*This content was previously published on Social Conversations in June 2010. Social conversations was a product of Serengeti Communications which closed in 2012
Buzz monitoring and the tools you need to use to monitor the key words and key phrases that are important to any online marketing strategy whether it’s Pay Per Click (PPC), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), eMail (yes, it’s still alive and kicking!) and even Affiliate Marketing endeavors are vital to putting your strategies on the right paths to success. However, where buzz monitoring tools can play a significant, foundational role, is with Social Media Marketing. Buzz monitoring tools, whether they are your basic entry level tools like Google alerts, or enterprise level, such as Alterian’s SM2 (formerly known as Techrigy) can give you insight into things you would never find just by using a search engine.
That being said, buzz monitoring tools may seem like a god-send for any marketing researching planning or beginning to plan a social media marketing strategy. However, marketers need to keep in mind, buzz monitoring tools cannot tell you everything. They certainly can give you the “scent” of the conversation, but there’s a lot anyone can miss if they rely solely on buzz monitoring tools alone to set up their social media strategy, pick marketing tactics and set goals and metrics by.
Buzz Monitoring Tools Give You the Basics
Buzz monitoring tools give you the essential, basic information you need about the conversations swirling around the chosen key words or phrases you are monitoring. Unfortunately, sometimes even the basics can be misleading, especially when it comes to sentiment. Unless you have a buzz monitoring tool that allows you to change the dictionary in the sentiment area, you could either be falling down a lot of rabbit holes or worse yet, missing some conversations entirely because your buzz monitoring tool placed the conversations into the “general” or “neutral” area. Your bare bones buzz monitoring tools, like Google Alerts, don’t even give you the option of sentiment analysis, so when using that tool, you really are at the basics of buzz monitoring.
- They Tell You What
Any of these buzz monitoring tools will tell you either in a long or brief description, what’s being said around the words or phrases you are choosing to monitor for your strategy. That’s a basic need of any strategy. Understanding what’s being said about you, your company or it’s products or services is vital, without it you are pretty much operating in the dark.
- They Tell You When
Did the conversation happen withing the last 24 hours, or the last month or the past year. Depending on the tool you use, will depend on how far back your research in buzz monitoring can take you. Some tools can go back into the databases for as long as they’ve been collecting data. Others limit you to 90 day, 6 months or a year. Google alerts will let you go back as far as it has the data, however, that’s very manually intensive work for anyone on your team. Deciding on how long to look back at is important too. 90 days (or 3 months) can be a relatively short space of time that you won’t be able to see the ebbing and flowing of conversations, on the other hand going back 2years could be too much data and overwhelm your researchers..
- They Tell You Where
Buzz monitoring tools also give you a vital clue, or a scent / trail to follow by telling you where the conversations are happening. However, that being said, marketers doing research have to keep in mind, sometimes buzz monitoring tools cannot get into each and every niche forum. If they are behind a “walled garden”, where usernames and passwords are required, those conversations generally will not come up in the buzz monitoring results. While buzz monitoring tools can give you a pretty detailed pointer to go and look at a particular thread in a particular community, or a tweet stream, or a Facebook page, no one tool is going to tell you where every conversation that has gone on..
- They Tell You Who
Finally, buzz monitoring tools can tell you who is talking about you. For the most part you can at least see the major players in the conversations about the words you are monitoring. Now they aren’t going to tell you name, address, phone number and email. However, they will tell you their twitter name, blog URL, avatar/moniker in a forum and some tools might even give you an idea of how influential the conversationalist is. This can help you a lot in your research in deciding how to approach and engage with different individuals.
What Buzz Monitoring Can’t Tell You: How or Why
The missing pieces with buzz monitoring tools is the how and the why conversations are triggered. How did the buzz about your product get started? Why did someone feel compelled to share a conversation in a forum? These questions are also very basic and fundamental pieces of research that should be answered before you pick any online marketing tactic to place in your social media marketing strategy.
Buzz monitoring tools are great at pointing you in the right direction. Much like a hunting dog aids the hunter, they are indispensable tools you need to get the job done. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to know the conversations go on at all. But just as important as knowing Who, What,When & Where is the “How” and the “Why“, and to understand those you need human analysis. Someone actually needs to go in and perhaps watch or lurk, as well as listen and learn in a community to get a feel why conversations happen they way they do. They might even need to ask questions of your targeted community’s participants to get a better handle on how they originally found out about your product or service.