Getting started with Social Media Monitoring (SMM)

Getting started with Social Media Monitoring (SMM)

If you want to set-up an SMM programme or get more out of your existing one, here are some handy tips to bear in mind.

Many organisations are setting up Social Media Monitoring programmes (although we feel the term “Web Listening” is more appropriate from a market research perspective). Organisations utilise web-listening on a number of different levels - and this often correlates to how advanced they are in the development of their own social media strategy. For example, with communications monitoring, some organisations use SMM sporadically to monitor the effect of specific actions or events, while others use regular and systematic SMM to feed into and shape their communications plans. Some organisations will integrate further, using SMM to help drive their social media strategy, while others use SMM as part of their market research and insight programmes to shape overall marketing strategy.

Whichever approach you wish take it’s worth bearing in mind Edelman’s “crawl-walk-run-fly” strategy in terms of building up to where you want to be (see Figure 1).

So, how do you get started? It can be a daunting prospect, especially if a long term goal is to fully integrate SMM with your business across a number of different departments. So whatever the long term strategy it’s often easier to break it down into smaller, clear, measurable milestones to aim for along the way.

In order to shape strategy and scope out what needs to be measured, a useful first step before conducting any SMM is to establish what is the social media consumption of your customers, what are their habits and attitudes toward social media and what is the penetration of heavy users among your customer base? For example an online survey is a quick and cost effective way to help scope this out.

Also some groups of social media users are much more important than others in terms of their influence. A customer segmentation study with focus on lifestyles, attitudes and maybe behaviours can help unearth which strategies will work best for each segment.

The next step is choosing a supplier. Here is a list of 20 questions to ask any prospective supplier in order to pick the vendor that is most suitable to your needs. Once you have a potential shortlist of suppliers to work with it’s time to start experimenting and putting suppliers to the test - as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!

Many suppliers offer heavily discounted, or even free, trials to new buyers, it pays to select a few of them to work with initially so you can compare the results. These findings will give you a clearer idea of what kind of outputs will best fit your requirements, especially reporting formats, frequency, dashboards etc.

Some suppliers offer standardised or syndicated reports while others can customise.  With the standard report you know exactly what you are getting and the price will be much lower, so that is always a good starting point. However if the level of reporting is not sufficient, it gives you a clearer understanding of how much customisation you may require to give you a better competitive advantage. Conversely, fully customised reports may be too expensive (or simply provide too much detailed information and access to complex online dashboards at the initial stage of SMM) so you can also get a mix between the two –a syndicated report, but with selected parts tailored to your needs.

Download examples of syndicated reports for banks.
Download examples of syndicated reports for smartphones.

As you can see these reports provide useful information on:

  • Your brand – share of voice: number and share of web posts and mentions by your brand/company and your competitors
  • Your products – the most important features or attributes that are relevant to your product category
  • Consumer sentiment – by brand and by feature, positive and negative
  • The voice of your customer - drill down to individual comments/posts
  • Trends – how does sentiment change over time, respond to events

Developing your SMM and integrating into other parts of the business takes time so we would advocate a stepped approach. Ideally it should grow as your overall social media strategy develops. Indeed your SMM findings can play a key role in feeding that development. For example Edelman’s “crawl-walk-run-fly” model for establishing online credibility and trust shows how you can gradually build your social media strategy. It places web listening at the starting point of your campaign – measuring your audience, the competitive landscape and constantly reshaping strategy based on ongoing monitoring.


Figure 1

More on how Edelman utilised social media for the Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

The more you develop your online media presence and build trust, the more positive coverage you are likely to achieve within your “earned media”. Such advocacy is highly important to your brand so it is vital you have a SMM system in place that measures what is being achieved in blogs, opinions, comments, recommendations, reviews, user ratings and other user generated content. Also SMM is not just about measurement. It enables you to continually refine your social media strategy, and stay on top of your earned media by accentuating the positive and dealing with the negative.

Start asking potential suppliers questions now so you can get trialling and experimenting with SMM. The sooner you get up and running with it, the sooner your social media strategy can begin to run and hopefully …fly.

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