Social media monitoring is the act of tracking when a certain word or phrase gets mentioned on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

People use the internet regularly to look for recommendations and to express their opinions about the products and services they use. In addition, search engines have begun to use sentiment analysis to understand where businesses have delivered a particularly good level of service and to promote their pages within search results. As a result, it is extremely important – and increasingly possible – to be aware of what is being said about your business. Furthermore, by becoming part of the conversation about your brand, you can help to guide the tone and vastly improve how regularly people mention you and how positive they are when they do so.

Ways to use social media monitoring

1. Tracking your brand

First and foremost, a firm can use social media monitoring tools to understand what people are saying, whether it is positive or negative. Where you have positive sentiment, you can encourage and solidify this by responding and thanking people, which then paints you in a further positive light. Where sentiment is negative you should deal with those situations as well.

Knowing where your clients congregate online enables you establish social proof, that is, you can use positive feedback and comments to prove the quality of your service to potential customers. Use this feedback in your marketing materials, with permission of course. Positive feedback on social media is like having another source of testimonials. Where customers recommend you to others online or praise your services, you can make use of that information to encourage additional business.

You can also monitor comments and the general response to your marketing efforts in order to target them more effectively in future. This feedback is vitally important nowadays, with so many companies competing for attention on social media. Hearing first-hand from your target audience as to the content they find interesting or dull means you can ensure your subsequent marketing efforts hit the mark with the right people.

In addition, social monitoring can help you deal with crisis management. Public relations crises can occur just as easily on Facebook or Twitter, or even on a little known forum or blog, as they can in the traditional media. The key to dealing with problems is knowing you have them in the first place. After that it is a relatively simple process of responding calmly and politely, with a willingness to put things right. For example, if a client writes a negative review on a third-party consumer review site such as Trustpilot or Revoo complaining about the speed of the conveyancing process, you should respond in the comments with an apology and offer a phone number and the name of a person with whom the complainant can discuss their concerns. Often, showing that you value your clients and that you will do everything in your power to rectify a problem can be even more powerful than only ever having great press.

2. Keeping an eye on the competition

You can do more than just monitor mentions of your own brand – you can also keep an eye on your competitors and on general industry buzz. By understanding who your online competitors are, you can gain valuable insight into marketing techniques that are working for them (or not), find new influencers to help expand the reach of your brand and capitalise by responding quickly to trends and hot topics.

3. Finding opportunities

If you are prospecting for particular types of business you can monitor specific types of words and phrases to find opportunities. For example, if your law firm is looking to acquire holiday claims cases, you could set up searches to monitor mentions of key resorts in (say) Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Spain which would alert you to outbreaks of illness or of accidents and incidents. You could then specifically target the affected individuals quickly and effectively either with press releases, paid ad campaigns or direct engagement.

In addition, social media monitoring can give you an insight into the questions most frequently asked by your target audience. Today it is better to help prospects, clients and social media followers by providing them with the information they genuinely need, rather than simply inundating them with sales messages. However, in order to do that successfully, you need a way of finding out the information they need, which is where social media monitoring comes in.

Tools for social monitoring

There are many tools available to track and measure mentions on social media platforms, from the very complex and expensive to the simple and free. Depending on the complexity of your own online marketing activities you may find that free tools will serve your firm’s purpose, or you may want to invest in a more robust paid option. Here are some of the best.

Google Alerts. For over a decade Google has allowed users to set up email alerts for specific words and phrases appearing in its search results. You enter a word or phrase, such as “Sharm El Sheikh”, tell Google whether you want news stories, blog mentions, video, discussion threads or everything and Google will email you results at chosen intervals, or as soon as they are indexed in Google. The main drawback to this service is the huge level of noise and irrelevant results can make it hard to spot genuinely useful mentions.

Backtweets. A free service that allows you to search for historical mentions of a link, a username, a phrase or a hashtag on Twitter. The drawback to this is you will have to keep coming back to the site to check for mentions.

Tweetdeck. A great free platform that enables you to set up lists and monitor specific searches and hashtags.

Hootsuite and Sprout Social. Two very powerful tools enabling you to manage multiple social media accounts across multiple platforms and monitor mentions. Hootsuite offers both a free version and paid plans starting from £7.19/month, while Sprout Social offers a free trial and accounts from $39 per user/month. We use Hootsuite at I-COM to update all our social media campaigns and monitor carefully chosen keywords, but we also have clients that prefer Sprout Social.

Social Mention. A free social media search engine allowing you to search for a specific word, phrase or account and returns a list of mentions, as well as other useful statistics like sentiment and keywords contained within the mentions.

Raven Tools. A paid service, starting at $99/month, which provides data across both organic search and social media. You can use its analytics function to track engagement and reach of your social media accounts, but you can also use it to monitor brand mentions and other relevant phrases.

Meltwater and Brandwatch. At the top end of the spectrum – both provide complete suites to monitor social media as well as media mentions across the web. For Meltwater, prices start at around £6,000/year and at about £500/month for Brandwatch. These are both heavyweight tools used by agencies as well as enterprise and corporate-level clients.

What do we recommend?

For most businesses, using a combination of Google Alerts to check for mentions in the news and across the web, including review sites and forums, combined with a Hootsuite or Sprout Social account will provide the basic levels of data you require. But bear in mind you will need to allocate an internal resource to use these effectively.

Setting up Google Alerts for your chosen keywords – and adding to them as the need arises – and checking for mentions on your social media accounts when making your daily updates should provide enough insight and keep you abreast of anything to which you may need to respond. However, as you ramp up your activities and increase your audience, you may well need to think about becoming familiar with some of the other tools mentioned above.

Mindy Gofton has been working in the search marketing industry since 2003, both in-house and in an agency environment. She is currently Head of Digital Strategies at I-COM in Manchester, a full service online marketing agency specialising in web design and digital marketing for the legal industry.

Email mindy.gofton@i-com.net.

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