How to Choose a Social Media Monitoring Tool

By using a social media monitoring tool, you can save time by monitoring and updating social media accounts from one central location, as well as by scheduling posts and collecting un-read updates in an organized fashion so that you can go for longer guiltless and FOMO-free periods of time without distraction.

Tips on Using a Social Media Monitoring Tool

Tools for monitoring social buzz are best utilized when:

  • Used with a purpose: Why is it important that you respond to others’ posts and monitor certain feeds, people, and keywords? You might not need one of these tools at all. If you do, make sure that you use a tool in a manner that serves your goals (e.g. better understand what people are saying about your videos, or develop a stronger relationship with your followers by communicating with them regularly and quickly responding to their questions).
  • Used regularly: The decision to use one of these tools is really the decision to adopt a new way of doing things; social media monitoring resources will do you little good if you do not develop habits around them
  • Used to monitor specific keywords: Monitoring very broad keywords like “blog” or “Obama” will produce a high volume of information that may not be particularly relevant to you. Experiment with more niche keywords and longer phrases to catch more targeted and relevant information.
  • Used to monitor keywords that are actually important: While it is tempting to create feeds monitoring a large number of keywords vaguely related to your topics of interest, doing so will only increase distractions and make it more difficult to find useful information. Test multiple keywords. See which feeds consistently turn up the most useful posts and insights. Keep the feeds that are useful; get rid of the rest.
  • Just one is used: The whole point of a monitoring tool is that it enables you to stop visiting a large number of individual pages/sites to get work done; using multiple monitoring tools negates their utility as simplifiers and time savers.
  • They are used in a manner saves you time and reduces distractions: Avoid establishing settings that actually increase the number of updates and alerts you get.
Billboards

Do not let social media monitoring tools become an entirely NEW distraction.

Choosing a Social Media Monitoring Tool

The myriad of options available to you typically offer the same basic functions:

  • Schedule or post updates, links, and media
  • Respond to messages, mentions, and others’ posts
  • Monitor your accounts from a mobile application
  • Review updates from friends / those you follow across multiple platforms all in one place
  • Monitor several different keywords from the same page to track chatter about a particular subject

Our overviews of a handful of popular tools below provide additional details about top social media monitoring services that can help you select a tool that best fits your personal needs and style.

You will notice that many of the tools described below are expensive. They typically offer additional features such as:

  • Sentiment analysis
  • Competitive analysis tools
  • Advanced analytics and report options
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) tools
  • Workflow managing tools (for social media accounts managed by teams)
  • Ability to connect social media activity to purchase intent and create/track promotional campaigns designed to drive sales

We only recommend using enterprise level social media monitoring tools if you work for a large company, manage a social media team, or work for/run a company that uses social media to field customer support queries and/or drive sales. Those of us who only want to monitor social media for research and social media time-saving purposes will do just fine with the free tools available.

TweetDeck

TweetDeck Feed OptionsSocial media sites supported:

  • Twitter

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Entirely free
  • Ability to connect an unlimited number Twitter accounts
  • Available on the web, as a browser plugin, mobile app, or desktop application
  • Ability to create feeds that only include certain words or post types (tweets with images, videos, any media, or links)
  • Helpful filtering options (ability to create feeds that leave out retweets or certain words)
  • Ability to edit and create Twitter lists from TweetDeck
  • Convenient keyboard shortcuts

Ideal for you if:

  • You like to keep it simple
  • You maintain multiple Twitter accounts / are a Twitter power user
  • You do not heavily use other social networks for social media-based communication and research

Google Alerts and Google Analytics’ Social Reports

Social media sites supported:

  • Any content that is readily-available on the web
  • Analytics: Any site integrated with Google’s Social Data Hub (which presently includes Google Groups, Google+, and Reddit, Digg, Blogger, and Meetup)

Distinguishing characteristics of Google Alerts:

  • Not specifically built for social media monitoring, but a powerful and free tool
  • Ability to passively receive alerts via email or a feed whenever certain keywords or phrases are crawled online

Google Analytics Social ReportsDistinguishing characteristics of Google Analytics’ Social Reports

  • Free
  • Already fully integrated with on-site analytics
  • Contains a social analytics section dedicated to social media monitoring
  • Ability to track inbound traffic from specific social networks
  • Ability to see where people go after visiting your site from a social network
  • Ability to see conversations about your site elsewhere in social media via the Social Plugins Report and Activity Stream tab

Ideal for you if:

  • You already use Google Analytics
  • You are particularly interested in monitoring how social media traffic behaves on your own site
  • You like getting email updates serving you blog or news stories related to your brand, a keyword you are following or a subject you are researching
  • You are on a budget and cannot afford to pay for additional services

HootSuite

HootSuite Functionalities

Social media sites supported:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Foursquare
  • WordPress
  • Myspace
  • Mixi

Distinguishing characteristics

  • Decent variety of powerful tools available for free (supports one user, up to five social networks, and two RSS feeds with basic functions and reports)
  • Ability to filter feeds by keyword and Klout score
  • Ability to plug an RSS feed into your account, which will promote new posts automatically across your social media profiles (Note: We do NOT recommend (1) automated posts or (2) posting the same content simultaneously- or at all, in many cases- across multiple profiles)
  • Paid: Ability to create detailed reports analyzing engagement, follower acquisition, etc. (HootSuite provides over 30 analytics functionalities that can be incorporated into its shareable reports)
  • Paid: Education and certification through HootSuite university
  • Paid: A wide variety of premium features including vanity URLs, bulk message scheduling, unlimited connected accounts, multiple users, and enhanced social analytics)
  • Paid: Ability for collaborative teams to manage social media profiles associated with a brand (e.g. people may schedule posts that require approval, which can prevent your rogue summer social media intern from posting embarrassing content)

Ideal for you if:

  • You are just one member of a team that manages a brand’s account
  • You need to be able to present social media analytics reports to investors, bosses, or board members and want to be able to easily create them
  • You want more powerful social media monitoring tools, but at a reasonable price (e.g. because you are a small, independent business)
  • Manage social media accounts for an employer who is perfectly willing to pay for full functionality
HootSuite Plans

HootSuite offers excellent functionality, but to make the most of it, you have to pay.

ViralHeat

ViralHeat Sentiment AnalysisSocial media sites supported:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Additional insights from Pinterest, YouTube, blogs and forums

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • A free basic option is available (offers up to five social accounts, a unified stream, scheduled publishing, and an analytics dashboard)
  • Paid options are not completely out of range: Monthly prices start at about $50 per month
  • Ability to track social buzz around individual products
  • Tools to monitor purchase intent and easily engage with likely customers
  • Sentiment analysis for Facebook and Twitter (pictured at right) that can be monitored through a free Chrome extension
  • Ability to target Facebook posts to specific geographic locations
  • Ability to preview messages before they’re posted (to see what they’ll look like on their native social networks)
  • Ability to share social media posts while browsing the web via Flint, an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari
  • Ability to place social media accounts into groups
  • Ability to run location-specific searches
  • An API for embedding ViralHeat’s stats into other applications
  • Ability to create Twitter search feeds based on user data
  • Ability to track YouTube activity related to keywords and identify influential YouTube users
  • Ability to see what is being pinned on Pinterest and said on Facebook, websites, and blogs based on custom keyword searches
  • Ability to track social media activity around other brands to compare their progress with your own
  • Ability to compare mentions of your brand with mentions of competitors’ brands in a graphic format

Ideal for you if:

  • Your social media monitoring is focused around driving sales
  • You manage social media presences for multiple websites and would like to manage all from one dashboard
  • You would benefit from monitoring keyword-based posts specifically on Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube
  • You want increased functionality with social media monitoring, but work independently and cannot afford to pay much
  • You already have (or are building) internal company applications into which you would like to insert social media data
  • You are willing to spend the time necessary to make ViralHeat worth its monthly cost (i.e. you actually plan to utilize the additional functionality for which you pay)

Engagor

Engagor StatsSocial media sites supported:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • YouTube, Vimeo
  • LinkedIn
  • WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, and blogs in general
  • Foursquare
  • Instagram
  • SoundCloud

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • A basic subscription is $500 per month, a professional subscription is $1500, and enterprise subscroptions cost $3,000 per month
  • Covers over 160 languages
  • Is available in all countries
  • Monitors blogs, forums, and news sites in real time
  • Combined social media inbox
  • Advanced publishing tools
  • Built-un CRM tools
  • Sentiment analysis
  • (Starts at professional level) Real-time collaboration tools for members of the social media team
  • (Starts at professional level) Ability to assign tasks and give team members discrete assignments
  • (Starts at professional level) Custom dashboards
  • (Starts at professional level) CRM integration
  • (Starts at professional level) Email alerts
  • (Starts at enterprise level) Approval flows
  • (Starts at enterprise level) Team performance dashboard
  • (Starts at enterprise level) Custom user roles
  • (Starts at enterprise level) Chart builder
  • (Starts at enterprise level) Custom branded interface
  • (Starts at enterprise level) API access

Ideal for you if:

  • You work for a large corporation or social media agency
  • You have a large budget
  • You work with or manage a large social media team
  • Your employer requires detailed reports
  • Your team has trouble managing workflows and keeping each other accountable
  • You work from a country that many enterprise-level socail media management tools do not address

Sprout Social

Sprout AnalyticsSocial media sites supported:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Other places online regarding passive data analysis and alerts

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Not free, but not incredibly expensive: $39-$99 per month
  • Analytics that can combine multiple hand-picked accounts
  • Combines all reports into a single filterable feed
  • Integration with Salesforce, Zendesk, and UserVoice
  • Automated suggestions of influential followers on Twitter that may deserve extra attention
  • Ability to assign tasks and get live activity updates from team members (to reduce duplications of effort)
  • Ability to turn social media threads into support tickets and manage them accordingly
  • Ability to archive conversations social media managers have had with customers and followers over time
  • Ability to add additional notations to specific customers and followers (such as the best way to reach them)
  • Ability to apply posts to a content calendar and review/change them from a simple calendar-based interface

Ideal for you if:

  • You want a streamlined experience and the ability to view data in a single feed
  • You want more guidance when determining which followers deserve more attention
  • Your social media profiles have a heavy emphasis on customer service and you need to better document and manage your customer relationship management efforts
  • You manage social media with a team and would like more help coordinating your work and publishing calendar
  • You use Salesforce, Zendesk, and/or UserVoice and would like to integrate them into you social media monitoring efforts

Radian6 (Part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud)

Social media sites supported:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Wide variety of additional content including blogs, comments, and forums

Radian6 Keyword MonitoringDistinguishing characteristics:

  • Not free; not cheap ($1000+ per month)
  • Advanced filtering options, including language, geographic location, and media type (e.g. blogs, comments, forums, micromedia, etc.)
  • Advanced data collection and ability to drill down from top level data (e.g. a common keyword associated with your brand) to individual details (a single person’s post mentioning that keyword)
  • Ability to monitor what people are saying about your brand in a comprehensible manner (e.g. Radian6′s Conversation Cloud widget enables you to see the top 50 words used when people post content about your brand)
  • Ability to assign team members to very specific elements of your social media presence
  • Extensive reports that can be exported in a wide variety of formats (CSV, XML, PDF, etc.)
  • Sentiment analysis with added human controls (the ability to change the sentiment automatically assigned to a post based on Radian6′s algorithms)
  • Extensive support materials and guides (live chat support, FAQs, a Resource Library, etc.)

Radian6 Social Brand MonitoringIdeal for you if:

  • Someone else is paying for it
  • Your focus is on analytics (Salesforce, which makes Radian6, offers Buddy Media for posting)
  • The social media presence you manage has a large, possibly overwhelming number of followers who actively engage with your brand or digital identity
  • You wish to monitor on a broad level what people are saying about your brand
  • You love, love, love data and reports
  • Your social media activity involves a lot of customer service
  • You aim to drive a large number of sales from your social media posts
  • You do not mind taking time to learn how to use the tool’s detailed features
  • Social media is one of your primary focuses; something to which you dedicate a significant amount of time

Sysmos Heartbeat

Sysomos (Heartbeat or MAP)

Social media sites supported:

  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Blogs, forums, and news sites

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Expensive: $500-$3,000+ per month; year-long contract required
  • Sentiment analysis that covers multiple languages
  • Ability to translate conversations in other languages
  • Ability to filter by demographics
  • Connection with Google Analytics
  • Automated comment moderation
  • Historical archive of over 100 billion posts
  • Text analytics that pull out major themes and trends within online dialogue
  • Reports that can be presented via email, PDFs, CSVs, and dashboard widgets
  • Ability to monitor an unlimited competitors’ Facebook pages as well as your own
  • A proprietary filtering system that weeds out spam
  • FAQs, email support, supplementary learning materials, and even a Twitter account to which questions can be posed

Ideal for you if:

  • Someone else is paying for it
  • You work for a large company or agency
  • You want to do a decent amount of competitive analysis in addition to monitoring your own accounts, customers, and followers
  • You spend all of your time interacting with and analyzing social media
  • You need to monitor conversations in multiple languages
  • You have to present reports to investors / board members who don’t get the importance of social media

Adobe Marketing Cloud

Social media sites supported:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Additional sites not made clear

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Expensive
  • Social marketing tools that make it easier to track which social actions lead to financial profits
  • Tools to compare your performance with that of other brands using a digital index
  • Tools to manage ad campaigns run through different networks from one place
  • Tools to easily segment and target audiences for ad campaigns across multiple platforms
  • Tools to facilitate the delivery of targeted and optimized messages to different groups of customers
  • Support in the form of best practice webinars and guides

Ideal for you if:

  • Someone else is paying for it
  • Your goal with social media is to drive sales
  • You work for a relatively large company with a sizable number of customers or clients
  • You are interested in increasing sales by providing customers with a more personalized, targeted experience
  • You need to demonstrate to others in your business how social media activities affect the bottom line
  • You run a lot of ad campaigns (across multiple platforms) and regularly launch social media promotions

Spreadfast tactical care response

Spredfast

Social media sites supported:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • SlideShare
  • Pinterest
  • Blogs (and more)

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Expensive; $1000+ per month
  • Tools to create, manage, and update Facebook apps
  • More functionality with YouTube when compared to other solutions (ability to upload videos, track influencers, and respond to comments from Spredfast itself)
  • The ability to create approval teams that determine which posts can actually go out
  • Custom automation to direct certain types of queries to the right destination (e.g. redirecting a support request from Twitter to your company’s technical support team)
  • A publishing calendar that enables a larget team of people managing a social media presence to keep messages organized
  • Integration with Bazaarvoice, which identifies favorable reviews, making it easier to promote them across social media channels
  • Helpful customer care analytics (pictured above to the right) that enable one to track requests and the time it takes to address them
  • Detailed record keeping of posts and internal actions for future audits
  • A content library that can contain sets of messaging for different regions and demographics (to keep everyone on the same page)
  • Internal security compliance features (a data API, SSL support, encryption, IP restrictions, etc.)

Ideal for you if:

  • Someone else is paying for it
  • You want to more easily create Facebook apps for your business
  • Your brand is active on YouTube
  • You want to improve your business’s customer service experience
  • You have strict internal rules regarding messaging and need help adhering to them
  • You work for a company that is big on security, accountability, and internal audits
  • You manage social media activity along with a team of others (and sometimes coordination is an issue)

Shoutlet Workflow ManagementShoutlet

Social media sites supported:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Foursquare

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Not free: $500+ per month
  • Sentiment analysis tools
  • Ability to create workflows that assign specific individuals to comment threads
  • Shoutlet Activity Scores assigned to social media participants enable one to filter by those who are most active/influential
  • A Social Canvas that enables one to more easily build Facebook apps, HTML5 pages, and other apps without coding experience
  • A Social Switchboard that (in addition to basic posting functionalities) enables one to launch a social campaign with additional posts/promotions that are triggered once specific milestones are met
  • Tools making it particularly easy to launch photo, video, text-based, essay-based, or sweepstakes-style social contests on Facebook and Twitter
  • Ability to compare your social media activity engagement on Facebook and Twitter with that of other accounts
  • Special attention to Foursquare and checkins; ability to organize and group multiple venues and monitor visitor activity
  • Advertising options through Facebook page post promotions and their advertising partner Kenshoo Social (which provides the functionality of of a Facebook Preferred Developer ads platform)
  • Ability to control which managers can edit designs and monitor/approve what managers are publishing
  • Ability to create a content library with pre-approved content from which day-to-day managers can draw
  • Tools for collecting data about customers and grouping them into segments
  • Support through an account manager, one-on-one training, and webinars, white papers, and blog posts available through Shoutlet U

Ideal for you if:

  • Someone else is paying for it
  • You wish to run and manage Facebook ads
  • You manage a team of social media managers and need to better coordinate and review their work
  • Your business has multiple brick-and-mortar locations and you want to encourage customers to check in on Foursquare
  • You like to run social media campaigns and contests, and wish to be able to design them without engineering support

Netbase Twitter Summary DashboardNetBase

Social media sites supported:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Wide range of blogs, forums, and news sites

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Not free; expensive
  • Brand analysis templates designed around best practices of leading businesses
  • Sentiment analysis combined with tools determining which people are most influential, so you can address influential detractors and superfans with special care
  • Tools to distinguish specific topics and tactics that resonate with customers and followers
  • Reports that compare your social media performance (likes, conversational themes, positive or negative associations and their intensity) with that of competitors
  • Customer care tools for identifying problems and the influence of those who have them
  • A social intelligence platform that recognizes significant shifts in online buzz about your brand with the ability to set triggers for action once certain thresholds have been crossed
  • A Social Intelligence Warehouse that stores over a year’s worth of data from a broad range of social media platforms, news sites, blogs, and forums
  • Built in spam filters
  • Tools to analyze campaigns based on pricing, products, or specific campaign promotions
  • Added support from social intelligence services teams

Netbase fan page passion index

Ideal for you if:

  • Someone else is paying for it
  • Your primary interests with social media are to quickly address issues as they arise and use social media data to analyze the competition and identify new opportunities
  • You don’t know where to start with product launches, social media management, and other social media campaigns and would appreciate a ready-made template designed to get you started
  • You would appreciate additional human-based support with sentiment analysis (e.g. using it for ideation, to address PR and customer service issues, and to monitor your brand’s reputation)
  • You run regular social media campaigns designed to drive sales

Exact Target Social Pages Content EditorExactTarget SocialEngage

Social media sites supported:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Additional platforms not clearly specified

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Ability to archive specific conversations with added notes
  • Tools to create tabs for Facebook pages without coding experience
  • Ability to create Facebook contests and enable Facebook transactions through your Facebook page
  • Tools to better understand complete social identities of customers/followers (across multiple platforms) and create targeted messages for them
  • Partnerships with other social media service firms that provide more advanced commerce, analytics, listening, and personalization tools
  • Additional guidance on how to create and achieve marketing goals

Ideal for you if:

  • Someone else is paying for it
  • You want the ability to add tabs to your Facebook page without engineering support
  • You run Facebook contests and/or wish to complete transactions through a Facebook page
  • You are interested in leveraging a la carte additional services and would appreciate the simplicity of doing so through your primary social media monitoring services
  • You are not quite sure how to create and track specific social media goals and need additional guidance

UberVu Sentiment AnalysisUberVU

Social media sites supported:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Additional analysis is pulled from blogs, news sites, forums, etc.

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Expensive: $500+ per month
  • A smart scheduling tool that can automatically optimize scheduled reply and post times
  • Multi-language sentiment stats combined with volume and sharing stats to provide additional context
  • Ability to create a report by dragging and dropping widgets
  • A tool that points out prolonged bursts or immediate spikes around keywords to make it easier to respond quickly to important issues or capitalize on major trends
  • Support through a dedicated account manager as well as live customer support and training

Ideal for you if:

  • Someone else is paying for it
  • You do not enjoy creating social media reports and would like a user-friendly tool to help you build them
  • You are not sure when certain sentiments (found via sentiment analysis tools) are significant or minor
  • You tend to miss out on important spikes in social media buzz around your brand or topics important to its followers