Social media monitoring is now an essential activity for any large organization. Even companies that aren’t using social media for marketing, PR or customer services can take advantage of the real-time insights to gain feedback and better understand their customers.

But with more than 400 social media monitoring tools on the market, how do you choose the right one (or ones) for you? Without a clear strategy in place, it may feel like comparing Apples with Oranges.

 Social Media Monitoring Dashboard

Of course, each tool has its advantages and disadvantages and the tool you choose will depend on exactly what you want to use it for, so start there. What exactly do you want to use if for? If you can’t answer that question you will end up spending money and achieving nothing.

For instance, if you want to use it for customer service you will need a tool with a strong engagement offering and you might want immediate notifications when someone says something particularly positive or negative about a specific product or feature. If there is more than one person responding to customers, you will need a tool with a workflow capability to keep a record of who has said what and to whom.

Where do you want to monitor? If you want to monitor the conversation in a specific country, you will need to ensure that your tool has geographical and language targeting.

Who do you want to monitor? If you simply want to monitor your own social media accounts, fans and followers, it’s much easier than targeting sections of the wider web, such as restaurant users or parents of two year olds.

What do you want to monitor? As well as targeting specific locations, you may also want to target specific networks.  You’ll need to consider this when choosing a tool as some will have more of a focus on Twitter, whilst others may be more adept at monitoring forums and blogs.

Ease of use. This might seem obvious, but unless you want to pay for support you will probably want an organised and easy to navigate dashboard that allows you to easily follow your key metrics without being overwhelmed by lists of data and mentions.

How will you do your reporting? Different tools report in different ways. Some offer standard reports, others allow you to customise reports, and others offer serviced reporting. Larger enterprises in particular may benefit from using a serviced monitoring company. With so much data out there, having professional advice and professionally produced reports can make a real difference.

How important is sentiment analysis?  If you’re dealing with large amounts of data and sentiment analysis is important to your business you might want to be able to make manual changes to what is considered positive or negative. Automatic sentiment analysis tools will give you an indication, but are usually only 50-60% accurate. You may even require a company with in-house analysts who can do this for you.

Support availability. What kind of support does the monitoring company you are using offer? For urgent enquiries you may want access to a named account manager, rather than having to submit an online form and waiting patiently waiting for a response. Free solutions don’t usually offer any support, so it’s worth asking: “how important is this data to me?” before going with a freebie.

Operational considerations. Before committing to a tool, it’s worth checking that you can afford it. Tools can vary enormously in price: some services are available for free, whilst others will set you back thousands every month. Finding the right balance between power, functionality and cost is essential.

Budget isn’t the only issue here. Do you have the resources available to make the most of the tool? Consider the skills and availability of staff that will have a role to play. It’s probably worth allocating a separate budget for social media monitoring training.

On December 6th we will be discussing how to select the right monitoring tool(s) in a one hour webinar with Nathan Gilliatt, one of the world’s most experienced social media monitoring experts; Leon Chaddock, CEO of social media monitoring specialists Sentiment Metrics; and Our Social Times founder, Luke Brynley-Jones. It’s free to join and there will be a Q&A session for listeners to ask questions.