As a small business, there's obviously huge value in listening to your audience and responding to their stated needs and queries.
For one, people value the transparency, but they also appreciate you taking their feedback into account. And people hate their complaints being ignored. Given this, social media listening is fast becoming a must.
There are endless opportunities to refine your brand's reputation through listening. You can be the first one to offer a helping hand, to dispel the doubts of a potential customer, while listening also enables you to recognize and acknowledge feedback, both positive and negative. By joining the right conversations, you can also raise your brand awareness, helping boost your business reputation and positioning. You can also monitor the overall sentiment around your brand or product.
But while social listening is hugely valuable, you also need to give careful consideration as to how you actually detect relevant mentions. Only a portion of the mentions you need to know about will actually mention your brand directly or use the related hashtag/s. Because of this, it pays to have an advanced social listening tool and process in place.
In times past, Google Alerts has been the go-to resource - a simple tool that let you set up email alerts to monitor the web for specific terms. But the changing ways in which discussions are conducted online has reduced the effectiveness of this option.
If you're looking for a better way to ensure you stay on top of relevant mentions, here are some options.
What it does: Awario is a social media monitoring tool that provides real-time social insights by collecting the mentions for your keywords from every corner of the Web. It sorts the mentions according to the social media platform they come from (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, YouTube) and other sources (blogs, forums, reviews), and lets you reply, comment, retweet any mention without leaving your Dashboard.
The best part is that Awario helps you focus on the most impactful discussions first: it picks the most exposed conversations and sorts the authors of mentions by the number of followers/traffic amount, to let you see what niche influencers are saying about you, and to help you reach out to bigger audience quickly. You can also see top influencers in a separate panel, and compare your alerts to each other.
Available options: The Starter plan, tailored for small companies, costs $19/mo (10 alerts, unlimited users), while there's also a 14-day free trial option. You can also request a custom plan based on your specific business' needs.
Free version: https://awario.com/
What it does: Using Mention, you can create alerts to track keywords of your interest across various social media platforms, and then react to any post or mention right away. It updates your feed with fresh results in real-time; however, unlike Awario, it doesn't gather any history, and only catches the mentions from the last 24 hours before the alert was created.
The service offers different levels of collaboration with your team: you can add team members and assign tasks to them, you can also connect third-party services like Slack to integrate Mention into your established workflow. Apart from daily/weekly notifications you can also enable pulse notifications in case there's an unexpected increase of mentions for one of your alerts.
Mention also offers a sentiment analysis feature which measures your results 'based on the common tones associated with specific words'. So theoretically, it can mark the mentions as commonly positive and detect the potentially negative ones.
Available options: The Starter plan costs $99/mo (5 alerts, 3 users), and a 14-day free trial is available (no credit card details required).
Free version: https://mention.com/
What it does: Brand24 is another nice choice to keep up with the buzz around your brand and to get influencer analytics. The starter plan enables you to update the mentions every 12 hours.
The dashboard includes several handy panels: in Mentions you can see a Discussion Volume chart, showing the dynamic changes in the number of mentions/interactions, and spikes in overall sentiment over a selected period of time. To filter the actual list of mentions, you can turn on/off any sources, sort the posts using multiple in-built filters or group them manually. The tool calculates the influencer score for each post author, but you can also go to Analytics panel to see the most interactive posts, and the ones by the most popular authors. The Quotes panel displays the most emotionally charged posts/comments (highlighting the common positive/negative words for your convenience).
Brand24 seems to have the most flexible notification settings: you can set notifications to be sent in real-time, every one, six or twelve hours, daily, weekly, etc. You can also set a specific number of results over which notifications will be sent, or percent change in mentions volume to get a 'Storm' notification. There's also a mobile app and Slack integration.
While being a very handy aggregator, Brand24 doesn't enable you to comment/reply to any posts, or to interact with authors in-app, so you can only track and analyze the results, or click on any mention to get to the original post page and reply from your profile in the browser.
Available options: The KickStart package tarts at $49/mo for one user and five keywords (updated every 12 hours). Custom plans are available on request. There's also a 14-day free trial with no credit card details required.
Free version: https://brand24.com
What it does: Hootsuite is a well-known social media management app that can help you handle your social network accounts, monitor all the associated activity and delegate tasks within your team. With Hootsuite, you can dig into conversations happening on news sites, blogs, forums. You can add multiple streams to your dashboard to monitor and react to any activities around your own social profiles, you can also set up the streams to monitor the mentions in Twitter and Instagram (by hashtag) in real-time, and react to those right away. You can assign tasks to any team-member (an in-built activity calendar will keep all your work neat), or schedule messages for future publishing.
The tool also enables you to track sentiment around your brand to help you detect and understand any possible issue and its source. To stay ahead of any issues, you can set up notifications for any unexpected changes in volume of mentions or in sentiment. Like the above tools, Hootsuite also uses the influencer identification to let you react to the most prominent discussions first.
Available options: The Professional plan starts from $9.99/mo, while there's also a 30-day free trial (credit card details required). Custom plans with custom pricing are available upon request.
Free version: https://hootsuite.com/
What it does: Buzzsumo is a tool that can help you find the most engaging content by a keyword. BuzzSumo is most commonly used to gather and analyze the most shared posts/articles on a topic and see the number of engagements and shares across the major social networks. The interface is rather intuitive - in your Dashboard you can find a chart reflecting the changes in brand/keyword mentions volume on the web, while you can also see the list of posts mentioning your alert with the exact number of engagements associated with it, next to the social network icons:
You can sort the results by date published, total engagements, or check the content most shared in a particular social network (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest). You can't react to any found mentions, however, you can get notifications based on keywords, brand/author/domain name or links, detect the influencers on any topic, and analyze the most popular content mentioning your competitors.
Available options: The Pro plan is $99/mo (five alerts, up to five users) and there's a14-day free trial option available (requires phone verification).
Free version: http://buzzsumo.com/
To sum up
As the hype around the social media listening grows, it seems natural that tools of this kind come and go. The ones that stay are constantly undergoing major changes and improvements.
While there are other free tools to consider like Talkwalker alerts (which, however, may not be comprehensive enough for a company), and services like Cision or Reputology (that cover too many functions and may be too pricey for a small business), the above tools seem to be diverse enough in terms of functionality, and affordable in terms of cost. So, definitely worth trying.