Social media monitoring: What’s, why’s, how’s & tools [2021]

February 10, 2021 ・ 13 min read

Delve deep into social media monitoring, recognize its significance during the pandemia, learn tools, best practices and other necessary aspects of the process to get the most out of it for your business.

The tragic and unfortunate pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, and shopping is one of them. As more and more restrictions had been imposed to stop the virus from spreading, brick-and-mortar stores, among other publicly available spaces, have been shut down.

Consumers then moved from the offline to the online shopping, putting ecommerce at the forefront of retail. Data shows that ecommerce sales have grown by 44% year to year, comparing 2019 to 2020.

With this in mind, brands and online businesses should focus even more on honing their online presence across the internet. And this is where social media monitoring comes in. 

Social media monitoring has been with us for some time already, however, it’s becoming particularly valuable only now.

Welcome to the guide to media monitoring.

What is social media monitoring (and analytics)?

Social media monitoring is a process of keyword monitoring on social media platforms in the search for mentions of predefined keywords. In business, they could be connected to the brand, product, service, industry, competitors, marketing campaigns, hashtags and anything business-related. Sources of social media mentions include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok. 

Social media monitoring stretches beyond social media platforms and often includes keyword monitoring of other platforms and websites, such as news sites, review sites, discussion forums, blogs and other publicly available sources. 

The process is done using social media monitoring tools which operate as SaaS, or software as a service, tools.

Furthermore, social media monitoring tools have plenty of analytical tools that get you heaps of data and insights about monitored keywords.

Some of them include: 

  • Metrics of volume
  • Metrics of engagement
  • Metrics of sentiment 
  • Metrics of influence 
  • Metrics of reach and online presence
  • + more! 

There are various applications of social media monitoring in business. The great thing about it is that it helps in many areas of business:

  • Brand reputation monitoring
  • Marketing analysis
  • Analytics 
  • PR 
  • Research
  • Competitor analysis 
  • Market research

How does social media monitoring work?

The word monitoring can have some negative connotations, but don’t worry – social media monitoring is completely legal and compliant with RODO. Some tools, like ours, were reviewed and certified by Facebook so that they, we, meet privacy and security standards.

When it comes to technical aspects, in simple words, social media monitoring uses something like Google robot to crawl social media platforms in almost real time in search of predefined keywords. 

To me, there are three main aspects to social media monitoring:

  • Setting-up
  • Collecting
  • Analyzing

First of all, it starts with setting-up a project in which you provide the keywords you want to track in social media. There’s often an advanced set-up with required and excluded keywords that can be used to make your query even more specific. 

Secondly, the tool collects mentions into a dashboard. There’s usually plenty of filters you can use to clean up, group, mark, delete collected mentions. Apart from the dashboard, you can receive mentions directly to your inbox in various shapes and quantities: daily, weekly, or real-time reports.

Thirdly, there’s the analytics. It depends on a tool, as different tools analyze different data. Some tools analyze metrics of volume, engagement, reach, sentiment, and influence of social media mentions. 

How do I choose a social media monitoring tool?

You can start from our list of the best social media monitoring tools. Most of them offer a free trial period which gives you a couple of days to play with the tool.

The best way to find the right tool is to give a try to a couple of them and choose the one that meets your expectations. The choice depends on your needs. Every tool is a bit different when it comes whether to the interface, usability, or features. 

Price is another important factor. Costs of social media monitoring range from just a couple of dollars to thousands monthly. 

If you’re already here, you can try Brand24 for free for 2 weeks. No credit card required.

Best practices of social media monitoring

Below you can find a few loose thoughts about social media monitoring and how to use it to squeeze the most out of it.

Decide why you’re monitoring

Social listening is used in many spaces, including: customer service, getting customer feedback, and tracking the progress of your #hashtag campaigns.

Can you use it for all of the above? Of course – you can use social media monitoring data for much more than that! This is just a reminder that it’s a good idea to have a plan (maybe several plans, one for each different use), or you may find yourself getting overwhelmed and confused by all the data.

Trust me, it happens.

Decide why you’re monitoring first!

Choose a social media monitoring tool that fits both your budget and your needs

There are a lot of social media monitoring tools on the market.

Free tools (like Google Alerts, TweetReach, etc) are options, while inexpensive tools (like Brand24) cost up to $100 / month. Midrange tools can cost around $800 / month while more expensive full-service tools usually come with personal consultants, but typically cost about $1000 / month.

Free tools are great because, well, they’re free, but they also won’t retrieve most results. I monitored the book Oryx and Crake with both a free social media monitoring tool as well as paid tool Brand24 (free-to-try). During a 24-hr period, the free tool retrieved 4 results for Oryx and Crake while Brand24 retrieved 14 results. That’s a 350% difference. A free tool may be enough for some users, but it just won’t cut it for most businesses.

Now, how do you select a social media monitoring tool?

Sign up for free trials and ask questions if you have any

Different tools and different levels of service offer different capabilities, so it’s best to shop around. Sign up for free trials (and actually use the tool). Schedule consultations and ask the big questions.

The point is to make sure you choose a tool that suits both your budget and your needs. I recommend Brand24 – it’s user-friendly yet rich in features.

Choose your keywords carefully

When it comes to choosing keywords, the usual suspects include: your brand or company name, product, and #hashtag. It depends on why you’re monitoring.

To provide customer service, you should monitor all of the above. Your company or brand will not always be tagged in a question or complaint, and you don’t want unhappy customers to feel ignored. Even a quick response to acknowledge their frustration can help, like this:

Monitor the keywords above and your social media monitoring tool will alert you of any conversations and complaints where you’re not tagged.

If you’re monitoring for other reasons, this may require different keywords to retrieve relevant data.

Choose your keywords carefully — here are some tips on choosing keywords.

Check for spelling and punctuation

You may be a good speller but that’s not necessarily true for your audience.

Plus, some terms are just plain confusing. Between Tofurkey and Tofurky, are you sure you know which spelling refers to the brand and which one refers to the general meat substitute?

Check for spelling and punctuation, and include incorrectly spelled keywords as well as the correctly spelled keywords AND popular nicknames.

Use Required keywords (if available in your social media monitoring tool)

This is especially helpful when you want to find out what people are saying about your company or product with respect to other companies and products.

Use Required keywords (if available in your social media monitoring tool)

For example, to retrieve results about conversations that compare Nike versus Reebok, I would create a project that monitored conversations about Nike. THEN, I would enter Reebok as a Required keyword. This would retrieve results that discuss both Nike and Reebok.

Think twice about long-tail keywords

Language is rich in variety. There are many different ways to say the same thing. New words can be used in place of others to communicate the same message.

I’ve just expressed the same thought in 3 different sentences. And I’m only one person. Imagine all the different ways various members of your audience could be talking about you or asking for recommendations:

  • Looking for recommendations for good hiking boots
  • Need recommendations on good hiking boots
  • Where can I find good hiking boots?
  • Where can I buy good hiking boots?
  • Can you recommend some good hiking boots?

When you use long-tail keywords, it narrows down your results significantly and you could end up excluding results which are also relevant.

Ex. Monitoring ‘Need recommendations on good hiking boots’ will exclude results for ‘Where can i buy good hiking boots’. Unless you monitor both phrases.

Clean up your social media monitoring results

This part is important, because it will help your social media monitoring tool collect more accurate results.

Develop some good ‘cleaning’ habits and practice them consistently to make sure you get the highest quality social media monitoring results possible.

The next few steps contain good practices for cleaning up your results.

Take a day or two to observe your results

It’s not enough to select your keywords, enter them in your social media monitoring project and not log-in again until a week later. Social media monitoring is an active process, at least in part.

Take a day or 2 to observe your results

Start any social media monitoring project well in advance. Not only does this provide you with historical data, it also lets you spend the first couple of days observing your results and looking for ways to fine-tune and optimize your project.

See what kind of results your current keywords and settings retrieve. Take a day or two to observe.

Look for irrelevant results

Irrelevant results can take a few forms, especially if the keywords that you’re monitoring aren’t unique.

For example, I set up a social media monitoring project to monitor the brand Dove.

Being the practical robot person that I am, I made a point to log into my project at least once a day for the first couple of days. And it’s a good thing I did!

The first time I logged in after setting up the project, my social media monitoring tool had already retrieved a lot of results on Dove.

Most of them were about the brand Dove. But some of them looked like this:

Look for irrelevant results

How can you clean up your results for irrelevant mentions like these?

Use Excluded keywords (if available in your social media monitoring tool)

I quickly entered Cameron as an Excluded keyword. This ensures that your social media monitoring tool doesn’t retrieve results containing Dove if the keyword Cameron also appears in the same result. (Results about Dove Cameron do make this project more fun to look at, but unfortunately, these aren’t relevant results.)

Use excluded keywords (if available in your social media monitoring tool)

Delete irrelevant results manually

Sometimes it’s just faster and easier to delete irrelevant results manually.

Block domains and mute authors that are giving you irrelevant results

Block domains and mute authors that are giving you irrelevant results

If you notice that a number of your irrelevant results are coming from specific domains or websites, block them!

For instance, in my Dove project, I received results where ‘dove’ was used as a verb and I noticed that they were coming from a domain on sports (“He dove to catch the ball, traveling at lightening speed”).

I blocked the domain and the tool stopped retrieving irrelevant results from that site.

Use Required keywords to clean up your results

Add Required keywords related to your product or #hashtag to clean up your results.

Use required keywords to clean up your results

For example, to get more specific results from Dove, Required keywords like moisturizer or any Dove #hashtag campaigns could be added to retrieve more specific results.

Explore all the features that your social media monitoring TOOL has to offer

You played around with the tool during your free trial and asked any questions that you had. Now that you’ve chosen the best tool for your business, really take the time to get to know it. Don’t let any feature go to waste.

You could be missing out on meaningful analyses, useful filters, quickly generated PDF reports & important metrics like these: Explore all the features that your social media monitoring tool has to offer.

Prioritize your results

Prioritize your results according to order of importance, so you know what you need to take care of first.

Brand24 includes features such as Sentiment Analysis, Interactions, and Influencer Score filters which are designed to help you prioritize your results.

Create a benchmark to compare your results

Benchmark or compare your latest results against your results from previous campaigns or different time periods. This will give you a better idea on how much you’ve progressed over time.

Explore all the opportunities that social media monitoring has to offer

What can you do with your social media monitoring data? A lot. It’s a matter of perspective and the way you use the data. Here are a few things you can do by monitoring different terms:

  • Monitoring your brand or company name – Find out WHERE your audience is talking about you and distribute more content and ads there; Learn more about the type of audience that you have; See what your audience is saying about you and manage your reputation.
  • Monitoring your product – Gauge what the public thinks about your product. See how it’s being used. This will help you find the right angle to promote your product or reposition it on the market if necessary.
    • You thought your inflatable pillow would be a hit for campers? Your customers may think it makes a better car travel pillow.
    • You thought your brand personality was seen as funny? Your audience may think you’re more ‘sassy’.
    • These insights can help you see if you should reposition your product or rebrand your company in your marketing strategies.
  • #Hashtags – A marketing campaign is incomplete without a #hashtag. Monitor your #hashtag to see how often it’s being used and what the conversations are about.
  • Similar products – See what people are saying about similar products. Are they better? Are they worse? These are key insights that your R&D team needs to see.
  • Influencers – There are people who SET trends and people who FOLLOW them. If you’re not a trendsetter (yet), at least stay up to date by following important industry influencers.
  • Competitors – See where they fall short and this may something that you can cover with your own company.
  • Key execs at your company – It’s likely that your CEO or Public Relations specialist talk about your company… a lot. Monitor what they’re saying and see how people are reacting.

Mark your results, so they’re easy to find

You’re going to be collecting social media monitoring data for a while. Make sure you have a system to mark the important ones.

Mark your results so they're easy to find

Create Groups for certain types of results or at least mark them in some way that will make them easy to find when you need them later.

Customize your project and set up e-mail notifications the way you like them (if available in your social media monitoring tool)

Whether you’re interested in real-time monitoring or are monitoring in advance to have historical data on hand, take advantage of any opportunity you have to customize your notifications.

If you can decide when and how often you receive e-mail notifications, set it up. Your inbox will thank you later.

Customize your storm alerts (if available in your social media monitoring tool)

Storm alerts let you know when there’s been a sudden increase in your number of results, or a sudden increase in conversations containing your keywords.

Customize your storm alerts to send you notifications when it matters.

If you’re a small company that only gets a few mentions a day, you can create storm alerts to notify you when you’ve suddenly received 12 mentions in a day. (See what’s suddenly got people talking and whether it’s positive or negative.)

If you’re a mid-size or larger business, you can set the limit to 50 mentions a day, 250 mentions a day, or 1,000 mentions a day. Make the number significantly higher than your average number of mentions so you can be alerted to real buzz.

customize your storm alerts (if available in your social media monitoring tool)

Get the complementary mobile app

get the complementary mobile app

Again, not all social media monitoring tools also offer a mobile version. If yours does, download it so you can retrieve your results on the go – it’s the perfect complement to the desktop version.

Collect historical data

Most social media monitoring tools offer limited historical data. If you need historical data, it’s crucial that you start monitoring as soon as possible so you have your own set of historical data to compare with newer results later on.

This requires some patience and diligent social media monitoring, but then you’ll have historical data that you can use for comparison with new data to identify causes of spikes, dips, patterns or irregularities in your results.

Develop and maintain good social media monitoring habits

The most important part of social media monitoring is consistency. Consistently check in. Consistently clean up your results. Consistently respond and react.

Social media monitoring saves you an extensive amount of time (you don’t need to scour the web to retrieve results yourself), but it should be an active process on your end, too.

Otherwise, it would be like buying a pair of eyeglasses, expecting to see better… and then continuously bumping into table corners because you keep your glasses inside your drawer.

What would be the point of that?

Quick recap

We’ve gone through each of the 38 social media monitoring tips that I’ve compiled for you – I tried to cover different parts of the process – let me know if there’s anything that you’d like to know about in more detail.

In the meantime, here’s a quick recap:

  • Create a general social media monitoring plan before you create a project
  • Sign up for a free trial and choose a social media monitoring tool that suits your needs and your budget
  • Choose your keywords thoughtfully
  • Clean up your results
  • Take advantage of the features that your tool has to offer
  • Check in consistently!

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and that you’ll use these tips to obtain high quality results from social media monitoring.

And feel free to leave a comment if I’ve missed anything or if there’s a particular topic that you’d like to read more about!


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