Everything you need to know about social media monitoring
I used to work at Dominos. In fact, the dots paid my way through the first year of uni. I was hired as a delivery driver, but because they liked me they used to give me the cushy eight-dollar-an-hour dough-making shift on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I saw a lot in those days, hanging out the back bumming cheap cigarettes from the managers in between pan-oilings; we’d jump on the giant bags of frozen cheese to break up the ice, throw flour bombs, stick our fingers in places they shouldn’t be and drive our delivery cars so fast around the streets of Western Sydney the G-Forces in the corners would make the pepperoni part ways with the cheese. Our antics would have made great viewing . Sadly, no-one ever thought to make a video like this and whack it on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYmFQjszaec (or view at the end of this post)
I say ‘no one ever thought to make a video like this’, but that’s a lie. I often thought about making a video like that. I just didn’t have a mobile phone. Or a YouTube.
I’m old see. I’ll be 30 in a year and a bit. I’m quite responsible now (relatively-speaking) and I get paid a lot more. But in that Dominos store in Western Sydney, there is another emerging bunch of bored, under-paid young dough-makers, pumping out the pizza bases, throwing flour at each other, and occasionally, shoving cheese up their nose and then putting it on your dinner. For the most part, you won’t hear about it, but every now and then, some not particularly-bright spark will whip out their mobile phone camera, film it, and put it up on YouTube. It happened in America last week. It’s happened to Burger King, and it will happen to your brand, sooner or later. No matter what industry you’re in, no matter how stringent your HR (and PR) people are, no matter how many group-hugging sessions you do, I can guarantee you, every week one of your employees will do something stupid, and sooner or later it’s going to end up on the internet. That’s the nature of the technology we have, that’s the nature of social media. That’s what happens now. And there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
It’s not all bad though, don’t despair, sometimes good things can also happen unexpectedly. Sometimes people have amazing things to say about your customer service on their blog and hundreds of people chime in about how great you are. Sometimes one of your employees shows a hidden talent and your brand makes international news here and here. Sometimes someone complains and a dedicated, savvy staff member turns the situation around with a hasty Twitter response, and sometimes, someone gets caught smiling and you get more press coverage than a pregnant topless crack-smoking pop-starlet.
The good news is, the only way any of these random acts of social media can really screw things up, is if you don’t know about them — let the bad moments go un-noticed and a million people will have seen your dough in some dude’s pants before you can say dodecahedron. The bad news is, if you ignore the good stuff, you look like an un-caring, un-savvy, un-engaging, un-emotional, un-fun corporate twat.
In this day and age of mobile phone cameras and Twitter, you can’t control what happens to your brand online. But if you’re smarter than the average marketer, you CAN make sure you hear about it before anyone else does. It’s called social media monitoring, and since I’ve been doing consulting on a new Australian social media monitoring tool lately, I thought now might be a good time to have a look at some of the services that are available.
Social media monitoring – basic tools
Social media monitoring is actually relatively easy. Google and Yahoo both provide free alerts which tell you every time the words of your choice get mentioned online. If you want to know whenever there’s a news article about your brand, whenever someone mentions your competitor on a website, or whenever someone blogs about your industry, product or service, all you have to do is sign up and the details get sent to your inbox (or phone, or wherever) for free. In fact, if you’re a marketer and you haven’t already signed up, go do it quick before your boss comes in waving the industry newspaper asking you why you didn’t tell him your closest competitor just won a Grammy award for Nobel peace and your most profitable client just jumped ship.
Twitter also provides a handy search function which will tell you exactly what has been said about whatever you care to care about by their rapidly growing database of users. That data can also be fed straight to the RSS reader of your choosing. At first glance, Twitter might appear to be full of inane crap, and it mostly is, but it’s actually quite a good barometer of what happens in people’s everyday lives. And if any part of your business coincides with people’s everyday lives, you’re actually bound to pick up on some useful tidbits. While the general public doesn’t care that 100 people drank iced coffee for morning tea and that 2,000 people started following Britney Spears at lunch, if you’re in the flavoured milk business or record industry, that sort of information is gold.
Beyond proactive measures like email alerts, social media search engines like Daymix, Social Mention, and Who’s Talkin are also useful for providing a retroactive overview of what has been said about your brand in the recent past. The data does tend to be skewed towards the US though, and because all the sites are new and don’t have the funding of, for example, Google, the results can be a bit of a hodge podge.
Social media monitoring – tools for when your brand’s reputation really matters
While free tools are quite useful to small businesses, if your brand gets mentioned online more than a few times a week, email alerts and ad-hoc searches just won’t cut it. If you need data you can rely upon and can’t spend all day wading through irrelevant information and sorting emails into piles, a professional social media monitoring service is the only option.
There are a number of options available to marketers in Australia, ranging from report-style solutions from big players like Nielsen, overseas monitoring solutions which have a presence here, and specialised home-grown tools which have been tailored to the Australian market.
Nielsen launched their BuzzMetrics service in 2008 to a client base of mainly advertising agencies and large advertisers who were keen to understand the effectiveness of their campaigns in the social media realm. The service spiders blogs and boards to capture consumer opinions into a database and their analysts then work with the client to retrieve relevant information. Cadbury, for example, used BuzzMetrics to get feedback on their Gorilla TV commercial and the service is useful for corporations who want detailed analysis from one of the industry’s recognised experts. Nielsen wouldn’t reveal their costings, but Deanie Sultana from their online measurement business said the solution was scalable:
“Whereas some of our smaller clients may choose to get just brand and competitor data with some micro-analysis, our larger clients are looking for additional analysis and insights. You can get a snapshot at a certain point in time, or get ongoing report on trends over time,” she said.
Overseas monitoring tools offering near-real time reporting with a web-based user console for clients to view data are also starting to get a hold in Australia. The most popular of those is Radian6, which retails for around $800 a month in Australian dollars in its most common configuration. The Canadian tool has taken off in North America with a list of clients that includes Pepsico, Dell and UPS.
“What we offer is the ability to track all forms of social media in real time as discovered including Twitter, Friendfeed, all blogs, forums, boards, opinion sites, online mainstream news, all video sharing sites (like YouTube), Flickr and LinkedIn Answers,” said Radian6’s VP of marketing and community, David Alston.
“Once all of this data is captured you can do lots with it. You can slice and dice, look for trends, compare your brand against competitors, uncover the most influential posts, sort all posts by various things like most commented, or most Twitter followers and most views.”
Alston said that PR firms were the first to start wanting to monitor social media but advertisers and their agencies were becoming increasingly interested in uncovering what the market was saying about their brands.
That sentiment was echoed by Nathan Bush, a social media strategist from Brisbane advertising agency Gallery De Pasquale who has been using Australian monitoring tool Dialogix to uncover marketing opportunities and stay on top of negative sentiment.
“I’ve been using Dialogix to monitor conversations happening about a number of our clients. The ability to easily hear all the conversations about these brands has given us insights which have affected all parts of the business, from the tone of marketing communications, to important company policies. For example, we are monitoring for a flavored milk brand and found that (radio personality) Dave Hughes is a flavored milk fan who regularly tweets about his habit. Dave has 18,000 followers who hang on every word he says. He also happens to represent our brand to a tee. Dialogix helped us uncover this opportunity for our client. Another client, a major player in the childcare sector, is using social media monitoring to gauge public opinion on policies and within a week of hearing complaints about a certain issue, had changed a rule which made their customers very happy.”
Dialogix launched in 2008 and retails from around $595 a month. Bush said that Dialogix did a good job of picking up online conversations, but one of the stand-out features was its ability to create a database of online influencers and their contact details, which could then be used by clients to amplify offline word of mouth marketing activities.
Social media monitoring links you need to know
If you’re keen to get started in social media monitoring, or want to take your brand’s online engagement to a new level, the following comparison gives a more detailed overview of some of the services available:
Google and Yahoo! Alerts
Google and Yahoo alerts are email updates of the latest relevant search results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.
- URLS: http://www.google.com/alerts and http://alerts.yahoo.com
- Cost: Free
- Pros: Convenience, easy to set up, free
- Cons: Only basic management tools, needs a Google or Yahoo! account
Social media search engines
Search the web, and utilise other existing search resources to find user-contributed information on social media websites.
- URLS: http://daymix.com, http://www.socialmention.com, http://whostalkin.com, http://www.delver.com
- Cost: Free
- Pros: Free, easy to use, saves time searching individual sites
- Cons: Data isn’t consistent, won’t find everything
BuzzMetrics services and solutions uncover and integrate data-driven insights culled from nearly 100 million blogs, social networks, groups, boards and other CGM platforms.
- URL: http://www.nielsen-online.com
- Cost: Undisclosed
- Pros: Detailed analysis from experts, Comprehensive
- Cons: Rumoured to be expensive, has been criticised for not being better than free tools
Real time monitoring of mentions of your brand, issues and products on millions of blog posts, viral videos, reviews in forums, twitter updates and more
- URL: http://www.radian6.com
- Cost: Around $800 a month
- Pros: Near real-time monitoring, reliability
- Cons: Not designed specifically for Australian market
Shows you exactly what is being said about your brand, industry and competitors across the social media spectrum (blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, news websites, forums, MySpace, Facebook and more), tracks sentiment and compiles a database of key influencers with contact details.
- URL: http://www.dialogix.com.au
- Cost: Around $595 a month
- Pros: Designed for Australian market, includes news media , creates influencer database
- Cons: Relatively new product, only just out of beta phase
News search engine, harvesting and analysing news from more than 4,000 Australian publishers. Includes free and enterprise models.
- URL: http://wotnews.com.au
- Cost: Free to search, around $120,000 for the enterprise model
- Pros: Excellent for news coverage
- Cons: There’s a lot it doesn’t cover
Sentiment Metrics provides real-time measurement and analysis of online commentary, both official and user-generated, about brands, campaigns, individuals, issues and events.
- URL: http://www.sentimentmetrics.com
- Cost: $200-$3,000
- Pros: Customised dashboard, sentiment analysis
- Cons: Just introduced into Australia, still be trialed
Enables brands and businesses to monitor and report word-of-mouth conversations online.
- URL: http://www.buzznumbers.com.au
- Cost: BuzzNumbers did not respond to our request for information