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Five Steps to Effectively Monitor Your Brand in Social Media

Most brand teams are monitoring social media these days to uncover what is being discussed by their customers about their product and its competitors. Many brand teams are event hiring social media monitoring agencies to keep tabs on their brands. Hiring such an agency, while valuable, is quite costly. The purpose of this article is to outline five key steps to effectively and efficiently monitoring social media in-house at a low cost that will yield third-party quality results.

Step 1: Outline your objectives

This is the most critical and often the most over-looked step in developing a sound social media monitoring plan. It is your objective that will eventually determine which monitoring tools you use and how you use them. Are you looking into a niche market for your product that you have not previously targeted? Or maybe you are trying to understand consumer opinions on a recent product recall? Depending on your objective, you will need to customize your methodology.

Step 2: Outline your methodology

Your methodology is all about choosing the right tools for the job. A simple way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with a list of all free and pay services available to you. Attach pros and cons to each service based on your specific needs (e.g. depth of sources monitored, keyword storage, user-friendliness, etc.).

There is no shortage of terrific free tools out there and there is almost no reason that you should not, at the very least, look into these tools. Google Blog Search, Google Alerts, and Twitter Search are all easy to use and very useful. Ultimately, though, a pay service will be required for more robust analysis and deeper insight generation. Most pay services are reasonably priced (starting at only a few hundred dollars per month for a high quality provider) and provide very good customer service to assist you throughout the process of set-up and ongoing monitoring. Radian6 and SM2 are two tools that I have used with good success, but there are numerous other vendors to choose from (e.g. Scout Labs, TNS Cymfony, and many others). Some will contend that pay services are unnecessary with the availability of so many quality free tools. I disagree, however, as a good social media monitoring vendor will provide you with a tool that, at the very least, will save you hours of aggregating data and, at the very most, provide you with more robust tools for analysis. For a couple of hundred dollars, I find these services to be invaluable.

Step 3: Choose the right keywords and continuously optimize

When setting up a monitoring tool, whether it is a free or pay service, you will need to choose keywords that you want to monitor for. This step is critical in generating clean, useful results. The keywords chosen will determine the quantity and quality of your results.. It is imperative to take a targeted approach as you need to cast a large enough net that you capture all relevant conversation without being drowned in irrelevant material. The keyword list should be developed with the overall objective in mind and should be crafted carefully to uncover as much relevant conversation as possible with as little noise as possible.

Depending on your brand name, this may be a very simple or complex process. For a brand like Toyota, for instance, there is likely to be little confusion. Nearly any mention of the term "Toyota" will yield a result that is specific to the car maker. However, brands like Sure deodorant will need to be much more diligent in their approach. Results for "Sure", in general, will have little relevance and even keyword phrase "Sure deodorant" may yield poor results. Trial and error will ultimately determine the optimal list of keywords. Conduct a quick audit after a few days to see the results that each keyword is generating and adjust accordingly. By dedicating time upfront to this optimization process, you will benefit in the long run in the form of saved time and quality results.

Step 4: Dedicate time to analyzing your results

It is an absolute must that you dedicate time on a weekly basis to analyze the results of your social media monitoring campaign. The purpose of this endeavor is to gain real-time feedback on your brand from your customers. Checking-in sporadically and without focus defeats the purpose of monitoring social media. My recommendation is to set-up a weekly 2 hour time slot in your calendar that you can dedicate to analyzing results and optimizing your keyword list.

Most social media monitoring tools will allow you to uncover trends based on keywords and source. Many will even tell you the sentiment of the conversation (good, bad, neutral), but this too requires optimization as an automated tool cannot sense tone and sarcasm. Working with other team members on your social media monitoring endeavor will lighten your time burden and yield more insightful results. I recommend having one team member manage the overall process and share results with the rest of the team on a regular basis in the form of a brainstorming session to better understand the implications of the results.

Step 5: Take action!

Ultimately, we monitor social media to gain insight: insight into our customers' attitudes and beliefs, insight into our brand and how it is perceived, insight into trends in the market. This is all done with the intention of enabling us to make more informed, more impactful decisions. When you have uncovered a valuable insight about your brand that you can back up with solid findings, use it to your advantage by acting on it accordingly.