By adaptive - April 25th, 2012

[S]ocial media monitoring delivers a deluge of data – some relevant and some not. It is easy to sometimes feel completely overwhelmed. The challenge facing corporate users is not to track and mea...

Social media monitoring delivers a deluge of data – some relevant and some not. It is easy to sometimes feel completely overwhelmed. The challenge facing corporate users is not to track and measure everything – but to discover the business-critical information for a brand and act on that insight

By now the value of social media has been well established. People need their “likes”, their “Plus Ones” and mentions on Twitter as part of their marketing activities. This is well understood.

Something that's less well tracked, however, is just how to manage the complete onslaught of information that often follows once you’ve decided to use social media in your corporation’s communications. Mentions of your company might crop up anywhere – Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, Internet forums – there are opportunities everywhere. There are also ways of tracking these and measuring them.


Before even considering any sort of monitoring and evaluation of social media it’s important to consider the brand you’re trying to monitor. Start ups have the option to give themselves a distinctive name, whereas established companies don’t. A couple of years ago I delivered a seminar to freelance journalists wanting to promote themselves through social media and one of them pointed out that it was easy for me to do a search for mentions of journalists named “Guy Clapperton” or even “Clapperton” as there wouldn’t be more than a handful; her name, meanwhile, was Smith.

UNIT4 LogoSoftware house Unit4, which employs some 2000 people around the globe of which a few hundred are in the UK, is currently implementing a social networking policy throughout its businesses which include financial software offerings Agresso and Coda. The Agresso brand has proven easier to track than Coda, since it’s not a word in its own right and there are fewer competing Agressos than Codas.

Part of a policy

David Turner, group marketing director, explains that the company has put together a whole set of social media engagement and called the policy “embracing social change”, which ties in with the business’ overall strapline which is “embracing change”. It’s not just a matter of marketing, he explains. “Customers are expecting to be able to contact us in all sorts of ways,” he says.

There are two broad approaches that can be taken: finding something off-the-shelf to sort through all the possible engagements and getting something more bespoke. Unit4 started off with the off-the-shelf approach, and was pleasantly surprised at how sophisticated some of the free tools had become.

“We have done a lot internally on products like TweetDeck and Hootsuite, on which we have continuing real-time searches on our brand name and on the product names.” These are either web-based or app-based offerings which monitor multiple social media streams at a time.

Hootsuite, which is web-based but which is also available as a Google Chrome plug-in, will monitor Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and no doubt will be increasing its reach as the demand grows; TweetDeck is very similar. Both can perform real-time, ongoing searches across the different networks so it is easy to set up a column for “Agresso” which will immediately bring together Turner’s preference is for HootSuite.

“It’s been very very effective, using these as tools and then basically working them manually by looking at who’s saying what,” continued Turner. Actions afterwards vary; if someone is criticizing a particular feature they can be directed to a website the company has specifically for enhancement requests; otherwise they are engaged in a conversation about what the problem is. “If you take a critic head-on, it’s surprising how quickly you can turn them around,” Turner concluded.

Future plans may involve spending more money (the tools in current use are actually free downloads – which, to support an organization of that size, is unexpected). Unit4 isn’t the only Unit4 in the world and Coda, although it’s unique in the financial software market, is not the only Coda. There is an electric car of the same name in the US, so that’s been known to crop up in ongoing searches.

The company is now looking at a mix of off-the-shelf and bespoke applications, which can extend the functions of Hootsuite and its competition so that, for example, you could search for “Coda minus (electric+car)” so the searches would become even more meaningful. The developers of these free applications often make them quite open to developers and release the APIs, says Turner. “We have some boffins looking at it now.”

Higher budget

Clearly the more money you spend the more insightful and precise your searches can become, therefore the response is better informed. That’s the theory anyway; Turner certainly evaluated one paid-for and well-known analytics system that disappointed him a lot, although he declines to name it.

IBM LogoIBM is one company that has a high spec analytics system on offer. A spokeswoman stressed the need to engage at all levels and use social media as only one of a business’ engagements, and that analytics should be used in conjunction with rather than separately from other customer engagements.

Digesting all of the information and presenting it in a meaningful way is where a good analytics program should score spectacularly. “As a part of the IBM Business Analytics portfolio, Cognos Consumer Insight maintains a history of social media commentary that can be analysed and seamlessly integrated with IBM Cognos Business Intelligence and IBM SPSS predictive analytics for analysis of consumer interests, motivations and preferences,” she explains.

“The application accomplishes this by retrieving data in the form of fragments or “snippets” of text from publicly available social media channels based on queries that search for specific words or phrases. The data collected in the search result is then loaded into a database and made available for analysis

“As you perform your analysis, Cognos Consumer Insight presents information in a dashboard format that gives a graphical representation of the results. Analysis can be configured and displayed in tables and crosstabs, as well as in pie charts, bar charts and trend charts.”

Much of this – other than the reporting, which will be so important to many corporate businesses – can be done through the free offerings. For the graphics and the drilling down, offerings from IBM, Adobe, Google and others can be worth spending the money on. As always, you pay your money, you take your choice.

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