Lee Odden

Six Critical Steps to Take Before Starting Your Social Media Monitoring Initiative

social media monitoringNote from Lee: This guest post comes to us from Andy Beal, CEO of social media monitoring tool Trackur and coauthor of Radically Transparent: Monitoring & Managing Reputations Online. Andy and I have known each other for many years and in fact, Andy was the first “famous” SEO blogger I had the opportunity to meet in person. He was gracious, helpful and very smart then and continues those traits today. He literally wrote the book on Online Reputation Management and I appreciate his willingness to share practical insights into the world of social media monitoring.

Social media monitoring. Reputation monitoring. Buzz monitoring. Call it what you want, but it’s all the rage. All the cool kids are doing it! However, friends don’t let friends monitor social media without first teaching them the six critical steps that most companies overlook.

Don’t start any kind of online monitoring effort until you’ve worked through these important steps. Ignore them, and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

1. Understand Your Goals

Just because you can monitor everything that’s being said about your brand online, doesn’t mean you should just jump in, without setting clear goals. That’s the monitoring equivalent of hanging out at an open bar–you’ll quickly get dizzy and will end up with a major headache!

Take the time now, to write down what your goals are for your social media monitoring campaign. Are you trying to better understand how Twitter users talk about your products? Are looking to measure the success of your new viral marketing campaign? Or, perhaps you suspect a rogue employee is sharing too many company secrets.

We talk a lot about “monitoring” social media, but you also need to “measure” the information you collect. You can’t do that without first defining your goals!

2. Know Which Keywords to Monitor

Now you know your goals, you need to determine your keywords. What exactly do you plan to monitor on the web? Your company name? That’s a given, right? Your CEO’s name? Check! Depending on your goals, you might also consider the following:

  • Your product brands–iPhone, Android, Windows, Fiesta, and Motrin are all buzz-worthy products.
  • Popular company employees–are they saying too much?
  • Your trademarks–watch for infringement
  • Super secret products–the ones you worry might leak to the web
  • TV and Radio slogans–is that cute jingle resonating with your audience?
  • For more suggestions, download this PDF.

3. Start With the Free Monitoring Tools

Trackur is one of literally hundreds of social media monitoring tools you can pick from. You might think that the CEO of a monitoring tool would want you to immediately invest in a paid solution, but I’m not your typical CEO. Instead, I want you to try all the free tools first. Google Alerts, Social Mention, Twitter Search, if it’s free, use it!

Am I insane? Possibly, but not because I want you to use free tools. I want you to use free tools for two reasons.

First, for 80% of you, the free tools will be quite sufficient for your needs. Maybe you don’t get a lot of online mentions. Maybe you are a small mom-and-pop shop. Maybe you’re a Realtor and only need to monitor your name–that’s it! You won’t need the extra tools and features that come from paying for a social media monitoring dashboard.

Second reason: you won’t know what’s worth paying for, until you’ve tested the free tools. For example, maybe you need a tool that can tell you not just who’s talking about your brand on Twitter, but who’s talking about your brand on Twitter AND is influential. Or, maybe you need a way to let various employees have access to your social media monitoring reports. Until you use the free tools, you won’t know what features are worthy of opening up the company check book.

4. Roll-up Your Sleeves and Monitor This Yourself

That leads me to tip number four: monitor your reputation yourself, before outsourcing it.

Just as I don’t recommend you pay for a monitoring solution until you’ve tested the free tools, I also don’t recommend you outsource your reputation monitoring until you’ve attempted it “in-house.” Why? Because, until you’ve attempted this internally, you won’t know what your needs are. Go straight to a marketing, PR, or specialist online reputation monitoring firm, and you’ll likely be taken for a ride. You won’t know what questions to ask, you won’t know what reports you need. You’ll simply hand over lots of money and hope for the best.

Monitoring social media in-house gives you the opportunity to learn directly from your clients. React in realtime and learn first hand what your weaknesses are. The moment you outsource that, you add an extra layer between you and your customers. If you’re going to add that extra layer of insulation, you’d better have clear goals and set clear expectations. It’s hard to do that, when you’ve not been in the trenches yourself.

5. Don’t Silo the Information Collected

OK, so you’re monitoring in-house with either free or paid monitoring tools, or you’ve outsourced the entire task. Next, you need to decide where this collected information is routed. Who in your company is alerted when a customer complains on Facebook that his laptop battery just exploded? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that your cars’ gas pedals doesn’t stick in the 2011 models?

I’m seeing more companies tackle this “chain of command” question by appointing a social media quarterback–aka a Community Manager. Call them what you want, but their job function is to collect and collate the data that comes in from your social media monitoring efforts and ensure critical information is passed on to the most appropriate person, or department in your company. They’re the social media silo buster! They ensure there are no bottlenecks or silos of data.

6. Commit to Act on the Information Collected

The data is flowing in to your company. Your Community Manager is making sure that same data is flowing to the most relevant person in your company. OK, so now what? What’s actually happening to that data?

The last step is to make sure you have a process for ensuring you take action on the important information gleaned from social media. Are you actually improving your products? Are you actually training your employees to provide better customer service? Are you actually ensuring your deep sea oil wells don’t leak in the future?

Commit now that you will not just pay lip-service to your customers. Get commitment from your executive team that they will actively listen to what’s being said about your company. Or as Dell puts it:

“We want the customer is walking the hallways…this is not a communication exercise, this is not a feel-good thing, this is part of the DNA of Dell!”

Are you ready to make social media monitoring part of your company’s DNA?

You can find Andy blogging at Marketing Pilgrim and on Twitter.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Thanks Lee! It’s an honor to be allowed to guest post on one of my favorite blogs on the web!

  2. Great post, this shines some light on what business owners need to be doing. I’m suprized at the number of businesses like car dealers that have no clue about monitoring what is being said about them online. A lot of them are jumping into social media without any idea what it is, or how to use it. One of my biggest challenges as an inbound marking professional with car dealers and small business owners.

  3. Thanks Lee for getting Andy to write this post and to Andy for providing valuable editorial content, and not “advertorial” for his own product. In deference to Andy, let me say Trackur is a great product and very affordable. Certainly worth a try. I’ve done the DIY approach and it’s way too burdensome for me. Having a single tool that can do the grunt work is worth the investment. My two cents anyway.

  4. Andy, this is why your social media monitoring tool is such a success – because you encourage your readers, Lee’s readers, to try out tools even if they are not yours. Awesome post on outlining what it takes to really build a monitoring process and keeping it from the typical silo effect (just look at how data stays in a CRM silo to understand this). Way to go, Lee. Please keep Andy on as a regular!

  5. It is amazing how the digital world is evolving and great to see the tools that are being developed to manage it.

    Still surprises me how little accountability there is online.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. Great Article, Google Alerts was the extent of my social media monitoring and it was a tremendous help for me, so I am definitely going to try out the rest of the free solutions and most likely give your trackur a test as well.

  7. #6 is my favorite — commit to act!

    Data can be a beast. It’s easy to get, and there’s a lot of it. Sometimes information is overwhelming, and then we get paralyzed. What’s the point of 1 through 5 without 6?

    • Yes #6 is very important. You could almost argue that you should reverse the order. 😉

      I think all 6 are crucial to social media monitoring success!

  8. great idea , I will experiment to see results
    thank Lee

  9. Avatar Gary Woodfine says

    Some great tips there. #4 & #6 being the most important. I think another excellent free tool worth a mention here is http://www.websitegrader.com , which assists in collating information about your website.

  10. Thanks, great post!

  11. Your first point here which is goal setting is valuable. Online marketing will be successful if you know beforehand what are your main targets.

  12. Very valuable tips here, it’s far to common to get involved in social media just ’cause it’s the latest cool trend, without a real plan or goal in mind.
    I strongly believe that setting up the right “triggers” while maintaining a good involvement in your niche community will help you tremendously in achieving a positive brand identity in social media.

  13. I believe commit to act is most important (why bother if you’re not going to do anything?) and hardest to get people involved with (limited time, resources,…). I would start by making sure everyone involved knows the importance of social media monitoring.

  14. Avatar Brian Birnbaum says

    I agree that the biggest challenge is actually implementing changes prompted by the monitoring process. I’ve worked in a corporate environment and man, such good ideas, such terrible follow-through!

    Obviously there’s a long distance between knowing what the problem is and actually fixing it…

    • Avatar Sergei Dolukhanov says

      And that’s precisely the issue many companies are finding with social media monitoring… correlating social data with key business performance metrics. If I’m an executive, how can I take this huge chunk of social data surrounding my company and tie it to my existing business processes? How do I measure change in revenue with change in online sentiment? Do they co-exist? Well, the answer is of course they do, but how do I go about quantifying it? More and more people are asking these questions. 

      Personally, I love tools like Trackur at the price of 15 bucks a month to find social mentions. However, if I’m an enterprise user, social media monitoring simply isn’t enough. I need social media business intelligence to actually give me the deep analysis and underlying motivations behind why people say what they say online. I need a way to synchronize social data with my business goals.. and really understand how everything aligns. 
      Andy, thanks for the post. Just keep in mind that social media business intelligence is the next level beyond monitoring or listening; it’s the actionable layer that really makes social data count in the business world. 

      – Sergei Dolukhanov

  15. Thank you for tips.

  16. Avatar Avinash Pathak says

    It’s a good post on social media monitoring. The concept is new. It’s true that if you want to be successful in business, you  must view what your targeted customers and competitors are discussing online in different social media sites. But although, there are a number of free social media monitoring tools found in internet, but it requires skill & knowledge to properly do the work. SSCSWORLD is one of the  best SEO company which can assist you in this matter.