Open your ears
It is a common misperception to think of social media as different from traditional media. I believe that the more communication technologies evolve the more we must learn to see social media as part of “all media.” However, it is true that some aspects of media monitoring require a different perspective when talking about social media and gathering intelligence.
Do you know what’s been said about you, and where?
In a recent blog post I advocated how audience segmentation (the process of dividing a broad target audience into more specific subgroups) is key to effective communication output (the way we communicate).
When I was asked to prepare a presentation on social media monitoring to gather intelligence I realized how this also applies to communication input (the way we gather information to then produce communication output).
Knowing where people are talking about you and your activities is crucial. We’re currently in an era of information overload and learning how to listen and extract the information which is useful for our communication strategy is not an easy task.
We tend to think that effective monitoring is about being techy or using the most advanced tools or the most elaborate algorithms. At the social media team in the European Commission we are often asked “How can I find influencers on topic X or Y” or “what tools can tell me exactly who to follow on a particular topic.” I’m afraid the answer is: there is no magical tool. Tools will help ease your workload but you should not forget the so-called “human touch.” No matter what monitoring platform you are using or monitoring project you’re setting up, you will always need some manual background research work.
Choose the appropriate monitoring technique
We can distinguish different types of monitoring activities on social media. These are mainly based on:
- The amount of information that needs to be processed.
- The duration of the event/topic at stake.
Roughly I could identify:
- Continuous monitoring
- One-off monitoring
- Short-term project-based monitoring
- Long-term project-based monitoring
“Taking the temperature” of the social media interactions and shared content in relation to your activities is very important. Whether you do that through a corporate monitoring tool or via different platforms, every-day monitoring allows you to be reactive and keep close to the action. It is by monitoring the trends, the data and volumes of information on a daily basis that you will be able to understand when values are unusual (unusually high or unusually low) and to promptly react when needed.
This usually refers to monitoring activities which are done una tantum. They generally end with prompt reports and are used to assess the performance of specific activities. They are good to evaluate events such as conferences, debates, press briefings, campaigns etc…Was the event successful? If not, why? Can we do something to counterbalance? This type of monitoring should be used to answer these questions.
Short-term project-based monitoring
Short-term project-based monitoring can be set-up when a particular “opportunity window” opens (alteration of trend and detection of unusual values).For instance, if you are continuously monitoring discussions on social media about “finance” you will be able to notice when significant amounts of discussions suddenly start revolving around related topics like legislation, transactions fees or regulation. If any such topics is of particular concern for you, it would be interesting to follow a procedure similar to what you can see below.
1. After identifying the issue (i.e. huge concern on social media about upcoming financial regulation) you should measure how far the issue has expanded on social media. This can be done by measuring reach, engagement, shares and retweets, likes etc…
2. Further ad hoc monitoring will allow you to identify influencers and to be able to understand the sentiment around the topic (positive, negative, neutral)
3. After that it is recommended to make a decision on how to engage on the topic with the right stakeholders and suggest a publishing/output or rebuttal strategy.
4. Once this is done, it is necessary to reassess the situation and report it back to the people in charge who will verify if the issue is over or continues.
5. If the issue continues, go back to step 1
If you make step 5 it means that your short-term project-based monitoring becomes long-term.
Long-term monitoring project
These are monitoring projects that are on-going and for which you cannot foresee an exact end date. It’s good to keep an eye on these projects regularly on long intervals or when timely events may lead to values alteration.
Of course there are cases that require the implementation of monitoring projects that go beyond what we have presented here. Nevertheless, whatever monitoring activity you think of setting up, it is important to consider:
Stick to consistent measurement and reporting techniques. This is key to providing effective benchmarking.
Organise your monitoring activities according to the resources you have at your disposal. Although it is very important to monitor your presence on social media, it also requires considerable resource investment. Try to find a sustainable balance between your workload and time spent on social media monitoring.
With the help of social media monitoring tools, either expensive custom solutions or free online platforms, you will be able to gather enormous amounts of information. Think about who you are reporting this to and stick to what really matters. Information overload is your worst enemy.
This blog post is part of a series on online content strategies developed in cooperation between the Europa.eu web team and web consultant Sue Davis.
We’ll look at key resources, the relationship between content strategy and other tasks like information architecture (IA) and some essential tools and processes. Read the full entry
From the Owly Gallery
Did you know, Belgians organise one of the most bizarre contests? We judge the twitter of birds and call it a sport; “finch sport” to be exact. Prizes go to the bird that tweets a particular mating call the most times, makes the most beautiful tweet, etc. Although we won’t make it a contest, this is what you’ll find next. We’ll judge the two most popular Twitter apps which we already reviewed in our blog posts Tools Tuesday: Hootsuite & Hands On TweetDeck. Both of these apps offer great features and are used by millions of people. However which one is best suited to you is a personal choice and depends on several factors:
Hootsuite … the free version offers adequate features which allow you to start immediately. Yet for a small monthly fee you’ll get unlimited social profiles, enhanced analytics, access for 1 additional team member and more.
TweetDeck … it’s 100% free yet you can only have basic features, e.g. no analytics tools.
TweetDeck … to get the most out of it you need to download TweetDeck and have Adobe Air installed on your computer. For this reason it can be a bit of a drain on system resources.
Hootsuite … less intuitive than TweetDeck but you’ll get the hang of it pretty soon.
- + your profiles are in tabs instead of in a single window which allows you to focus
- + easy to drag & drop tabs where you want them and to save custom search columns
- - tab limit of 10 columns
TweetDeck … seems to be a bit more user friendly, clear and easy on the eyes.
- + column based interface a.k.a. multi-column view: all profiles are viewed in 1 screen giving you more of an overview of what’s happening
- + more freedom to personalise the look & feel
- + not only audio but also visual notifications of updates
- + custom URL-shortener, e.g. bit.ly
- + as many columns as you want
- - you can move the columns only one space per click to where you want them
Photo taken from TweetDeck
Updating Multiple Social Networks
With either of these apps you can easily schedule updates for the major platforms like Twitter and Facebook. So how do they differ?
Hootsuite … likes Facebook more.
- + also supports professional Facebook pages
- + shows you a preview before you update your Facebook wall so you’re sure it will look the same
- + more open to other platforms than Twitter, e.g. WordPress
- - you need to specify to which account or several accounts you want to send every update which means you spend more time clicking your mouse
TweetDeck … follows Twitter better.
- - only personal Facebook profiles
- - shows your Facebook updates without a preview of the link, only as you can read them on Twitter
- + you can post to multiple accounts at once and the accounts you select stay active till you deselect them (be careful because updates can end up in the wrong account if you forget to deselect that account)
Accounts and Users
Hootsuite … only 5 accounts for free but it’s unlimited when you pay the fee.
- + you can also collaborate with your team when you pay for the pro-version
TweetDeck … no limits on accounts but also no team collaboration.
Hootsuite … offers basic analytics tools for free and more in-depth ones for a fee.
- How you can find out more about your audience and make reports, you can read in Tools Tuesday: Hootsuite.
TweetDeck … doesn’t provide you with the analytics tools to put you on the right track and report back.
Hootsuite … apps operate very smoothly on mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android).
- + you can quickly open articles and videos on any type and speed of connection
- + simple and easy to use interface
TweetDeck … has apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.
- – less stable and you’ll have trouble on a slow connection even when you calibrate its custom refresh rate
However for the best support look to the people close to you. Many of your colleagues have encountered and resolved similar problems or had to deal with the same needs as you. Use their thoughts to make an informed decision. Please also feel free to comment on this blog, share your experiences, … tell us what works for you and why.
From the Owly Gallery
‘HootSuite Screenshots’ – Mobile Apps
Hootsuite is a social media management, engagement and analytics tool. As it’s also a web-based tool it can sweep down from the cloud onto your desktop, smartphone or any other mobile device so you don’t have to install a software program first. I don’t think that I’d recommend it for someone who’s just tweeting or just Facebooking via one or two accounts. But if you’re using several accounts or, better yet, you have a team managing a bunch of different accounts, Hootsuite is pretty sweet.
What can Hootsuite do for you?
Hootsuite can let you and with a subscription also your team:
- manage your social media accounts
- gather analytics
- schedule status updates
- direct messsage
- track and receive messages
- track RSS/Atom feeds
You can also use it for simple analytics reports (free) or to build your own more in-depth report (for a fee). Hootsuite seeks to be your comprehensive social media tool, minus video. If you’re going to use Hootsuite and you want to track video, set up a YouTube account and tweet or post your YouTube videos on Facebook via Hootsuite. Then combine your clickthrough analytics from Hootsuite with your YouTube Insights to see how popular your videos are and which audiences are viewing them.
The goals in using Hootsuite are:
To track and manage ALL of your social media accounts as an individual or as a team.
If you use Hootsuite, it’s best if you use it for everything from scheduling tweets to posting photos. This way your analytics are up to date. Links that you tweet from Hootsuite usually have an ‘owl’ in them which indicates that Hootsuite is tracking the links clickthroughs. There are also free phone apps that let you use Hootsuite from your mobile device, so utter immersion in the tool is possible.
How does Hootsuite work?
1. Create a Hootsuite account using your email address.
3. Select which of your networks you wish to include in your Hootsuite dashboard. Each of these networks must be linked to a social network account that you have access to / are an administrator of, e.g. a particular Facebook fan page, your blog (or one of your blogs), a twitter account, etc.
5. Create an analytics report.
You are limited in what you can include an a free report – basically, a free report is a summary of your clickthroughs. To create a Hootsuite report:
- Select report type (choose from five options, only one of which is free)
- Choose profile (Twitter / Facebook / Google Analytics)
- Add report “modules” (Rollovers on the reports page provide at a glance descriptions)
- Select your email scheduling preferences and create a report.
6. Manage your networks: e.g. identify spammers to block, read comments, send tweets, post to Facebook or MySpace, upload images … generally engage via Hootesuite.
What does it cost?
Free / Basic subscription:
- Free quick reports
- 5 social profiles
- 2 RSS/Atom feeds
- ad supported: You’ll get targeted ‘promotional tweets’ in your twitter stream. (Don’t worry, only you can see them. Your followers will never see the promoted tweets unless you retweet.)
Pro (USD$5.00 a month)
- Unlimted social profiles
- 1 free team member
- 1 free enhanced analytics report
- Google analytics
- Facebook Insights Integration
- Opt out of ads
- Archive tweets
- unlimted RSS feeds
- More here.
The Analytics point system by Hootsuite: Hootesuite has a ‘point’ system which lets users purchase points. Points let you buy modules to include in your analytics report(s). For example, Hootsuite claims that users usually spend about 50 Analytics Points per analytics report. 50 Analytics Points are worth USD$50/month. If you buy 50 points, you can update your reports as much as you want during the month, and you will not be charged. Pro users automatically get 50 points per month.
Hootesuite allocates each free user a certain number of points, but I’ve only ever gotten 35 points without paying. Please let me know if your experience is different.
‘HootSuite Screenshots’- Analytics
Detailed analytics offered by Hootsuite include:
- compare up to 5 keywords (powered by Topsy) – you can compare over time or in a pie chart
- track followers over time
- track mentions by influencers
- sentiment (not regularly accurate)
- Everything you find in Facebook insights (likes, demographics of followers, page activity, likes by demographics, per-post metrics in tabular and graphical forms, etc.)
Team Analytics – If you have a team running several social media accounts, you can assign tweets to team members and track:
- team activity (who posts what when and how often – general engagement of different team members)
- team activity aggregated (overall, how active is your team? )
- post details (see who posted what and how it was re-tweeted, shared, commented on, etc.)
- comparison of post counts (graphs of the posts over time)
- summary of your clickthroughs of links shared via your twitter profile
- clicks by regions
- referrers – lists of the most popular referrers for links shared via your twitter profile
- the most popular links that you’ve shared
- comparison of links sent by different twitter accounts that you manage
- total clickthroughs per link (provided you shared the link via Hootsuite)
Google + analytics
- Google + page follower count
- number of posts on your Google + page
- aggregated number of comments on your posts
- number of +1 (shares) of your posts
- aggregated re-shares of your posts
Hootsuite offers a pretty great ‘Hootsuite U‘ … as in ‘university’. This has a lot of how-to videos and step-by-step instructions with images. You can even subscribe to receive new how-to updates by entering your email in the bar at the bottom of the page.
If you buy a Pro account, apparently you get even more support.
I like Hootsuite. It’s cheap, easy-to-use, and works well when you have to manage several accounts.
Photo taken from ‘HootSuite Screenshots’
Tutorial by Hootsuite (short video on YouTube)
Topsy is a free analytics tool that you can use to track the impact of social media communications. It enables you to identify and quantify what keywords, terms and URLs are trending within the social web.
What can Topsy do for you?
>> Topsy allows you to search and compare up to 3 queries. A query can be a group of keywords, a group of domains, and/or a group of Twitter usernames.
>> Queries can be compared over time (a day, a week, two weeks, or a month).
>> Topsy also provides metrics comparing:
Influence – a measure of influence across the social web
Velocity – a measure of the speed at which a link’s popularity is increasing, independent of the link’s overall popularity
Peak period – the period that had the highest number of tweets over the past 24 hours
Momentum – a measure of the combined popularity of a link and the speed at which that popularity is increasing
*It’s necessary to use the search operators to get the most out of your search on Topsy.
Here’s a trend of the European Parliament and the European Commission (in English) along with the top trending links mentioning either one for the past month. Results shown include:
- Social analytic comparisons for keywords (European Parliament, European Commission)
- Social analytic comparisons for domains (Techcrunch, mashable)
The goals in using Topsy are:
>> To measure top trending links (what stories and pages on your site are trending)
>> Comparative analysis (which links are trending within your competitor’s sites)
>> Historical trends (compare historical trends for three queries)
>> To measure influence, velocity, momentum, and peak periods (defined above)
Yet Topsy also has some limitations:
>> It is not clear how some of Topsy’s comparative metrics (influence, velocity, momentum and peak) are determined.
>> Languages included in the ‘filter for language’ option are limited to the following options: All languages, English, Chinese, Korean, or Russian. If you enter a query and filter for ‘All languages’, the results in that language are returned (e.g. entering Union européenne finds French results when searches are filtered for ‘All languages’.)
How does Topsy work?
1. Go to Topsy’s website.
2. Enter a query (you can also enter an ‘Advanced query’ by clicking the appropriate link).
3. Review your query via the Web results, Tweets from Twitter, Photos, Videos, Google Plus, and Experts (news, think tanks, and registered consultants or academics).
4. Cross-search within the results to determine which multimedia results (web, photos, videos) are exchanged via Twitter or Google Plus.
5. Filter for language (English, Chinese – Mandarin or Cantonese, Korean, or Russian).
6. Filter for your preferred time, i.e. past hour, past day, past week, past month.
7. Create an email alert for your query (functions in a manner similar to Google Alerts) or subscribe to results via an RSS feed.
8. If desired, share your results on Twitter.
Customise your own Social Module
1. Go to http://modules.topsy.com and log in (upper right).
2. Choose the module (Sitesense, which posts ads at the bottom or you module, is not to be used on EU websites).
3. Identify what you want to track for, i.e. what key words in social media conversations you wish to follow.
4. Customise the background of your Social Module.
5. Copy and paste the code of your Social Module to the website of your choice.
*Topsy offers free APIs for up to 7000 queries a day. If you wish to include more than 7000 in your API, email Topsy’s business development department at email@example.com.
As the in-house metrics ‘expert’, I’ve been asked to write about why measuring and monitoring social media is not only simple but essential.
So the point of this post is plain:
Find a tool to consistently measure and monitor social media – and online media in general – BEFORE you start your communications action (online or offline), DURING your communications action, and AFTER your communications action.
Use this tool to tell who is discussing what where with what tone and why. Determine how this will impact what you want to communicate.
Okay, if you’ve limited time, you can stop reading now. If you want more specifics, scan for the section in this post that interests you most or be old-fashioned and actually read the whole thing.
Measuring and monitoring social media – overview
Two major advantages of social media over traditional media are that you can:
- assess the state of play when it comes to your target audience and target topic online (i.e. identify where, with whom, why, and via what content your topic is discussed)
- gauge quickly and in-depth how your story has been received from the moment of its release up to the months and even years following its distribution.
I’ve reviewed and tested over 50 different paid social media monitoring tools, not to mention the numerous free tools that are out there, and I still haven’t tried even a third of what’s available. Suffice to say, there is no lack for choice when it comes to tools you can use to first map online discussion and then measure your impact on that discussion.
As I said, there are many measurement tools available, both for a price and for free. I like to think of them as belonging to three general categories of tools (and some tools belong to more than one category):
1. Free tools provided by the social media platforms themselves. No platform online today is built without offering metrics. Some common examples include:
- Google alerts come straight to your email (if you have Gmail or Yahoo.)
- Facebook Insights are free if you have a Facebook fan or group page.
- YouTube Insights are free for those seeking to optimise and then measure the success of a video for searches on YouTube or Google (YouTube’s owner). If you’re seeding a video, don’t forget to consider free tools like TubeMogul, which help you target video content for particular audiences (and offer their own free metrics).
- Twitter analytics are not widely available yet, but the micro-blogging service has promised to offer free analytics for users. This will vastly improve how effectively we can use Twitter. Till then, try other free tools like Commun.it or ManageFlitter.
- Bit.ly analytics are offered by the free link-shortening service.
2. Tools built using the free ‘APIs’ or application interfaces provided by many of these platforms (e.g. Klout, Tweetreach, the Archivist, etc.) Many software-as-a-service tools (e.g. Engagor, also found below in the third category) aggregate free APIs to create a dashboard where you can compare analytics across several platforms in a central location. This saves you time in coordinating and analysing your web communications, gives you great graphs that let you see how you’re doing at a glance, and ensure you’re consistent in what you compare.
3. Software-as-a-service (SAAS) tools that often have their own ‘web crawlers’ or specialised data-mining software that collects and catalogues online content to create charts and graphs about what kind of content and which particular topic is popular where and with which demographic via which social media platform. SAAS tools include Engagor, Radian6, Attensity, Heartbeat, Synthesio, Sprout Social, Integrasco etc. – like I said, I have reviewed 50+ of these, indicating it’s a growing business….
Manage your expectations when it comes to any of these. No tool is comprehensive – the web is just too big (and growing) – but all tools are good indicators – as long as you use them consistently.
Some notes on social media analytics available through online SAAS tools (Radian6, Engagor, Alterian, etc.)
As noted above, there are a myriad of paid tools (Engagor, Radian6, Attensity, Heartbeat, Synthesio, Sprout Social, Integrasco etc.) that offer the ability to combine all the analytics you have into a central ‘dashboard.’ Using keywords defined by you, this dashboard provides graphs that display up-to-date metrics measuring current online conversation and content produced that relates to your topic, institution, or issue. These metrics catalogue all relevant content according to:
- Type of online media (blog, online news, social network, video, photo, etc.)
- Country of origin (This is found through scanning the public profiles of users who identify themselves as from a particular country, through looking at languages used, and through locating users’ servers.)
- Trending topics (keywords and phrases that are frequently associated online with your topics of interest.)
- Date of posting (when the content was posted, shared, re-tweeted, etc.)
SAAS tools also usually offer services such as:
- The ability to ‘drill down’ within the data, accessing original content (e.g. specific Tweets, blogs, public Facebook posts, etc.). In addition to examining the content via the dashboard, you should be able to export this content into Excel sheets or CSV files if you want.
- To create customised visualisations of data for specific time periods, languages, countries, type of media, etc.
- To identify influencers within specific topics, social networks, or online communities.
- To engage directly with individuals or organisations via the dashboard,
- To email, flag, or isolate posts of interest to you or others in your social media team,
- To integrate other analytics into your project, such as your website analytics, your Facebook analytics, your RSS feeds, etc.
Back to the overview on social media monitoring tools in general
For those with access, we provide more information about different tools for monitoring and measuring social media in the DG COMM’s social media wiki. For everyone else, you can see here, here, and here for lists and reviews of social media monitoring tools.
Heck (as we polite Anglophones say), just type ’social media monitoring’ or ’social media measurement’ into any search engine and you’ll get plenty of reviews, descriptions, and videos about tools and how to use them.
- Measuring and monitoring tools exist.
- You should take a clear decision about which tools you want to use to measure what and why.
- You should be measuring and monitoring using those tools.
The proper understanding and use of these tools helps in first planning and then evaluating the success of your communications – and in learning lessons for the future.
Reporting and monitoring social media
Reporting should be an important element of your social media activity. Not only does reporting help you to improve your activities, but it shows your management the value and impact of social media.
Depending on the length of your social media communication action, you may want consider a weekly or a monthly reporting exercise, with quantitative and qualitative metrics.
Quantitative metrics include things everyone can agree on – like number of followers, overall language or origin of followers, percentage of tweets vs. retweets, ratio of men to women or of Germans to Romanians commenting on a post. Qualitative metrics are those measurements you and your monitoring team should try to agree on before you start and may have to modify as you go along – stuff like tone of audience, perception of your content, and sentiment (this is a tricky one as sarcasm and humour can easily fool people and machines).
Before you start communicating online, discuss the format of your report as a part of your overall strategy. Some things to consider in building your report:
- As always, know who your audience is and which online tools they already use and where and build this into your monitoring report. In social media, it is usually a waste of time to build a platform and then try to build an online community around that platform. Communities already exist – find them and go to them with the tools and the information that they want. Decide which social media tools will be the most effective for which audience, why you think this, and then determine how you will prove this in your monitoring report.
- What quantitative and qualitative indicators per social media tool are important in determining whether or not you are achieving your communication objectives?
- List the indicators according to the tool used.
- Identify dates that are important to the social media strategy proposed.
- Propose benchmarks, or ask that your service providers provide benchmarks, that you aim to achieve by specific dates.
- Verify these benchmarks using similar strategies, applications, and communication actions implemented. Most service providers can help in this. For example, if a viral video is released through specified social media channels, a service provider that regularly releases viral videos should be able to predict a minimum number of clickthroughs (number of times the video is clicked on by a user) overall. Most service providers build their business around being able to make these sorts of guarantees.
- Figure out how to monitor your online communication efforts to see if you are reaching, not reaching, or exceeding your benchmarks. Reallocate resources accordingly to ensure that you achieve maximum impact from your social media communications (e.g. If a lot of your content is being circulated by several different users on Twitter, you may want to spend more time and effort on distributing content via your Facebook Page or blog in order to increase interest via these platforms.)
- Determine when and how you will report on your results to your communications team. Social media and online communications can point to opportunities in offline communications and vice-versa. To ensure that you and your team are communicating as best as you can, share information and coordinate activities. Propose influencers within a topic that you have discovered via your online monitoring and identify trends and upcoming events that may benefit offline communications.
- Ensure that your report cites ‘lessons learned.’ Learn from your work. Identify where you could improve in a future communications effort. Cite under and over-represented linguistic and geographic target audiences and figure out which issues related to your topic are important to them. Use your work as feedback into your team’s overall communication efforts.
Social media and your website analytics
First, make sure that you have set up the analytics for your home website. See what search terms are leading people there, what individual items are most popular and how long people stay. Get an idea of what your audience is interested in and with that the issues are that are most likely to resonate with your target audience in social media. Measure your site’s “referrers” to find out where site traffic comes from.
While important, site traffic is not necessarily indicative of you’re the success of, for example, a social media campaign, provided that increasing site traffic was not a specific goal of the campaign. Often, members of your target audience get the information that they want from your social media action, so they may not necessarily feel compelled to check out your home page. This does not mean the home page is unimportant – it is often the central and the official point of reference for content used in the campaign.
However, the beauty of social media is that it brings the content to the community rather than forcing the community to go in search of the content. That said, a good way to measure the impact of a social media page is to compare, for example, the Facebook Insights of your Facebook page with your website analytics. Determine which attracts the most traffic, from which sources, at which times, and which content per page is most popular with visitors, etc.
A note on web analysis and offline communications
Remember, the online world often mirrors the offline world, so don’t forget to use at least some online analysis when you plan offline events and communications. With online metrics, you can discover the names of influential speakers about a topic even if the speaker him or herself never posts anything to the web. People blog, tweet, and talk about influencers on forums. Online metrics will also let you track the birth of a new trend and the top buzz words online so you know how people are talking about a particular idea or concept.
You can measure the potential, the current, and the long-term impact of any social media communications campaign. Because you can, you should. So choose some tools, if you haven’t already, and get to it.
Trying to get a message out on social media can feel a bit like trying to make an announcement at a crowded party. There’s music playing, a thousand conversations happening at once and it would something pretty dramatic for everyone to stop and listen. If you don’t take decisive, standing-on-table or glass-clinking action, chances are you’ll just be talking to yourself.
Sprout Social is one of a number of tools that attempts to help you overcome this problem by getting your message out, in the right way, to the right people, and thus helping it spread – without you having to grab the microphone and burst into song.
So can it make the difference?
What’s it all about?
Sprout Social is a social media management tool. Its purpose is to make the time you spend engaging with social media platforms as effective, efficient and impactful as possible – and isn’t that just the holy grail of buzzwords right there?
Basically, this tool allows you to link up your various online identities – your Facebook page(s), you Twitter account(s) etc, and control them all from one place. You can then use your Sprout Social dashboard to publish and schedule updates across all of your platforms, ideally cutting down on time it takes to keep on top of everything. You can respond to comments and questions that come in across the platforms, and keep track of your engagement. Several members of a team can work as administrators in managing this, with assigned tasks, and others can check who has done what.
Crucially, you can also monitor and analyse the effectiveness of what you’re doing, and find ways to make it better. By using the tool to track buzzwords and certain influential profiles or blogs, you can tap into the conversations that are already happening online and engage in them. You can see how far your own message is spreading and draw some conclusions as to why – who the people are that share your posts and talk about you, and what messages are proving interesting to the online community.
Why should you be interested?
Essentially, if you are an organisation or company with and need to both get your messages out and bring all of your online identities together in a cohesive, strategic way, this tool sets itself up to be your engine room. The importance of monitoring, thinking cleverly in terms of the targets of your message, and seeing how effective what you’re doing is, should not be underestimated. Just like a physical conversation, you need to know who’s listening, and be prepared to listen yourself.
It’s not a free service, and it you want the full host of analytic tools that are on offer, it’s not cheap, but the idea is that it could save you time, allow to stay on top of what’s happening in social media, and serve to get people listening to what you have to say.
How it works
1. Create your account.
2. Link your online identities to the account (Facebook, Twitter, video channel etc.)
3. Identify Twitter profiles and keywords that you wish to monitor.
4. Use the tool to manage your online media presence, interact with your audience and to monitor the impact of your online media identities.
There is a free 30 day trial available, but if you want to take on the tool after that, subscriptions run from 9 euro to over 800 euro per month – the cost depends on the number of identities you need to manage, and the level of monitoring and support you need.
Confused? Here’s a quick video that explains in pretty well.
Obviously, depending on your resources, the main downside is the cost, and it also isn’t necessarily the best option if you want to monitor social media in a range of languages – this tool won’t do that for you (see Brittany’s comment below for clarification on this!)
Unlike tools like Engagor, Sprout Social does not attempt to monitor the whole online world, only the online world that it and you deem relevant to your online profiles. Sprout Social is more about seeing the online world from the perspective of your online profile(s) rather than seeing your online profile(s) from the perspective of the online world – think of it as inductive rather than inductive listening.
Monitoring and management are both great ideas in terms of working smarter in social media. Whether or not you need this sort of one-stop-shop depends very much on the level of time and resources available to you, and the amount of identities you have to manage. If you’ve got a team of people and lots of identities to keep up, and you need to ensure that you’re doing it cohesively and cleverly, this could be a good option. If you’re working with one or two Twitter accounts, there might be other (free) tools that you can combine to get the job done.
As always, we’d be delighted to here what you think!