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Top 5 Social Media Monitoring Tips for Your Small Business

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Guest Contributor

Whether you're new to the idea of using social networking on behalf of your small business or you've spent the last couple of years busily learning the ins and outs of search engine optimization while doing all you can to beef up your Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare followings, you may be missing out on the bigger picture if you have yet to partake of social media monitoring. I know, I know - it's one more thing to tack on to an already overfull schedule. But by listening to the buzz online, learning what's trending, and finding ways to act on that information you can actually streamline your strategy and save yourself a lot of time and effort in the long run. So here are just a few tips to help you get going with social media monitoring.

  1. Free tools. Hoo-boy, are there ever a lot of free options out there for social media monitoring tools; it can be difficult to figure out which ones to download. TweetDeck, Hootsuite, Twinbox, and Twazzup (all for use with Twitter), Google Alerts, Google+ Search, and Facebook Search are a good place to start since all are geared towards helping you track keywords (and in some cases, even your own content) on the big three social networking sites. But you also might want to check out Social Mention, a content aggregator that populates keyword alerts from social media outlets all over the web.

  2. Paid tools. If you're some kind of whiz kid you might well code your own monitoring software tailored for your specific needs (rather than using a million free tools to get information piecemeal). But for most small business owners this isn't an option. Luckily, there are quite a few paid tools out there, with low-priced options like Trackur and Viralheat expanding a bit on what the freebies have to offer, and far more expensive options like Radian6 and Synthesio offering comprehensive and customizable solutions (albeit at prices that may be far outside the acceptable range for the average small business owner). There are options for every price point.

  3. Applying the info you gather. The difficulty with monitoring social media is that you may end up with tons of information and no idea what to do with it. So think about pre-ordering a copy of "Social Media Metrics for Dummies" (due out June 13th), or pick up a couple of potentially outdated but nonetheless well-received selections like "Social Media Analytics" by Marshall Sponder or "Social Media ROI" by Olivier Blanchard. Both provide some useful insight that will no doubt help you to get a handle on gathering and analyzing data.

  4. Sentiment analysis. Most social media monitoring is a pure numbers game intent on counting keyword mentions and the like. But if you want to use this tactic to your ultimate advantage it pays to use a little psychology. Sentiment analysis involves tracking not only keywords, but also the context in which they are mentioned (positive, negative, or neutral, for example). You might not necessarily care; after all, any press is good press, right? On the other hand, it could dramatically change the way you utilize trending keywords.

  5. Marketing opportunities. The problem for many small businesses is that they want to use social media monitoring as market research. And whether you're following Facebook trends or checking in with your Twitter management tools, you'll find that the practice isn't really a productive form of market research unless you're staffed and prepared to launch instant response marketing campaigns. Most small businesses are not. However, you can still use social media monitoring to your advantage; when you learn to track how information trends in the arena of social media you can create marketing strategies based on that knowledge and hopefully create targeted campaigns that shift interest in your direction.

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