When considering which is the best social media monitoring program for your business, you should balance your needs with your budget. If all you want is to track social venues where you have accounts, there are simpler and cheaper options, like AgoraPulse. If you need heavy-duty market research, you will want software that considers millions of sources, like Sysomos. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few, consider the following.
Monitoring: Many social monitoring services brag about viewing millions of messages a day, but ask for specifics. Make sure the software is looking where your readers live. For example, monitoring the Huffington Post won’t help you if you manufacture medical testing equipment. Some of the social media monitoring programs we examined are limited to social media you frequent. This may be enough for smaller companies that are mostly interested in customer response.
You should also make sure you understand how you are billed. Some companies charge by keyword, others by valid hits. Therefore, with a company that casts a wide net, you could end up paying for results that aren’t helpful, especially if your keywords are popular. For example, if your keyword is “blood testing equipment,” you could end up paying for hits for articles about DUIs and diabetes. Some companies, like DataSift, help you determine the best keywords for your research needs.
Filtering out the noise. Even with valid keywords, you can end up with invalid results. Social media is rife with people posting for their own promotion and bots posting to boost ranks. Your social analysis program should offer filters to remove the spam, self-promotion and junk posts.
Sentiment analysis. This highly useful tool examines a post ahead of time to see if it’s positive, negative or neutral. Sentiment analysis examines the wording of the post itself, beyond mere keywords, to determine if the phrases are complimentary toward your brand. This is not always an easy thing, especially when you consider slang and the brevity of social media posts.
There are several automated language analysis processes, with accuracy results varying from 70% to 86%. Independent human evaluation averages around 80% accuracy. The best social analysis software uses more than one method. Some companies have their own proprietary systems. If you have international concerns, be sure to ask how sentiment analysis takes different languages and cultures into account.
Demographics. Who is talking is as important as what is said. Most of these services can look at sources (Twitter bios, for example) to discern a poster’s age, gender and even interests. Some allow your marketing folks to access the bios themselves, which can help you woo influencers.
Historical data. This is important for trend analysis and for seeing how campaigns work against a norm. Ask how long the social media monitoring service keeps the data it collects on your behalf, but also ask if it stores search results in general. A few do this for several years, enabling you to mine data from before you purchased the software. This can help you establish benchmarks right off the bat.
Lead identification. The best social media monitoring programs search for terms that indicate an interest or need and alert the appropriate department so that you can respond quickly with a comment or offer.
Integrations. The programs we considered all work very well independently. Most offer user levels, email alerts and forwarding to other departments, and downloadable reports in multiple formats. However, the best social media monitoring programs also offer integrations with social marketing, advertising and customer relationship management programs. If you already have specific tools you use, check to see if they integrate with the software. Some of the social media monitoring programs, such as the ones from Salesforce and Oracle, are just one of many business tools their company offers. You may discover a package deal with that company is cheaper and easier than integrating several separate programs.