It’s a question that comes up a lot with new or prospective clients – what is the difference and value of social media research in regards to social media monitoring. It’s a good question. The answer is “both” are critical. Here’s our take on why and the difference.
If you’re looking to develop a social media strategy, then you need to “listen” before you develop a strategy and listen before you actually engage. This is where the “social media research” aspect comes into play. By conducting the research into social media first, you’ll understand a) if there is any conversation about you taking place, b) what is being said, c) where it is taking place and c) who is talking about your company or organization. This initial research provides the key insights you’ll need to make effective business decisions.
In developing a social media strategy, the questions you need answered are those in the above paragraph. Once those questions are answered, you can then determine a) should I be engaged in social media and if so, to what degree? b) Which channels should I be focusing my resources on, c) what kind of resources do I need and what are the associated costs, d) what kind of content will my audience respond to (e.g. video, text, audio, images) and e) what do I then need to monitor, how often and what tools are best?
At MediaBadger, we come in at the first part- the social media research. From the results of our research, we can recommend the best tools to use for social media monitoring, how often and where to monitor in line with your budget and available resources. Hiring a social media research firm is a critical part to your overall online marketing strategy. Such research can identify keywords for search engine optimization, social media optimization, Web design issues (i.e. User Interface Design), nature and form of content and what business units may be most impacted by social media.
I’ll note that one constant complaint amongst our clients is that they hire a 20-something MBA or grad student to do the initial “listening” but the results are tepid at best. That’s because they are missing the point and the target audience. If you still think social media is not for kids, you’re completely missing your target audience – to the detriment of your bottom line. While MBA’s and PR degrees or diplomas are incredibly valuable, they do not make up for real-world or industry business experience. Such experience is critical to being able to understand the “data” to turn it into useful information that can be acted on to make a positive impact to a business overall or a business unit.
Monitoring comes afterward and is equally important and is often called online reputation management or ORM. We generally do not provide monitoring services. There are a number of tools and services that do that; at the top end is radian6 and the bottom end is WhosTalkin, a free service that offers links but no metrics or sexy graphs. In fact there are over 40 services. Keep in mind though that almost all of them only use a connection to Google, which means serious limitations on what might be found…all miss key hyper-localization services such as Yelp or FourSquare – that’s important if your a very local business. We often help clients find the best monitoring solution for their business, industry and budget. Conversely we offer monthly and quarterly updates – which may be preferred if your engagement level is low and audience participation not on the level of the likes of say Apple, Nike, Adidas or Sony.
So to sum it all up; the research part provides you with the road map of where to go and what to say while the monitoring makes sure your good with your audience for the online reputation management component. Here’s a blog post on SocialMedia Today talking about where monitoring tools fail as well. And here is a good list of monitoring services.