Social media for small businesses 1: Social media monitoring and buzztracking

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Science buzz!!!
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It is important for any business to keep up-to-date on what people are saying about them, their competitors and the market they are in. Social media monitoring can play an important role here - letting you observe and then analyse what people are saying about these topics online and in social media. For small businesses this can be a powerful tool for research and for competitor intelligence.

We’ve previously posted a list of free social media monitoring tools, and how you can use tools like Twitter Lists to help keep a track of what is being said about you online. There is a lot that can be done here and setting up some simple monitoring tools is something that any small business should do. For free you can learn what people are saying right now about you, your competitors and the market you are in.

Imagine a small but growing emergency plumbing business that operates in a large city. You have a handful of competitors from one-man-bands to big plumbing firms. You are interested in what your customers are saying about you, about them and also about the plumbing needs that they have. Monitoring online can help you begin to understand better your competitors and your customers’ needs for minimal effort and no real cost. The key is to choose your keywords carefully. In this instance you could choose your own brand name and the name of the plumbers that work with you, your competitors and some key products you work with or services you offer. You might also choose to look for some bigger terms and topics concerned with DIY and other related issues.

Monitoring terms in this way is a useful mechanism for knowing what is going on and what is being said. Seeing when people refer to you, or the plumbers who work for you, and then knowing if they are happy or not with you. This gives you the information you need to change things, react if appropriate or just know that people are spreading the word about the good work that you have done. You can also gain competitive information on your competitors in the same way and start to learn where they are strong and weak.

But social media monitoring will help you in other ways. One example would be to help you develop new products and services. By monitoring what people in your area are saying about their DIY or plumbing needs, or telling their stories of what happened to them when things went wrong at home you will be able to start to explore and investigate potential new areas where you could help. Simple, free tools offer the chance for you to be more informed and then give you information for you to make the most of.

Social media monitoring is a powerful tool for any business or brand, large or small. One of the benefits of social media and online communities is that what people say is visible to others. When people talk about you, your competitors or their needs you can see this. And you can use this information to act and improve your own business.

You can read all our posts on social media for small businesses here

FreshNetworks Blog: Top five posts in November

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Five inches
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At FreshNetworks we aim to bring you the best posts in social media, online communities and customer engagement online. In case you missed them, find below our top five posts in October.

1. Google Wave vs Twitter at conferences

There has been a lot of talk and discussion of Google Wave as it has spread though invites. For many people the immediate response is: “I’m here; what now?”. In our most popular post in November, Charlie looked at one example of how Google Wave can be used to add real value: as a conference back-channel. We show how at the Ecomm conference delegates were provided with Google Wave accounts. What resulted was a fantastic showcase of collaboration and crowd-sourcing.

2. How to use Twitter Lists as a free social media monitoring tool

Twitter Lists are great. They are adding real and valuable functionality to Twitter and changing the way that people can use the service. In this post we look specifically at how Twitter Lists can be used as a free social media monitoring tool. How you can use them to track promoters and detractors of your brand and know what they are saying and feeling in real time.

3. PhotoSketch or Sketch2Photo, it rocks

A great app developed by five Chinese students at Tsinghua University and the National University of Singapore. It allows you to turn a simple drawing into a photo. There is clearly always a big jump between a video showcase and a working proposition, but it certainly looks good so far.

4. Live TV and real-time chat: X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing

Watching TV is almost always a social experience. Whether it’s people in the room, friends on the phone, Facebook, Twitter or in forums or chat. People talk to people about what they see on TV. In this post we highlight two ways in which Live TV shows in the UK (namely X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing) are using real time chat and online communities to support their live broadcasts. We look at what they are doing and why they might be doing this.

5. Russian social network Vkontakte.ru plans global roll-out

Back in September, we posted about the success of Russian social network VKontakte (В контакте). The site serves 1.4 billion page views each day to its 42 million users, and attracts 14 million unique visitors each month. In one of the most engaged and fastest-growing social networking markets in the world, it is a force to be reckoned with. At the start of September, Vedomosti (Ведомости), the Russian business newspaper, had reported that VKontakte had registered the domain www.vk.com and plans to begin marketing the social network in twelve new markets globally before the end of 2010. One to watch next year.

How to use Twitter Lists as a free social media monitoring tool

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To-do list book.
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We’ve posted before about why Twitter lists are great and some of the uses that can be made with them. Over the last few weeks since they were launched to all users, we have been experimenting with them at FreshNetworks and with our clients. One clear and valuable use for them has become clear - as a free social media monitoring tool. Here’s a guide to how you can use Twitter Lists in this way.

Twitter Lists for social media monitoring

Social media monitoring is the best way for brands to understand who is currently talking about them online, what they are saying, to whom and where. They can analyse the sentiment expressed (are people broadly positive or negative to them) and identify individuals who are promoters or detractors of a brand. Whilst it may not be appropriate to react or respond to their posts, monitoring these people can be a useful exercise. Knowing what your promoters are saying about you and where, and tracking the sentiment of detractors. Are they becoming more positive to your brand or more negative. Who are they talking to and influencing, and what are they saying.

So it’s important that when you identify Detractors, you have a mechanism for keeping track of what they are saying online. This is where Twitter Lists come in useful.

Twitter Lists can make it very easy to group your Promoters and Detractors and have an easy and accessible source to find out what they are saying online. Putting all of your Detractors in a List means that they are in one place. When you find a new Detractor online you can put them in this List, and if somebody stops being a Detractor you can move them from it.

This use of Twitter Lists is effective for two reasons:

  1. As a brand, you can put somebody into a List without having to be following them. If you have an powerful Detractor online, you may not want to follow them from your branded Twitter account, but you may want to keep track of what they say.
  2. Twitter Lists can be private. You probably wouldn’t want a list of your brand’s biggest Detractors to be shared online. All the people who hate you most in one convenient list. Because Twitter Lists can be made private, you can mitigate the risk of people finding this. You know and can monitor who they are, without sharing this information with other people.

So Twitter Lists can be a great, and free, social media monitoring tool. Identify the people who love or hate your brand most, or who write about your brand most online and then put them into Lists. Have a List of Detractors, a List of Promoters and a List of Ones to Watch. Make these Lists private and, if you don’t want to, don’t even follow the people you put into the List.

Then track what they say. Follow the List, read the comments and learn on a daily basis what your Promoters and Detractors think and say about you. Easy! The hard work begins when you try to change opinions or harness those who are positive about your brand.