Social media needs you, and you need social media. A simple concept? Yes, but one that, in this web-centric world, rings true. If you are a small-business owner with a quaint cupcake café in Vermont or a vintage boutique in New York, you know that your business concept may not be unique to that area. What can you do to set yourself apart from the other small-business owners who are opting to target your same market? Simple. Begin a social media campaign complete with social media optimization, social media networking and social media experts. Begin monitoring your business, your competitors and additional information to reach the level of success you desire.
If you are a small or medium business, it's important that you embrace the all-mighty webosphere and delve into social media monitoring. Your business may already be successful – congratulations – or your business may be struggling in this economy. Regardless, it's crucial to know what your customers need and want. With social media monitoring, no matter the size of your business, you can know what your customers and competition are saying about you and what the general feelings about your product are. Whether you employ a PR professional or you rely upon your own marketing genius, you know just how influential your customer comments and feelings can be, particularly if they're released through Twitter, Facebook or an individual's blog.
For small or medium businesses with a decent marketing budget or a yearning to truly invest in a tool that will yield fantastic results, we recommend the social media prowess of Sysomos, Radian6 and Lithium; let them be your guide to professional success. If you are a smaller business, with a smaller budget, we recommend you compare social media tools uberVU, Viralheat or Brandwatch, which are exceptional products that yield focused analytical results. To compare the best social media monitoring tools, look to the side-by-side comparison. For more information on social media optimization, please visit our Learning Center to view articles on social media monitoring. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To.™
Social media monitoring services are powerful – honing in, listening, comparing, monitoring, recording and tracking what your customer's needs are – and they can yield powerful results. Below, you will see exactly what you should be looking for in the best social media monitoring services.
Monitor & Listen
Social media tools do not replace your public relations professional, but they can monitor public opinion about your company and product through various social media channels. The best social media monitoring tools, in fact, can make your PR professional's job so much simpler and their efforts more effective. A negative or positive Tweet or Facebook mention by an influential person can either hurt or help your business. By using tools that track these social media sentiments, you can respond quickly to the negative comments, perhaps stifling any negative mainstream press or highlighting the positive press.
You need to know what vibes your customers are sending into the world wide web – negative, positive, neutral, whatever. With any public relations or marketing campaign, you need to know what people are saying about you, why they are saying it and what you can do to foster the perceptions you want. Look for social media monitoring tools that find the key influencers (those with online clout who affect the sentiment for your product or brand) and volume (the amount of "buzz" that exists about your product or company).
The social media realm is vast, so when you choose a social media monitoring tool, select one that has the capability to encompass that vastness. If your small or medium business is targeting a specific neighborhood or geographic location, choose a monitoring tool that pulls data from the social media networks used in that specific community, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Let the social monitoring tool work for you to meet your needs.
Managing information is an essential feature for any monitoring tool you choose. If you are monitoring Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, forums, traditional news sites, etc., the sheer volume of mentions concerning your business may be overwhelming. With a workflow feature, you can enlist the help of your employees, marketing guru or PR professional to manage comments throughout the social media realm. For example, say you are browsing through your social media monitoring data and you see several customers who have questions regarding your business or product, the best social media monitoring services allow you to send your employee a direct message through Twitter, email alert or monitoring dashboard calling their attention to the comment. From here, your employee can focus on these customers and their questions. Reporting tools are an equally important feature. A social media campaign without comprehensive reporting is a wasted effort. Analytical and sentiment reports allow you to visually track the success of your campaign. Because people around the globe use social media, it is important for these reports to filter results by language and country. If your company appeals to an international audience, mentions and conversations surrounding your product or brand may be in a variety of languages. Choose a social media monitoring tool that can translate the pulled content.
Sentiment measurement acts as a sort of customer mood ring. Negative, positive or neutral, you will know what your customers are saying about your brand. Negative comments about your brand, for example, may not be explicitly about your product, but about the poor service a customer received. Sentiment is pure emotion. Knowing how your customers feel about your product or brand is crucial for your social media monitoring tool's overall success. Lithium, for example, has a powerful feature that will pull poignant text from various networks and sites and categorize them into quotes expressing love (or hate) for your product, customer wishes and suggestions, etc.
Ease of Use & Setup
The social media monitoring service you choose must fit your business's needs, as well as your social media aptitude. There are some amazing features provided through these social media tools, but your social media campaign will not be successful if they are not simple to use and understand. You and your employees must be able to read and understand the raw data being extracted from your social media monitoring efforts in order to act on it. Setting up profiles, engaging customers, developing a company workflow, comparing charts, etc., should all be simple to do.
A few of these social media monitoring tools have a steep monthly price tag, but when you think of the in-depth information you will be gathering, the investment is worth it. To ensure you see results right away, look for a service that will help you set up your account quickly and efficiently. Do it right the first time, and the results will definitely show that extra effort.
Help & Support
Social media optimization is a process – one that requires time, effort and knowledge of the social media realm in which you are dabbling. For a small-business owner who is just realizing the power of social media, investing in social media monitoring services will be extremely beneficial for your business. For some, the whole idea may take some time to get used to, and there can be a steep learning curve once you delve into the many features and functions within the social media dashboards. The power of a social media presence makes it a necessity, and these small obstacles are worth overcoming.
The beauty of working with social media experts? They are there to answer your questions and help you choose optimal monitoring options. Many of the top social media monitoring services provide a dedicated account manager, though this service generally costs a bit more. Other social media monitoring tools do not provide this service, but they do offer email and Twitter support as well telephone support, video tutorials or product introductions and FAQs. Besides these help and support features, we also found the ability to access reports and whitepapers to be extremely helpful, as you can skim over social media campaigns the company has worked on in the past.