Whether you’re a large brand or a small personal brand, monitoring social media is a bare necessity of operation. Unless, of course, you don’t have any social media outposts—that’s a subject for a different day. Everyone, from a small personal brand to the social media manager of a large brand, needs a social media monitoring system. And you can set one up that can take you as little as 30 minutes a day to maintain.
Let’s start with a few ground rules:
1. If you manage a large brand, chances are you spend approximately 30 percent of your day on this task. If you are a small part-time personal brand, you may need to spend only 10 to 15 minutes a day on this task. This means you need to scale the information here according to your responsibility and size.
2. Monitoring is not managing. Here is where people really lose concentration. Even though monitoring tasks are part of your management system, you have to define the tasks that are involved with monitoring separately. For instance, if I start scanning my RSS reader for back links or brand mentions, I might get caught up in reading a blog piece or two that is outside the scope of my monitoring tasks. Or, if I am looking at Facebook posts for items that need attention, I may get caught up in my personal Facebook page or reading a link in a post from a friend. This is where you have to draw the line and discipline yourself to do your monitoring tasks first.
There is some crossover in monitoring and managing tasks. If I am posting or scheduling social media posts and notice a customer service issue that needs to be addressed or a question that popped up and needs to be answered, I need to take care of that. Also, if I am tracking campaign results on social media, that is not part of my normal monitoring routine. These are part of your management time. But the actual tasks of scanning for issues, keeping track of brand mentions, or tracking sentiment should not be aimlessly mixed with daily management duties.
3. Monitoring should be a set of tasks you check off regularly. You need a monitoring routine and you need to document your findings. More on that in the set-up section.
Next, let’s go over a few important mindsets:
1. Don’t be afraid of negative comments or feedback. If you fear the negative in social media, you have a blind spot, plain and simple. Even though nobody likes to read bad things about themselves, there is no escaping the negative. If you are in business, any kind of business, people will not agree with everything you do, especially if it affects them. When you made the decision to get on social media, you made the decision to take the good with the bad. You have to live with that day in, day out. There’s a lot of good advice on the information highway about how to handle the negative in social media. Read and learn. You’ll be smart to know it’s coming and be ready. I always tell clients to remember that negative comments can be valuable feedback on how they’re doing as a brand. Just learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. In a crisis, negative comments can help you mediate the issue.
2. Monitoring is a business operation. Make sure you have a strategy and tactics to keep you on track. When you set up your monitoring system, it needs to be based on information you have deemed important for a reason (strategy). For instance, reputation management or crisis prevention might be at the top of my list. Maybe I want to keep track of my competitors to see if I come up in any of their conversations. Maybe I am interested in the general sentiment around my brand. Whatever your strategy is, you need to document the results so you can make better business decisions and track patterns. Monitoring data should be high on the list of reports you discuss in your marketing sessions. If you’re a brand of one that data is just as important.
3. There are several conversations that you should monitor on a regular basis:
- Brand : Listen to what is being said in the digital space about your brand. It’s important to track sentiment (do people speak positively or negatively about you?) as well as key messages. What opportunities are you missing?
- Core Influencers: Listen to identify people who sing your praises, come to your defense, or simply recommend you to others. This is your influence graph. Know your enemies as well. They are the dark side of your core influencers.
- Internal: Listen to what your employees think about your organization. Do they have the freedom to speak on your behalf? Identify internal constituents that can become ambassadors.
- Competition: Listen to what your competition is up to. Who is recommending them or criticizing them? How are they handling that? Are they talking about you?
The initial set-up of a monitoring system will probably take you more than 30 minutes. But once your system is in place, you should be able to perform all the tasks and do the documentation quickly. As monitoring becomes a regular part of your daily routine, the system will become easier to maintain. The only change in your routine would come if your brand is experiencing a public issue that needs to be monitored more thoroughly to detect a pattern of sentiment escalation.
1. Set up a data base of information you want to track. This needs to include dates, URLs and categories of conversations you are following (above). You may choose not to track all of the above conversations, especially if you have an influencer program that already tracks influencers, advocates, detractors, and trolls. Some days, you won’t have anything to track. But if you’ve developed a culture of conversation in your fan base, you probably will. I recommend attaching a sentiment value to every post your track. It can be as simple as a five-point Likert scale that goes from very negative to negative to neutral to positive to very positive.
2. If you are a brand of more than one, make sure you have a triage response system. In your monitoring, you may run across posts or questions that require the input of people higher up the authority chain than you. There are many good examples of response plans out there including this one from Webster University. This piece of set-up also requires a team discussion that defines what types of issues need a response, what types need ongoing monitoring for escalation, and what types you can dismiss.
3. Unless you have a budget for a monitoring system, build your own monitoring “dashboard” with free tools. In order to manage your time efficiently (remember 30 minutes), don’t waste time duplicating information. Stick to reliable and fast search tools and set up notifications to send them to your Inbox if possible. How often you want those notifications probably depends on the importance of the issues. I use Twitter search for real-time monitoring by setting up hashtag and keyword columns in Hootsuite that I can scan occasionally. Real-time notifications can be a huge distraction so weigh carefully which interruptions are important. I recommend a mix of the following tools:
- Google Alerts: Don’t go overboard here. Go back to the conversations you want to monitor and why. If you are a small or one person brand, you probably only need a few depending on what you want to track. Here is Google’s tutorial on using Google Alerts.
- Twitter Search: This is my favorite tool for real-time monitoring. I like to set up Twitter lists for monitoring and use Hootsuite to help organize.
- Free tools like Social Mention, Trackur, Icerocket, and Topsy can be helpful but don’t use them if you don’t need them. They can be a time suck. Many paid tools like Sprout Social and others have built in keyword search functions as well. The main point is don’t make the system the star, make your strategy the star and use the system to reach your goals. Don’t be motivated by FOMO (fear of missing out). If you’ve done due diligence setting up your system, be confident and execute.
- Set up separate keywords for searches on Facebook and use hashtag searches on Instagram. Google Alerts will not monitor conversations on most social media platforms. Just incorporate a list of terms you search regularly on social media into your data base.
Once you have your system set up, honor your commitment to stick to your monitoring tasks. Keep your personal social media activity and your other management duties out of this task time and you’ll easily stay within your 30 minute window. I recommend chopping that window up into two 15-minute segments: one first thing in the morning and the second in the middle of the afternoon. What monitoring tips do you have?