblogging services — and provides metrics around keywords and “sentiment.” It also provides graphic illustrations or charts showing mentions per day or week. Download the free search bar for your browser and monitor anything from your brand to your cause. They also offer APIs and provide coding for your own keyword monitoring widgets.
• Collecta lets you enter any search term to receive real-time results for mentions in social media, in blog comments and on news sites.
Google Reader: Begin with a dashboard
3Social media monitoring begins with a dashboard. (See our Top 10 social media dashboard tools.) A good choice to begin your monitoring is Google Reader: Subscribe to the RSS feeds of top blogs in your sector, competitors’ sites, news sites, Twitter searches and more, all in one place. You can even subscribe to searches on sites like Flickr and YouTube, so you’ll get an update on any new image or video that matches your brand or cause. If the page you’re on doesn’t seem to have an RSS feed, try Feedyes.com. We also like Feed Informer, which lets you splice multiple feeds together into one and filter for duplicates.
BlogPulse: Take the pulse of the blogosphere
4BlogPulse from NM Incite is an automated trend discovery system for blogs that analyzes and reports on daily activity in the blogosphere. You can keep on top of key phrases, top blog posts, videos, key people news sources and more. But its real power lies in the options you have to track blog conversations based on topics or keywords. See which blogs, news posts, etc., are fueling the most conversations about your brand online.
Other blog monitoring services that should be in your arsenal:
Alltop: Identify the top blogs in your sector
5Alltop, Guy Kawasaki’s online magazine rack – or, more precisely, topic-based directory — lets you search for influential blogs in a given niche or subject. Add the feeds to your RSS reader and you have a more targeted monitoring process.
Monitor Twitter & Facebook
Hootsuite: Simplify your social efforts
6We’re fans of Hootsuite as a free tool that enables nonprofits and cause organizations to update multiple social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook) from a computer or mobile device. The free version lets you work with up to five social networks and two RSS feeds but is limited to one user for your organization’s account; it stores stat history for 30 days and is ad supported. For the paid version, see 10 paid social media monitoring services for nonprofits.
Twitter search options
7If Hootsuite or one of the other Twitter dashboard services doesn’t meet your needs, you have lots of other options to keep tabs on the Twitterverse. Here are a few:
- Twitter Advanced Search is the best way to ferret out tweets about a targeted sector. Look for keywords, search by location, date or with other filters.
- Track is a little-known Twitter feature that lets you track keywords and have them sent directly to your mobile phone as soon as they’re posted.
- Monitter lets you monitor Twitter for key words, phrases and topics being discussed online at a glance (though we still prefer Hootsuite for this).
- Twazzup is a dashboard program that monitors Twitter, Twazzup will let you know wheneer your keywords are mentioned in a tweet.
- PostRank analytics lets you uncover your influencers, identify which social networks give you the greatest traction and benchmark yourself against the competition.
- Pulse of the Tweeters uses data mining and sentiment analysis to mine millions of tweets and find the most influential people on Twitter around your cause or sector.
- Twitscoop lets you search and follow what’s buzzing on Twitter in real time.
- Twilert sends you emails when it sees keywords on Twitter that you specify.
- Sideline from Yahoo! allows users to create and group custom queries by topics of interest.
- PeerIndex is another option to help you discover authorities and opinion makers around a particular topic.
- MyTweeple checks out your Twitter account and analyzes who is following you back — a good way to monitor reciprocal relationships.
- MentionMap is a visualizer tool that lets you assess the most influential Twitter users in various sectors.
- Twitterfall is a great way to keep up on conversations about an event, or an online chat, using hashtags. You can also use its geolocation panel to see discussions in a geographic area.
Facebook Search: Explore FB conversations
8There are rich conversations taking place about your sector on Facebook right now. So don’t overlook Facebook Search as a monitoring tool. Unearth the people on Facebook who are talking about your brand or cause. Use the Facebook search field and then choose “Posts by Everyone” in the left navigation. You may find new Pages to Like and new people to interact with.
• Openbook may also be useful in turning up mentions of your brand in Facebook status updates.
Monitor upcoming events
Plancast: Stay on top of upcoming events
9Like many of my colleagues, I’ve ditched Yahoo’s Upcoming and moved to Plancast. You can subscribe to get an RSS alert on any new event that matches keywords you select. Keep track of events thrown by your competitors, or stay on top of conferences you may want to attend or co-sponsor.
Monitor with alerts
Google Alerts: Your real-time personal assistant
10Nearly every plugged-in user these days knows about Google Alerts. When Google’s vast army of bots discover a new blog entry or news story that contains a keyword or phrase you specify, it will send you an alert in a time frame you designate: immediately, daily or weekly. What’s more, you can receive alerts via feeds sent to your RSS reader. Enter the topic you want to monitor, then click preview to see the type of results you’ll receive. Keep current on your brand, cause, sector or industry — and, of course, mentions of your own name. Also keep in mind that Google Alerts tracks only content indexed by Google.
• A new service, Google Realtime Search, lets you search the social Web (chiefly Twitter) and create email alerts for search terms.
• TweetBeep is sort of a Google Alert for Twitter. It uses search.twitter.com site for mentions of up to 10 keywords or phrases you specify and will send you emails.
BackType: Track comments & influencers
11BackType Alerts is a free service that sends you email updates whenever a search term is mentioned in a comment. Somebody trash your brand in a blog comment? You’ll want to know right away. BackType will also show you your Twitter influencers who are sharing related links.
Update: BackType was acquired by Twitter in 2011 and is now closed.
Yahoo Pipes: Mash up your content feeds
12Yahoo Pipes is a powerful tool that lets you aggregate and remix content from anywhere online. Its visual interface makes it fairly easy to use. You can use it in innumerable ways — for example, to track Twitter for mentions of your brand, to monitor multiple feeds or to alert you only when feed activity meets a certain activity threshold. For a good example of Yahoo Pipes in action, look at this Social Media Firehose tool, which lets you track your brand or product mentions across a slew of social media sites.
Northern Light: Roll your own search alerts
13Remember the days when editorial filtering counted for something? Northern Light Search has been around forever, it seems. A business research tool, it indexes more than 800 news sources and publications, like the Wall Street Journal and PBS NewsHour, and some 1,600 authoritative industry blogs. They write: “We have editorially honed the content to include only business sources and to exclude the shopping and other consumer sites that clog your results on other search engines.” It offers support for full Boolean queries as well as saved search and alerting capabilities. You can create Search Alerts via email or RSS to help you track subjects you care about.
Monitor with social search
Addict-o-matic: Check the buzz about a topic
14Addict-o-matic lets you instantly create a custom page with the latest buzz on a given topic. The browser-based tool offers a one-stop customized site for seeing results across multiple social media channels.
• Guzzle reads hundreds of feeds on social media sites every second to help you keep abreast of stuff you care about.
• Buzzoo is a buzz aggregator drawing from multiple sources.
• BuzzFeed sports a robust buzz-detection algorithm.
• Twendz, a free tool from Waggener Edstrom, piggybacks off Twitter Search to offer user sentiment in real time.
• Social Seek will tell you who’s making the most noise about your brand.
• How Socialble? sizes up how visible your brand is on the social Web.
• Mon.itor.us is a free website, server and traffic monitoring service.
• See more choices under Twitter, above.
MonitorThis: Browse 26 search engines
1577elements’ monitorThis is a meta-search engine (remember those?) that let you comb through 26 search engines to look for blog posts, news articles, photos, tags and tweets on a specific subject. You may be surprised by some of the results on the more obscure search engines.
• Keotag lets you search multiple search engines, create social bookmark links around a topic or see who has used your brand as a tag.
Monitor comments & forums
Comment Sniper: First mover advantage
16If you have the staff to help manage your brand’s reputation in a deep way, then Comment Sniper is worth a look. Comment Sniper offers you a way to build targeted traffic to your site at no cost by giving you the opportunity to be the first to comment on relevant blog posts about your brand or sector. You set up blogs you want to monitor, and Comment Sniper sends you a desktop notification or text message to your mobile device whenever a new post goes up. Check this tutorial on how to make the process more efficient.
coComment: Keep track of conversations
17coComment is a Web service and Firefox plug-in that helps you keep track of blog comment threads. Whenever there is an update, such as a new follow-up comment, coComment notifies you instantly. It’s a handy service that saves you the trouble of checking back on blogs that don’t offer a comment notification feature.
• Commentful is another Web service that helps you keep track of blog comments.
• Omgili (Oh my God I love it) forum search engine lets you find communities, message boards and discussion threads about any topic.
• co.mments helps you keep track of conversations.
BoardReader: Monitoring 50,000 forums
18Not all forums and message boards are indexed by Google. BoardReader is a community search engine that crawls forums, blog posts, images and microblogs. It’ll also let you know when a new forum starts specifically to discuss your brand or organization.
Google Trends: Take the long view
19Google Trends gives you a measurement of the impact that bloggers or a campaign has on a brand. The tool measures the level of interest in specific topics based on searches people conduct over a period of time. One interesting facet is that you can compare multiple sites in the same sector and see the geographic regions where a keyword is most popular.
Related: With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and other properties.
Monitor Web pages
WatchThatPage: Keep a watchful eye
20Sometimes you’d like to know when updates take place to an important Web page — say, your Wikipedia page or key pages on your competitors’ sites. Instruct WatchThatPage to keep tabs on any Web page, and you’ll receive an alert any time a change is made to the page.
Alternative: Copernic Tracker ($40)
More free social media monitoring tools
Several companies offer free, limited accounts for commercial tools through the “freemium” business model — not just a free trial but an ongoing free basic service — including:
- Alterian SM2 allows you to search up to five terms with a total limit of 1,000 results, however, there are no real-time alerts, geography or language filters or advanced searches.
• Top 10 social media dashboard tools (Socialbrite)
• 14 free tools to measure your social influence (Socialbrite)
• How to set up Google Alerts (eHow)
• Listening Tools for Social Media Monitoring (Janet Fouts)