When it comes to social media, everyone rightly talks about the importance of listening. The web is teeming with conversations about everything you can think of – and quite probably even your company, organisation, candidate, issue or brand – and being fully aware and up to speed will help you shape your communications so that it responds to the trends, interests and concerns topping people’s agendas at any given moment. Luckily, you can now monitor most of what’s going on in social media with a vast array of free tools. Here’s a sample.
Blogs and microblogs
Google Blog Search and Technorati are the standard dedicated blog search engines. I prefer Google because it tends to find more items, especially when searching for more obscure things. For more detail and graphs, I’d recommend Blogpulse and Trendpedia. Graphs don’t just look nice: having an illustrated timeline is useful to see if buzz has grown regularly since the launch of a campaign or if there’s a spike in activity around a launch or event etc. Serph should in theory be really useful because it takes into account social networking and social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, Stumbleupon and Digg, but I’ve not found it to be great. Premise is good though so maybe it’s just a question of time.
Microblogging is on the increase and Twitter is the platform of choice for most. Search tweets using Twitter Search, Tweet Scan, and Tweetag (had not heard of this one until this morning when James pointed it out – thanks). The advanced search on Twitter Search is especially useful as it allows you to search for people as well as search items and to narrow down location and time.
Forums, comments and groups
Search engines struggle with forums, so these dedicated forum search tools are very useful: Boardreader and Forum Discussion. Search engines struggle even more with comments than they do with forums, so Backtype, which scours comments, can be a very handy tool indeed. They’re a bit out of fashion now, but Google Groups and Yahoo! Groups still have an enormous number of daily users, so a search on both is always worthwhile, although most search findings are useless to be honest.
Google Trends shows how popular any given search term is. The measurement is not that precise, as it’s a percentage of total search traffic on Google, but nonetheless useful to see if more or fewer people have been searching for the term in question over a given period of time.
Not strictly social media monitoring
Digg, which allows users to rate webpages, is still going strong. It’s handy way of finding top stories, although less useful when looking for detail about more obscure items. Yahoo have launched Yahoo Buzz, which is a lot like Digg but not as good, so not an alternative yet, but it’s still in beta, so worth checking out at a later date. Both tools can be used for any webpage, not just social media.
It’s often quite useful to find out what sort of traffic is going to your site (or any other site of interest for that matter). Quantcast, Compete, and Alexa help to give you some idea of what amount and type of traffic is going to any given site (although in-depth and additional services are not free, except for some on Quantcast).
If anyone can think of a tool I’ve missed, please do let me know. Thanks.