Archive for the ‘Social Media Monitoring - 2010 review’ Category.

30 free tools for finding social media influencers

listening_inOur recently launched  social media influencers report tests how effective nine of the leading social media monitoring tools  are at identifying influencers.

While these tools - Attensity 360, Brandwatch, Radian6, Alterian, Scoutlabs, Sysomos, Synthesio, Social Radar and PeerIndex - are certainly market leaders and offer comprehensive, cross-platform social media monitoring and influencer identification, they all come at a price.

So is there a way of finding influencers without paying for tools?

In a word, yes. There are a plethora of free (or free to a certain level of service) tools that you could use to identify social media influencers. However, unlike the tools we tested in our report,  very few of them work across the different social media platforms and most focus on one particular area of social media - mostly Twitter, but some also do blogs and forums.

And, as with all tools, the data and results require human analysis to ensure you identify the right people.

Here’s a list of some of the free tools that could be used to find influencers (in English language):

  • Addict-o-matic - produces a a consolidated page with search matches across blogs, Twitter, Digg, Flickr and more.
  • Alltop - the online magazine rack – search for influential bloggers listed by specific subject and topics.
  • Blogpulse - an automated trend discovery system for blogs. It analyzes and reports on daily activity in the blogosphere.
  • Boardreader - search engine for forums. Get fast and quality search for your own forum.
  • Buzzstream - helps you build a dossier about your influencers.
  • Dailylife - search news and editorial commentary for influencers in traditional media.
  • Facebook - use the “search” function to identify topics and people who are talking about them.
  • Google - possibly still the ultimate free tool for finding influencers, especially since the launch of  Google Blog search, Google Realtime search and their “Discussion” search option.
  • HubSpot Twitter grader - check the power of a twitter profile compared to millions of others that have been graded.
  • IceRocket - search social networking sites and blogs to find influencers and online creators (people who upload images or talk passionately on a social network about a brand).
  • Klout - currently the most respected measure of Twitter influence, Klout allows users to track the impact of their opinions, links and recommendations.
  • Lijit - build relationships with the online influencers and connect directly to their audiences.
  • MentionMap - visualiser tool that allows you to quickly assess the most influential people on Twitter.
  • Monitter - monitor Twitter for key words, phrases and topics that are being discussed online.
  • ObjectiveMarketer - find your influencers and amplifiers across various social media platforms.
  • PeerIndex - helps you discover the authorities and opinion formers on a given topic.
  • PostRank analytics - discover your influencers, identify which social networks give you most traction and benchmark yourself against the competition.
  • Pulse of the Tweeters - uses data mining and sentiment analysis to mine millions of tweets and find the most influential people on Twitter.
  • Socialmention - features an interesting combination of metrics including reach, sentiment, passion, and strength for blogs, Twitter, news, images, video, and audio.
  • Social Profile - keeps you informed of other peoples’ activity in the social web.
  • Social Seek - helps you find out who is making the most noise about your brand.
  • Technorati - considered to be the leading blog search engine - useful for finding influential blogs.
  • TipTop - Search for current trends and topics of interest.
  • TouchGraph - interactive graphs to help visualise links and for mind mapping.
  • Trendistic - find out the what the most influential topics of discussion are on Twitter.
  • Tribe Monitor - measure presence across several different social media platforms.
  • Twazzup - real-time news based on Twitter focused sentiment, top links etc.
  • Tweetlevel - measures an individual’s importance on Twitter.
  • Twendz -helps  see who your influencers are on Twitter.
  • Twitalyzer - Twitter focused tool looking at influence, impact and engagement.

Please let us know if we have missed any and we’ll add them to the list. It’d also be great to hear any thoughts you have about these tools, particularly if you’ve tried using them to find influencers.

What is a social media influencer?

influencingtheinfluencer1As more and more companies are using social media to successfully engage with their customers, the challenge today is to develop a social media strategy that generates real value.

One way to achieve this is to use social media to talk to your customers on a more personal level.

However, most businesses simply do not have the time, money or resource to interact regularly with every single one of their customers through social media, let alone on a one-to-one basis, which is where influencer engagement comes in to play.

What is a social media influencer?

In the context of social media, an influencer is an individual who transmits messages, through social media, that have an impact on other peoples’ ideas and practices.

Influencers provide information and insights that are trusted and held in high regard. They rise above the noise and comments of the crowd and find resonance with their audience.

Influencers run across all social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook. Both current and prospective customers pay attention to the insight, expertise and information they share because they have the ear of people in your market. By forming relationships with the right influencers your brand messages can reach your target customers through what is perceived as a trusted source. In turn, this will help increase engagement with your brand, help develop advocacy, encourage word-of-mouth and, if managed in the right way, drive sales.

To find out more about social media influencers look out for our detailed social media influencers report 2010 - a follow on to our social media monitoring tools review which tests nine of the leading social media monitoring tools in order to assess how effective they are at identifying influencers.

The full version of the report will then be released via our blog following an exclusive launch at our breakfast seminar on Thursday 2nd December.

You can register for the event by clicking on the button below:

Register for How to target social media influencers in London, United Kingdom  on Eventbrite

Our next blog posts will look at how to identify influencers.

Our readers can also get 10% discount on the ticket price for Monitoring Social Media 2010, taking place in London on 22nd November – please use the discount code “fresh”.

Three ways to act on your social media monitoring

sydney opera house - surreal steps
Image by Chewy Chua via Flickr

This week we published the final report in our Review of Social Media Monitoring Tools (download the final report here). Reflecting on the report and its findings with clients and others this week, we have found ourselves discussing the importance of not just listening (although this can often be a good first step for those who are not yet doing it) but also acting on what is said about your brand and other terms of interest in social media. As the report shows, the different social media tools are of value for different purposes and choosing the one that is most suited to your brand and your needs is an important step.

Even before you have your social media monitoring in place, any brand can benefit from working out a plan for what you will do with all this information you are going to gather. Dashboards and reports can be useful, but the ability to take actions or make decisions using this information is much more useful for any brand. What you do with your social media monitoring is as important, if not more important, than getting the monitoring in place in the first place.

Different brands will want to engage with the conversations they discover online in different ways. The following are three great ways for any brand to engage with these conversations. The first two are ways in which you can capitalise upon the outputs of your social media monitoring internally and the last one on how you can use it to engage externally. They all require you to connect with different teams and functions in your brand and may need internal process change to make a real difference.

1. Inform the language of your marketing and communications

Observing and analysing the way people talk about your brand, competitor brands and the market you are in more generally can be a real and valuable source of insight for marketing and communications teams. It lets you learn how people talk about you, the language they use and how they compare you to other competitors and substitutes in the market. By properly searching not just for brand terms but also the terms that people use in relation to them you can start to explore the language that people use. This has a number of benefits. You can use the language and keywords to refine and ammend your search strategy. You can use relevant language and expressions in your marketing and PR activities. And you can start to use the same language when you are engaging in social media.

This relies on you ensuring that different teams across your brand are connected to what your social media monitoring reveals. And probably more importantly that you set up the reporting and analysis to ensure you are looking not just at what is said, but more importantly at how you can change your own communications and language on the basis of this.

2. Predict market changes

One of the real benefits of social media monitoring is that it allows you to track over time the things that are discussed in relation to your brand and your market. By tracking what is discussed over time allows you to identify when more conversations about certain issues being to emerge. Imagine, for example, that you are a large chain of pizza restaurants. One of the the things you might monitor is references to pizza being bought in a supermarket or eaten from take-away restaurants. Your social media monitoring should be set to alert you when and unusually large number of conversations of one of these kinds are present in social media. What is causing people to talk more than is usual about a topic and what can you do about it.

This kind of trend spotting can be of huge value to any business but relies on you having the mechanisms to capitalise upon this knowledge. Usually this would be a good indicator for your insight or research teams, or a marketing function to explore the trends that appear to be emerging and to make sure you are putting plans in place for any changes it may be spotting early.

3. React and respond to mentions of your brand online

Finally, any brand should consider its process for reacting and responding to what people say abotu you online. Whilst the previous two activities are very internal, this is external and involves engaging directly with people in social media.

There are many ways in which people refer to and mention a given brand online. And in most instances there is typically no need to respond. You can just leave the mention and monitor it if you think relevant. We have written before about how to react if somebody writes about your brand online, and the process described here is a great starting point. The next step is to integrate this with your own internal processes and to change these to ensure conversations online are engaged with and responded to when relevant.

This touches heavily on the importance of sentiment analysis - often negative comments need to be responded to in one way and by one set of people, and positive comments in a different way by a different set of people. We’ve written before about the problem with automated sentiment analysis and the best advice is to make sure that you keep a level of human involvement and analysis to make sure you’re responding to the right things in the right ways.

Read the other posts from our social media monitoring review 2010 or download our final report

Social media monitoring review 2010 - download the final report

social-media-monitoring-toolsOver the last few months we’ve been conducting an in-depth review of the leading social media monitoring tools in conjunction with our sister company, FreshMinds Research.

We’ve compared how Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos performed when monitoring conversations about global coffee brand Starbucks. We compared over 19,000 online conversations and have written about the following topics:

  • The basics of social media monitoring
  • How to set up the tools (search strings, comparison challenges and coverage)
  • The location of social media conversations
  • Social media monitoring and duplication
  • Data latency and the tool with the most up-to-date results
  • The problem with automated sentiment

If you’ve enjoyed our posts so far you can find a more detailed analysis of all these topics and more in our final report - “Turning Conversations into Insights: a Comparison of Social Media Monitoring Tools”.

Click here to download the final report from social media agency FreshNetworks

The problem with automated sentiment analysis

social-media-monitoring-toolsSentiment analysis is a complex beast. Even for humans. Consider this statement: “The hotel room is on the ground floor right by the reception”. Is that neutral, or is it positive or negative? Well the answer is probably that it is different things to different people. If you want a high room with a view away from the noise or reception the review is negative. If have mobility issues and need a room with easy access it is positive. And for many people it would just be information and so neutral. Sentiment analysis is difficult even in human analysts in ambiguous or more complex situations. For social media monitoring tools it is also complicated and not always as simple or as clear-cut as we might like or expect.

As part of our review of social media monitoring tools we compared their automated sentiment analysis with the findings of a human analyst, looking at seven of the leading social media monitoring tools – Alterian, Brandwatch, Biz360, Neilsen Buzzmetrics, Radian6, Scoutlabs and Sysomos. And the outcome suggests that automated sentiment analysis cannot be trusted to accurately reflect and report on the sentiment of conversations online.

Understanding where automated sentiment analysis fails

On aggregate, automated sentiment analysis looks good with accuracy levels of between 70% and 80% which compares very favourably with the levels of accuracy we would expect from a human analyst. However this masks what is really going on here. In our test case on the Starbucks brand, approximately 80% of all comments we found were neutral in nature. They were mere statements of fact or information, not expressing either positivity or negativity. This volume is common to many brands and terms we have analysed we would typically expect that the majority of discussions online are neutral. These discussions are typically of less interest to a brand that wants to make a decision or perform an action on the basis of what is being said online. For brands the positive and negative conversations are of most importance and it is here that automated sentiment analysis really fails.

No tool consistently distinguishes between positive and negative conversations

When you remove the neutral statements, automated tools typically analyse sentiment incorrectly. In our tests when comparing with a human analyst, the tools were typically about 30% accurate at deciding if a statement was positive or negative. In one case the accuracy was as low as 7% and the best tool was still only 48% accurate when compared to a human. For any brand looking to use social media monitoring to help them interact with and respond to positive or negative comments this is disastrous. More often than not, a positive comment will be classified as negative or vice-versa. In fact no tool managed to get all the positive statements correctly classified. And no tool got all the negative statements right either.

Why this failing matters to brands

This real failing of automated sentiment analysis can cause real problems for brands, especially if they are basing any internal workflow or processes on the basis of your social media monitoring. For example, imagine that you send all your negative conversations to your Customer Care team to respond to where relevant. If two-thirds (or maybe more) of the ‘negative’ conversations sent over are actually positive then this process starts to break down. Perhaps more importantly, a lot of the negative conversations will never make it to the Customer Care team in the first place (having been incorrectly classified as positive). Unhappy customers don’t get routed to the right people and don’t get their problems dealt with. The complete opposite of why many of our clients want to use social media monitoring in the first place.

So what can we do

As with any test, our experiment with the Starbucks brand won’t necessarily reflect findings for every brand and term monitored online. Our test was for a relatively short time period and we only put a randomised, but relatively representative, sample of conversations through human analysis. However, even with these limitations, we were surprised by the very high level of inaccuracy shown by the social media monitoring tools investigated. For businesses looking to make decisions or perform actions on the basis of a conversation being positive or negative this is potentially quite dangerous.

Of course there is much that can be done here and over time the tools can be trained to learn and to improve how they assess conversations about a given brand. But the overall message remains: automated sentiment analysis fails in its role of helping brands to make real decisions and to react to conversations about it online.

Read the other posts from our social media monitoring review 2010.