Social media monitoring (often called social listening) is increasingly becoming a key part of a brand, company or organization's business strategy. In a time where people of diverse ages and backgrounds take to social networks to post tweets, upload photos and write comments, it makes sense to track these public opinions for reasons ranging from reputation management and market research to customer service and campaign tracking. But to do so effectively you need to know what tools to use and how to use them and especially for smaller companies you may want to test out some free tools before investing in a more complete social media monitoring tool.
Following on from previous articles looking at hashtag tracking and Instagram analytics, our latest list is a kind of greatest hits if you will, looking at 6 free social media monitoring tools for a variety of uses, with tips and recommendations from some experts in the industry.
(Note: Most of the tools in the list also have a paid version)
1. Hashtagify: Understand Hashtag Connections
Social media comes in many shapes and forms but hashtags have become one of the key ways in which content is ordered on social networks, particularly on networks with very large post volumes like Twitter and Instagram. These are also great networks to share content as you can reach lots of people. But of course the key is to get your posts noticed by the right audience and this is where Hashtagify can help. By giving you an idea of how different hashtags are connected, you can get insights on which hashtags to include in your post to optimize its reach. The right hashtag can be the difference between your tweet reaching 200 people or 2000 people so it pays to take your time and choose the right one for your needs.
Pro Tip: Peter Trapasso(@petertrapasso), Social Media Consultant
"Hashtagify is great for finding related tags. Simply search on any hashtag and get 10 related tags all for free. If you need more you can upgrade to a paid account. Another way to use this tool is to switch to 'Table Mode'. This lets you see the popularity of a tag and how closely correlated related tags are."
2. Twtrland: Improve Your Own Social Channels
Despite its name, Twtrland gives you more than just analysis of Twitter channels, with Instagram and Facebook analysis too. Twtrland gives you a variety of insights into your social accounts such as your levels of performance, your most influential followers and the people you talk to the most. It also gives you tips on how to improve your social performance and a rating based on the performance levels of other users of the social network. The handy influencer search function that lets you discover the most important influencers in a certain industry or area of interest.
"The real power of such a tool is when you look for people other than yourself. Clicking on the skills tab for instance shows you the most powerful users in a particular niche. All of the same tools exist for this list, so it's really easy to slice and dice them to find the best users in London, or the top female users in your niche."
3. Keyhole: Simple Social Stats on One Page
Sometimes you just want to have quick look at the stats around a certain hashtag, brand or topic and look at the data from a variety of angles. Keyhole gives you these basic social metrics on one easy to read page. You can see a graphic showing hashtag usage over time, the most shared tweets, a world map of topic mentions and a theme cloud. The free version only gives you the stats for the particular moment in time that you search, so its use as a free tool is mainly to be able to get a quick idea of the conversation and social statistics around a certain topic.
"Keyhole has become one of our favorite social media tracking tools. It provides us with real-time tracks of social activities based on keywords, hashtags, or URL. It helps us understand our community better so that we can identify those who support us and those who engage with us."
4. Iconosquare: Get the Instagram Analytics you need
Instagram is of course mainly meant for mobile use, meaning the web functionality of the Instagram itself is quite limited. But using tools like Iconosquare, Instagram users can not only view their posts, comments and followers on a larger screen they can also see some basic analytics such as follower growth, comment rate and spread rate, which looks at the levels of engagement your photos are receiving beyond your follower group. Iconosquare even gives you the ability to promote your Instagram feed on a variety of other channels as well as a chance to see what's popular at the moment.
"Easily scan how many likes and comments you had for the month. Then, see how that relates to the previous month. I also love being able to scan and see what your most popular posts were in the last month, in terms of likes and comments."
5. BuzzSumo: Create (and Curate) Better Content
BuzzSumo has several functions that are useful when monitoring activity on social media. One key function is the content virality search. By entering a keyword or topic of your choice, you can quickly see the top performing blogs, articles, infographics and see how often they have been shared on which social networks. Another useful function of BuzzSumo is the trending tab which lets you see not just the content but all the social media posts that are trending around a certain topic or interest area in one easy-to-understand screen. Daily limits are reached quite quickly in the free version but if used sparingly, it's a great way to get ideas for content and understand what's trending.
"I'm a huge BuzzSumo.com fan. I use it to find the most shared content and key influencers in the topics that I'm most interested in. It's super easy to use, it has a great visual interface, and best of all, there's a FREE version."
6. TweetDeck: Fast and Easy Twitter Monitoring
Tweetdeck is more about the monitoring side of social media rather than the analytics with it's multiple streams making it easy to track a variety of Twitter conversations. Aside from just monitoring user feeds, you can also look create columns based on specific searches, trending topics and Twitter lists to keep track of every topic that may require your attention. It's a good tool for using in real-time as it updates automatically so you can monitor the conversations that matter as they are happening. There are also a few tricks you can incorporate that give you even more precise results but I leave it to Ann Smarty to explain that...
"My favorite monitoring tool is Tweetdeck. Here I explain how I am using it to track all sorts of mentions including my favorite brand reputation management search trick allowing me to track all sorts of possible mentions of my name. For example I use: "ann smarty" -> for mentions of my full name, seosmarty -> for mentions of my moniker whenever it happens to be untagged, and -from:@seosmarty -> to exclude my own tweets."
So these are some of the top free tools we've found but if there are any others you can think of that we may have missed why not let us know in the comments below. And of course, if it's comprehensive social media monitoring and social media analytics that you're looking for - covering hashtag tracking, brand listening, crisis management and much, much more - try Talkwalker.