Much like traditional forms of communications and public relations, social media initiatives need to be regularly monitored and evaluated. Although this task is a bit more difficult to do than with traditional media- new technologies, changing metrics, and a much larger platform- it still needs to be done. Three benefits for doing so are as follow:
1. The social web is a big place and conversations can occur across various platforms. Monitoring your organization’s social media programs allow you to identify where these conversations are happening as well as the key players, and lets you better understand your audience.
2. Social media monitoring is a key component in reputation management and helps your organization track both the good and the bad. What is the general sentiment towards your organization and what can you do to maintain or improve those perceptions?
3. Determining ROI and finding out what works and what doesn’t. Is their value in your current social media program? Are you concentrating on the correct forums?
Tracking, monitoring, and evaluating an organization’s social media program is important because ultimately it helps to build a better social media/public relations/marketing/communications strategy. It identifies what works and what doesn’t, what needs to be tweaked, what stays the same, and gives you a clearer understanding of how your organization is perceived. While each organization will customize and tailor their own monitoring and evaluation metrics, as outlined in this article by Harry Gold, most will want to track the following: transactions and ROI (how many people are seeing your content), social stats and engagement, and buzz and sentiment.
Monitoring and evaluating is a big task and there are several tools, some paid and others free, that help with this job. I’ve selected three popular free/low-cost services as well as one paid service. But before we begin, I want to mention that while paid services certainly offer a more comprehensive scope, there are still limits to each service. If your organization has the resources, both in time and finance, it might be beneficial to use a combination of different programs, some free and some paid, to gather a more comprehensive understanding of your social media presence.
Addict-o-matic is a straight-forward and simple to use program. A keyword search brings up current conversations about your organization occurring over various platforms including traditional news media as well as on blogs and social media sites such as Twitter and Youtube. However, the service doesn’t add much value in terms of evaluating your organization’s social media presence.
While Addict-o-matic does provide a sense of what’s happening on the social web, it doesn’t give you any information about who your users are, how they interact with the content, or even how they feel about the content and is pretty barebones, even for a free service. If this is your first foray into social media and you’re in a pinch for time and money, Addict-o-matic can provide a good introduction to monitoring tools. However, it’s likely that most users will prefer a more sophisticated program than this one.
Of all the free services I previewed, Social Mention was by far my favourite. Again, it was an easy to use program and a simple keyword search yielded several results about my subject across all the major forums. However, what I appreciated most was the information in the side bars that helped gauge sentiment (positive, neutral, negative) and identify top related keyword searches as well as top users, hashtags, and sources. Although this information is not as detailed or specific as the information provided by paid services, it still allowed me to gain a slightly more thorough understanding of my search subject and its presence on the social web.
Your Klout score is a number between 1 and 100 and reflects your influence on the social web. Tracking your organization and its content-tweets, Facebook messages, etc.- Klout helps to provide a better understanding of your audience and the way they interact with your organization. And though Klout claims to be “the standard for influence” (it is indeed a popular program), I didn’t find it useful for monitoring or evaluation.
The algorithm for calculating Klout score is currently being rejigged but even under the new formula, I find that it relies too heavily on Twitter and Facebook activity, which doesn’t accurately represent the whole of an organization’s social web influence. Moreover, tying Klout score to factors such as retweets and re-sharing posts isn’t the most useful metric for measuring/evaluating social media behaviour because it doesn’t provide a comprehensive understanding of your audience and user base. It can also incorrectly assign influence to certain groups and perhaps one of the most famous examples of this is when Klout gave a higher score to pop-singer Justin Bieber than it did the President of the United States, Barack Obama (as of August 2012, this has fortunately been remedied).
Sysomos and Radian6 are perhaps the most popular social management tools currently out there, and with good reason too. However, having previewed Lithium, I think this is also a good service for those considering paid solutions. Like its competitors, this service allows users to track and monitor their audience across multiple forums and provides a clear understanding of sentiment and perception as well as buzz and engagement. The content is easily accessed and clearly presented (workflow and usability are important factors as well), and Lithium allows for an unlimited number of users, which is particularly beneficial for large organizations. Although the monthly fee of $1500 is high, Lithium may be an appropriate solution for bigger organizations who are dedicated to tracking, monitoring, and evaluating their social media presence.
As always, I turn it back to you and would love to hear your thoughts. Which tools are worth the money and which would you rather skip? What is the value of monitoring and evaluating a social media program?