The buzz term of the year. Social media began as a way to communicate with others via the up-and-coming internet. Today, that same social media has metamorphosed into a new definition of communication. On a foundational level, it’s still all about the communication between people.
But more importantly, it’s redefined how business is performed.
Consumers are forming a new type of brand loyalty – and it’s driven by the engagement between customer and company.
The public is tweeting about travels and getting immediate responses. Companies are running contests via Twitter and gaining the attention that a successful national ad campaign would bring – just look at Squarespace and Moonfruit. And the only costs these companies incurred were the prizes that they gave away.
I’m happy to see the corporate world moving with and leveraging this paradigm shift in communication. Even the New York Times has hired its first Social Media Editor.
Despite the shift, however, the research side of the Research/Planning/Implementation/Evaluation model is still just as important – it’s just different.
With all of that being said, here are a few tools I’ve used (am using) to monitor trends in social media for myself and for clients.
Technorati’s site quotes Time Magazine as saying, “If Google is the Web’s reference library, Technorati is becoming its coffee house.” Well said, TIME. Technorati provides a way to search through blogs and their posts, tags and keywords by subject. Not only does it cut the search time, but you can search by how much authority the blogs have. Pretty handy when you want to cut out the non-applicable voices.
There are plenty of services that you can pay for to monitor the activity on a web site, but why pay for what is free? Running invisibly, Google Analytics provides premium feedback on overall and page-specific traffic, search terms, traffic sources, visitor locations and more. All of it is run from an easy-to-manage dashboard and if you already utilize Google’s other resources, it’s integrated into your account.
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds have become increasingly popular. Think of it as a string connecting the latest posts or stories on your favorite news sites and blogs. A reader pulls all of these strings together and places them into one simple interface to cut out the time you spend moving from site to site, checking for the latest news. Once you subscribe to these feeds with Google Reader (or another reader/aggregator), you’ll see the latest content in one place.
This is also helpful if there are several blogs you’ve found through Technorati and have begun to monitor for trends.
From the outside, Delicious simply looks like an online bookmark-keeper. But once you start to use it, there are many more benefits to be realized and practical applications to make use of. For example:
- You can be away from your computer and still have full access to your bookmarks,
- You can set up client- or project-specific Delicious pages, keeping track of everything in an easily accessible place for all,
- You can explore other users’ tags, researching what others have already found and how they connect topics and ideas.
Want to invest some pocket change and monitor all of it in one place? Check out Viral Heat. I haven’t used it personally, but may be looking to in the future. It monitors keywords, such as brand names, and provides rich statistics, locations, and the who, what, when and where of the keyword(s). A great feature of ViralHeat is the amount of information available – without all of the clicking. For example, one page may display 50 different tweets containing compressed URLs, but Viral Heat will simply show you a roundup of the actual page’s information. More info and less time clicking, gathering and organizing research data? Yes, please!
These are only a handful of the tools that are available. I encourage you to find your own and start building your own structure using whichever tools suit your needs best. And please, if you have a favorite that I didn’t include, mention it to me – I’m always looking for new tools and ideas.