38 Social listening tips for ANY social media monitoring tool
Social listening is about finding and understanding key user insights about your product (or company), while social media monitoring is the process of gathering all of this data in one place.
Both social listening and social media monitoring are often used interchangeably, but if social listening were a tree, then social media monitoring would be its roots, and our monitored keywords the soil.
Healthy trees develop leaves as they mature, and the better quality the soil, the healthier the tree.The same can be said about your social media monitoring strategies – whether you’re using the data for marketing, research & development, customer service, or something else.
Social listening depends on social media monitoring data, and both are heavily based on keywords.
The data that social media monitoring gives us can be used in a number of ways: customer service, customer feedback, market research, competitor analysis, identifying brand ambassadors, tracking campaign progress, etc… the list goes on.
The way you use your social media monitoring data depends on the goals that you want to achieve, as well as knowing what kind of data to look for in the first place.
Simple but true: knowledge creates opportunities. And data from social media monitoring becomes crucial business knowledge that will (and should) influence all your business decisions once you apply social listening.
However, not all social media monitoring projects are created equal. There are definitely a few things that you can do to ensure that your project retrieves high quality data.
I’ve put together a list of social media monitoring tips that you can implement to retrieve better results, and they’re universal, so you can use them with ANY social listening or social media monitoring tool.
These tips cover different parts of the process, from first deciding what you want to monitor and why, to setting up your project, reading your results, and how to take advantage of all the features of your tool. I’ve tried to list them in the order that they should be implemented, but some tips should be repeated more than once and at different phases.
Now, here are a few universal social listening tips that can be used with ANY social media monitoring tool!
Tip 1. Create a plan for social media monitoring before you create a project
This is key to creating a valid social media monitoring project that retrieves the data you really need.
The tips below will help you put together a good plan.
Tip 2. 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!
Tip 3. Set goals that you want to achieve with social media monitoring
This is directly tied to why you’re monitoring in the first place. Is your project about generating leads? Servicing customers? Building social media presence? Improving your reputation?
How do you plan to measure success?
If you want to protect your reputation and 20% of your current social media monitoring results (monitoring yourself + your company) are negative, then your goal may be to lower that down to 10%.
If you want to service customers, your goal may be to engage the social media monitoring results which show questions and/or complaints about your product + company.
If you want to generate leads, your goal may be to engage social media monitoring results which talk about closely related products. Like this:
Always a treat to see them up so close! Can I suggest trying suet pellets in there? You'll probably get even more visitors to it ?
— Feathers (@FeathersBirding) November 7, 2017
Set your goals ahead of time – this will help you figure out what you need to keep an eye on as your social media monitoring tool collects results.
Tip 4. 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?
Tip 5. 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.
Tip 6. Know your limits… and surpass them
Most social media monitoring tools aren’t terribly difficult to operate, though they may take some getting used to in the beginning. However, the majority of marketing / PR / sales executives won’t have the experience or qualifications needed to start with a mid-range or high-level tool.
Choose an appropriate tool and provide training and learning materials to help orient your staff.
Tip 7. 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:
We apologize for the frustration, Mike. We'll pass your feedback on to our team.
— Skype for Business (@SkypeBusiness) October 11, 2017
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.
Tip 8. Monitor other keywords besides the usual suspects
Besides the usual suspects above, look beyond keywords about yourself and your company. Monitor your competitors and negative terms like BASHtags to identify opportunities where you could provide assistance.
The next few tips are all about optimizing your project with your choice of keywords.
If you don’t choose the right keywords for social media monitoring in the first place, your results will be worthless… and this will be your fault, not your tool’s.
Tip 9. 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.
Tip 10. 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.
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.
Tip 11. Use language filters (if available in your social media monitoring tool)
Some social media monitoring tools will monitor and retrieve results in several languages. While this is useful on its own, it can also retrieve a bunch of irrelevant results for your project if you don’t turn on language filters.
Choose English if you want English results, Spanish if you want Spanish results, Chinese if you want Chinese results, etc…
Tip 12. 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.
Tip 13. 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.
Tip 14. 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.
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.
Tip 15. 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:
I'm finding myself really into these Grey-capped Emerald Doves lately! #birdnerd #greycappedemeralddove #commonemeralddove #greenwingedpigeon #emeralddove #dove #pigeon #pigeonlove #fancypigeon #birding #birder #ornithology #birdsofinstagram #birdstagram #birdportrait #animalportrait #owensaviary #aviarylife #sandiegozoo #sdzoo #sdzglobal #sandiegozooglobal
How can you clean up your results for irrelevant mentions like these?
Tip 16. 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.)
Tip 17. Delete irrelevant results manually
Sometimes it’s just faster and easier to delete irrelevant results manually.
Tip 18. 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.
Tip 19. Use Required keywords to clean up your results
Add Required keywords related to your product or #hashtag 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.
Tip 20. 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.
Tip 21. 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.
Tip 22. Use your Sentiment Analysis filter (if available in your social media monitoring tool)
This can save you time by quickly separating your results based on negative and positive mentions.
Most Sentiment Analysis filters are far from perfect, but they’re pretty useful when it comes to quickly cluing you in that it’s time to worry about the amount of negative comments your company / product has been receiving.
Tip 23. Use your Interactions filter (if available in your social media monitoring tool)
The number of interactions helps you identify which results are getting the most likes, comments, and shares.
If you’re monitoring your brand or company name, product, or company executives, and you’re getting a lot of positive results, great job!
If, on the other hand, any of your negative results (like a bad review, negative comment or post) is getting a significant number of likes, comments, and shares, you’ll want to alert your PR and social media team so they can handle this ASAP.
Here are some basic tips on how to handle negative feedback.
And there are actually more than a few ways to use a negative review online to your benefit.
Tip 24. Use your Influencer Score filter (if available in your social media monitoring tool)
Apart from identifying your results based on positive / negative sentiment or number of interactions, filtering by Influencer Score shows you if any influencers are talking about your keywords.
This is important because Influencers have large audiences. If they say something about your company, their posts will get a lot of eyeballs on it. Depending on whether they say something positive or negative, this could either work for you or against you.
Tip 25. 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.
Tip 26. 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.
Tip 27. Learn about the context of discussions containing your keywords by checking the word cloud
Get a clear view of the context of the conversations about your keywords from your word cloud.
This is especially handy when you are tracking the progress of your #hashtag campaign, and want to know what people are talking about when they use your #hashtag.
Tip 28. See the story beyond the numbers
Data is important, there’s no denying that. It helps you identify patterns and irregularities to pin down the causes of your spikes & dips as well as negative & positive results.
But the real value of social media monitoring lies in your ability to apply social listening and see the story behind the numbers.
What do these patterns mean? Do they correlate with areas in your business that could a boost?
Tip 29. Check on your results now and then
Don’t just set up a social media monitoring project and not check in again. (This kinda defeats the purpose of having set up a project in the first place.)
Even if you don’t plan to use the data anytime soon and have created a project to have sufficient historical data later, take some time to check in when you can and periodically clean up your data.
Tip 30. Don’t just look, act!
After you’ve spent the first couple of days observing and cleaning up your results, your social media monitoring project will really start to take shape.
Maybe you’re interested in real-time results.
Maybe you’re creating your own database of historical data.
Whatever the reason, you’ll log into your project from time to time. And when you’re going through your data, don’t just look, act!
Engage with your results and respond to any direct inquiries or complaints.
If not applicable, learn as much as you can from these insights and turn them into active strategies or implement them in product development.
Tip 31. Interact with your results
Of course, responding directly to your results requires some tact. Here’s a good resource on responding to all types of results (positive, negative, and neutral).
Tip 32. 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.
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.
Tip 33. 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.
Tip 34. 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.
Tip 35. Share your data so others can also benefit
Remember all the different applications of social media monitoring data we talked about earlier (see Tip 26)?
The same data can actually be used across departments (research & development, customer service, business strategy, etc). Make sure you share the data.
Integrating your social media monitoring tool with platforms like Slack will send your results directly into your specified Slack channels.
Tip 36. 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.
Tip 37. 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.
Tip 38. 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?
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!