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Social Media Monitoring Tools:
Lessons From My Own Search

Social Media Monitoring Services enable you, your company or your brand to listen to and participate in online conversations. They have gained popularity over the last few years and their insight and analysis they offer can be crucial to being a meaningful part of the online conversation. But if you are starting from zero, where do you begin?

Earlier this year I set out to research and choose a social media monitoring service for an online affiliate business that I was working with. I knew nothing to begin with, so I started by looking at everything from the free services to the big names in social media monitoring (at the time, I didn’t know they were the big names)

To start, I looked at several services that came up in my initial searches: Visible Technologies, Radian6, SM2 (by Techrigy), Biz360, BuzzLogic, Trackur, and Social Mention.

Lesson #1: Free Services vs. Paid Services

Early on I learned that Social Mention is a search engine that works like Google, searching all social media on the web. Displayed results can be filtered into categories but users cannot perform sub-searches. It’s a free service that is one of many and only searches one part of the Internet. Some of the free searches check blogs, others forums, and others micromedia like Twitter. For more about the free tools, many of which are included in the paid options, check out Dan Schawbel’s great post with Mashable about Free Brand Monitoring Tools. It’s from late 2008, but still a great place to start.

The larger services are paid services that have built their own filters, collection and display software. (A few months after this search MurrayNewlands.com made a Top Ten Social Media Monitoring Tools Review post that is a great place to start and want to do some comparing of your own. Interestingly enough, the only two companies who commented on our article were SM2 (@cbensen) and Radian6 (@ambercadabra), so that in and of itself should be a recommendation for each of them!)

Lesson #2: Size Matters.

I tried to contact Visible Technologies, Radian6, BuzzLogic and Biz360, SM2 and Trackur to find out more about their services.

• Visible Technologies: Starts at $10,000/ month- they recommended that I look at a service geared toward a smaller company.
• Radian6: Starts at $600/ month and goes up quickly. I set up a demo with Marc Whitchurch (@MarcWhitchurch).
• BuzzLogic: Non-responsive for demo at time of writing.
• Biz360: Non-responsive for demo.
• SM2 from Techrigy: Starts at $500/ month. I set up a demo with Ahad (@Ahad_Kamal).
• Trackur: Online Demo

comparison chart 2

Lesson #3: Looking Good

Seeing the demos was enlightening. I have a lot of different searches and aggregated feeds that get sent to me through Google alerts, RSS feeds and other updates- but the monitoring tools I saw- Radian6 and SM2- are both visually and functionally fantastic. Everything about what they do makes more sense. Get the demos.

Lesson #4 What Do Services Search?

I didn’t think about this at the time, but knowing what services focus on and where they get the results they provide would be good information. I would have asked different companies to search for the same keywords during their demos. Different social media monitoring services generate results using different tools, crawlers and filters so your results will vary for the same terms and keywords depending on which service you use. Ken Burbary wrote a great post called The Dirty Little Secret of Social Media Monitoring earlier this year that does a side-by-side comparison of Radian6 and Techrigy. Well worth the read, and the comment conversation has some great perspective and reactions from the companies.

Lesson #5: Digging Even Deeper

I asked a lot of questions and learned a lot through the demos and personal research. If I were to do it again I would have a much better idea of what to ask and how to find out what the service could do for me. Whether you have been using a social media monitoring tool for a while and want to reevaluate or want to do a thorough search to choose a new service, Jennifer from ScoutLabs has a great new post on how to dig deeper to find out which social media monitoring tool is best for you called Advanced Questions That You Should Be Asking Your Brand Monitoring Vendor. Great post that pushes the envelope.

My Take- The Quick & Dirty:

Visible Technologies: Great marks from Forrester. They do big accounts, so if you have a lot to monitor, look to them. If you’re just doing yourself or a small business, look somewhere else. They got a high ranking on the Forrester Wave report so we may want to switch to them when we get bigger.

Radian6: They get high marks from Forrester. Also, great visuals and bells and whistles on the service. The costs are higher than other services but their interface is just plain cool. And the do a great demo.

SM2 from Techrigy: When I first set out to find a social media monitoring tool, I was impressed with the response time from SM2. Fast and friendly. They responded to me with sales and tech people and spent almost 2 hours with me over 2 days. @cbensen is the best customer service rep I’ve had the pleasure of working with in a long time.

Trackur: Solid service and for economic rates. They don’t offer the tech and strategy support that other services do, but if you are willing to deal with bumps along the road or have a solid idea of how to use their service on your own it’s a great option.

My Final Call:
(For an online business with an e-commerce website, 4 employees, 300 affiliate partners at 3 months old and growing)

I recommend that we get SM2. Their people were the most responsive and their plan seems the most economical and appropriate. Other programs were good but are either too expensive for what we have to spend or don’t offer the tech/ strategy support we need since we were just starting out.

The Plan I Chose: SM2 From Techrigy
• $500/ month, Unlimited profiles, user logins and keyword searches.
• All results are exportable.
• We can set up repeating searches to update every morning (or more often)
• Real-time alert feed to a Google Reader so we know about conversations as they happen.

I would love to hear if you have done a similar search, who you chose and why, and what you think. Leave your stories in the comments.

Extra Lesson #6: Monitoring the Monitors
I recently found a blog called Impact Watch that updates each week with all of the new blog posts about social media monitoring. It’s a great way to see everything new about the Social Media Monitoring Tools that happens each week.

Social Media Monitoring Tools – A buyer’s guide


Note this is a few weeks old – Murray

Edit 9/10/09 see also Social Media Monitoring Tools – A buyer’s guide 2

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