In event fundraising, finding the conversations that interest your event participants and donors is important, because by influencing those conversations, we can help steer participants and donors to our events.
Monitoring social media is important because social media are like flowing rivers of conversation and content. Organizations need to act on the conversations and content that flow by before they disappear around the corner.
Twitter is the most extreme example of social media’s temporal nature. A negative tweet about an event or organization that goes unanswered for even a day conveys the impression that the organization isn’t listening, doesn’t care, or both.
Even those channels that are less in the moment, such as LinkedIn, require monitoring. Indeed, the river moves more slowly in LinkedIn than on Twitter, but the effects of ignoring it are perhaps even more corrosive. It may be weeks before an unanswered comment or question is displaced from the view of LinkedIn group members, for example, underscoring an organization’s lack of responsiveness.
But aside from the potential to connect with our target audiences, monitoring also helps marketers filter the social media rivers for the gold that is difficult to discover through a generic Google search.
The good news is that online conversation is captured forever within the bowels of a server somewhere, just waiting to be analyzed to death. And a horde of software developers is working on deriving useful information from it.
Social media monitoring software is a fast-growing category of tools designed to slice up online conversations to try to determine things like where conversations about your brand occur most often and how much you are being talked about compared to your competitors.
Since many of the monitoring tools are new, most are available as software as a service (SaaS) over the internet, which makes it easy for marketers to try them out. Yet this same newness means that few are integrated with the software that marketers already have, such as customer relationship management (CRM).
Here are some ways these tools give nonprofit marketers more insight into online conversations:
- Determine tone and sentiment. Some developers are using algorithms and analysis to determine whether conversations are positive or negative and whether the individuals within the conversation are supporters or detractors. But the developers acknowledge that using computers to determine the tone of human conversation is still a work in progress at this point. For example, the tools can’t distinguish between tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and criticism. So while the tools can do the heavy lifting of finding the conversations and assigning them a tone, they still require a human to verify that the conclusions are accurate.
- Assign a response. Some tools let you define the types of comments or conversations that deserve a response, flag them, and route them to a designated person for action.
- See the distribution of conversation. Most tools let you segment the different types of social media to determine where conversations are happening, such as on blogs or Facebook.
- Trend the conversation. Some tools let you analyze conversations’ direction and popularity over time. This is helpful during important periods, like new offering launches or in the aftermath of a crisis.
- Determine share of attention. You can track the amount of conversation about you compared to your competitors.
- Identify influential sources. The tools can determine the popularity of conversations and the sources of those conversations. This helps you decide which blogs you’d like to do outreach with, for example.
- Locate the conversations. Some tools let you see the geographic locations of people involved in the conversation.
- Track propagation. Some tools allow you to track a comment from a blog post all the way through to mainstream media.
Of course, though the tools allow you to narrow the social media rivers to streams, there still may be an overwhelming amount of data to deal with, especially if you’re a large nonprofit. Here, organizations need to develop processes for determining what to do with all the information and how to act on it. Organizations must integrate social media intelligence into their other streams of intelligence and adapt those analyses and decision-making processes to this new flow of information.
Here is a list of social media monitoring tools, by category:
Discussion forum search:
Comprehensive (so they say) tools:
Alterian SM2 (formerly Techrigy SM2)
Atensity 360 (formerly Biz360)
Jive (formerly Filtrbox)
Sources: ITSMA research, Ben Barren, Murray Newlands, pier314, socialmediamonitoring.ca, social media monitoring wiki.