If you own a small business, chances are your customers are actively discussing, reviewing, and otherwise talking about your business online, so naturally you will want to monitor those conversations. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to accomplish this using both free and paid (or a combination of the two) social media listening platforms. Having multiple sources of data can be remarkably valuable on many levels. Not only can you cross-check analytics and reports, you can take advantage of each tool’s unique capabilities.
Social media is perhaps the most popular space for business owners to market their products, services, or other offerings. However, being able to easily post, track, and monitor what activities your current and potential customers are engaging in can get complicated. Fortunately, there are plenty of listening tools to help. These are our favorite five awesome social listening tools.
Schedule posts, organize your social media presence, and determine the optimal times to share content with your target audience. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Hootsuite for business owners is the ability to schedule posts on various social networks in advance, allowing for batch or bulk posting and ensuring that each platform will be active even during busy times or holidays.
Hootsuite also allows you to manage multiple streams of social content in one convenient dashboard that is accessible from your computer, tablet, or phone (or all of the above). You can keep an eye on: Twitter, Facebook (pages, events, groups, and profiles), LinkedIn (profiles, company pages, and groups), Instagram, Tumblr, Google+ pages, Foursquare, MySpace, WordPress blogs and/or WordPress-based websites, Mixi, Vimeo, Reddit, Via.Me, Flickr, Slideshare, MailChimp, Storify, Evernote, and plenty more sites via Hootsuite’s own interface or other apps that can easily be connected to the main dashboard.
What’s even more important for many business owners operating in an increasingly global market is the fact that Hootsuite integrates with sites in a variety of languages, including Sina Weibo (Chinese Twitter), Orkut (a social network similar to Facebook that is popular in South America), and the site itself available in multiple languages. Even if your business is brick-and-mortar, being able to see how and where customers are interacting with your brand online is essential.
In addition, Hootsuite can help you increase your social media success by optimizing your posting times to when your followers are most likely to be online and engage with your content. The app itself uses data based on responses, engagement, and other activity from the vast network of users connected to the businesses who use Hootsuite, allowing for a much more accurate determination of when certain messages are more likely to be successful.
Of course, Hootsuite is also useful if you have employees or other team members managing your social media accounts, since you can give them access and allow them to schedule posts in advance while still keeping the main password private.
Hootsuite and other social media listening apps (such as Social Mention, which is featured below) are also helpful for managing customer service online, since you can immediately see whenever a customer, potential customer, or anyone else mentions your company on the social Web.
A great, free, and quick way to determine what conversations are happening around a particular topic on different social media platforms. While it can sometimes be difficult to filter the signal from the noise, dedicated social media listening tools like Social Mention can help business owners and marketing teams narrow their audience by platform, type of activity and content created, sentiment, and much more.
And did we mention that Social Mention is free and easy to use? It is also a perfect way for business owners to check out how the competition is performing on social, as well as seeing how potential clients are perceived by your target audience. There’s also a scoring system and a sentiment tracker that gives you a quick snapshot of how social media users feel about a given brand or topic.
Social Mention is also an easy way to aggregate potentially shareable content, since you can use it as a socially specific search engine for any given keyword. You can search for your competitors’ names, your own company’s name and brand, phrases related to your business, and virtually anything else you are interested in learning more about. And, since it’s social-media-centric, you get much more customized results than you would from Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
Owned by Apple as of December 2013, this application allows for a simple dashboard that lets you sort through mentions of your brand online, including detailed social analytics and a variety of ways to view and report upon social trends in your industry. While Topsy can be overwhelming at first, the rewards of having a dashboard that is elegant and intuitive, and which shows the various ways your target demographic interacts with your brand online, are quite valuable.
Perhaps the most valuable thing about using Topsy for social listening is the resulting learning experience. After you set up your dashboard and start regularly listening in on what they post about and where they do it, you’ll be able to gain some insight into why people post and connect the way they do online.
Topsy also allows you to define your audience — which is the first step toward social media marketing success in general — and easily see what they are posting and where, so you can refine and improve future social media marketing efforts.
Like Hootsuite, using Topsy also allows you to coordinate and schedule your social media messages. While posting Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or other messages on the fly seems easy to organize at first, the ability to schedule messages in advance and optimize the times that you are posting is invaluable.
This free site lets you create a custom webpage with social media newsfeeds about your brand name, related keywords, and any other topics you want to track. Perfect for daily monitoring and regular reporting, this tool also provides elegant graphs that make search results aggregation and customization easy to visualize.
Addictomatic can also be used to create a personalized homepage or dashboard with headlines that cover the latest news in a given industry, organized by social media sites and platforms — something that is invaluable in most industries, but especially any vertical in which changes happen quickly and often.
This site/app pulls results from Google, Bing, Facebook, SlideShare,Twitter, YouTube, FriendFeed, Reddit, Digg, Delicious, Flickr, Twingly, WordPress, Technorati, Bloglines, Wikio, StumbleUpon, and more, depending on the search terms you enter. It is also great for organizing your regular reporting schedule (you do have one set up or planned, right?) and discovering new places where your customers or potential customers discuss or post about anything that has to do with your brand.
This service allows you to know exactly where your business (and your competitors) stand on social media via a customized score based on the engagement of your followers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Foursquare, Instagram, and more. Even better, new networks and search engines are being added regularly, and Klout itself has a relationship with Bing that allows for additional data and learnings that will no doubt be helpful for business owners (and don’t discount Bing — it’s the default search engine for Windows device owners, including the popular Surface tablet).
A high Klout score can be valuable on several levels. Advertisers tend to value users who have a significant following, of course, but with Klout there’s also the ability to develop, track, and grow a social media influencer list that you can work with on many levels going forward.
Using a social media listening platform like Klout can also be a great way to discover the “social weight” of each of your followers and potentially discover who to reach out to and work with in the future. Perhaps the best reason to use Klout is the capability to discover bloggers and other social media influencers who could potentially promote, connect with, or advertise your brand.
Of course, Klout’s own rating system shouldn’t be discounted. While it is somewhat subjective and occasionally the subject of controversy, the technology allows you to get a quick snapshot of a given social media user’s influence, which can only be helpful when planning any kind of social media marketing campaign, but especially if you are looking to work with bloggers or other power users on a given platform.
Klout also allows you to see a user’s influence across various networks, which makes it perhaps the most valuable tool for business owners looking to start and/or maintain a social media outreach campaign.
Recap: Social Media Listening Tools for Small Business Owners
While there are many different reasons to use social media listening tools, overall, this kind of software in general lets you become more efficient and effective as a business owner and/or marketer, since you can essentially learn by doing: posting content, seeing how and when users engage with it, and what effect it has on your business as a whole.
Whichever combination of social media tools you choose, perhaps the most important thing to consider is your overall goal or the KPIs you want to track — choosing the right listening tools, setting up a solid reporting process, and educating the whole marketing team from the beginning is the first part of success for any given social media campaign.
Need help with your social media strategy?
If you’re still unsure how to target your social media marketing, Digital Current can help! With over a decade of experience developing integrated online marketing campaigns, we know a thing or two about reaching the right audiences with the right message.