In the run up to Monitoring Social Media 09 I’ve been checking out some of the free or low-cost social media monitoring solutions. I’ve been hearing that many of the top marketing agencies still use free monitoring tools: but which ones? And how do they compare to the high-end paid-for solutions like Visible Technologies, Brandwatch etc? There are lots and lots of these services, but here are thumbnail reviews of 5 of the most best:
Often described as the social version of Google Alerts, SocialMention offers a really user-friendly interface. In fact, it’s definitely the nicest looking solution and the easiest to use. It provides results from blogs, twitter (microblogs), video, comments, bookmarks, news, events etc. and sets these out with cross-cutting facts down the side panel showing Sentiment, Top Keywords, Top users and Sources – which tell’s you a lot of useful information at a glance.
The big problem with SocialMention is that you can’t save your searches and come back to them. There is no login/account function – so it’s really just useful for one-off searches. You can download the data and there is a nifty widget that lets you add realtime results to a blog, but what you really want is a private Deshboard to manage your searches. Also – you can’t easily respond to comments – which other services enable.
BrandsEye ($1 month)
BrandsEye is more of an old-school reputation management tool than a social media monitoring service. For just $1 a month (you wonder why they bother for that much), you get a “Blogger” level account that lets you set up 5 searches that you can login and return to view at any time. Results are shown in a rather Web 1.0 list which doesn’t include Twitter or other social media formats (comments, video, audio, presentations etc) and doesn’t enable you to respond within the system. It’s an nice, easy to use, cheap web-monitoring tool – but it’s really no good for social media.
Trackur ($18/month with free trial)
This is one of those services that, thanks to it’s founder, Andy Beal, get’s a lot of online promotion and coverage. It looks great from the outside and is free to sign up for a 14-day trial. Once inside it’s pretty straightforward – there is only one option “add a keyword” to create a search. The results come in a list (like BrandsEye) with Tweets, comments, posts etc. all mixed in – and a little graph showing when activity occurred. You can click into items to rate their sentiment or read the full text. It’s all very basic and obvious – though completely without bells and whistles, at least in the basic account.
Ubervu is similar to SocialMention but with the critical account functionality that lets you save searches and log in to see them. It brings in a full range of social media data – Tweets, comments, posts, video etc. – and shows responses/retweets in a nice. user-friendly indented way. If you’re logged in (it’s free) you can add your Twitter, Facebook, WordPress etc. account details and reply directly to comments. You can export the data, get a widget for your blog to show results publicly and set up email alerts. On the face of it – it’s a great solution – though we had a few issues with the interface (esp. in Chrome) and some of the default settings (daily mentions) means you often get a negative looking downwards angled graph when you log in.
Although nowhere near as user-friendly as SocialMention or easy on the eye as the Ubervu results listings – ViralHeat is a very powerful tool that is probably our favourite budget solution. Once you’ve registered for the basic account, the Dashboard lets you set up 10 profiles. Although its’ a little confusing to navigate around, when you finally open a Profile you get a rich reward: graphs showing activity on Twitter, blogs and Video sites; the number of “authors”; the total reach on Twitter (our twitter reach this week was 51,000) and who the most influential authors are on Twitter and blogs. You can click down into all this data and export it.
You also get a full listing of activity, with the nationality of the author site, a link to the post, the traffic of the site or full stats of the twitter user (like you get on Tweetdeck) and – a bit weirdly in our view – the ability to email an item to someone else. There is also a basic gauge for sentiment, though as with all less-sophisticated services, this is generally “neutral”. Overall, Viralheat is a surprisingly powerful service, though they need to add the ability to respond from within the system.