Comparing social media tools: Monitoring, workflow and measurement solutions

Liza Sperling recently wrote a great guest post on oneforty where she compared various social media tools. She included a useful breakdown to help marketers, community managers and others interested in social media understand when they need what kind of tool. While Liza’s taxonomy is really helpful, we think about it a little bit differently. Here’s the way we like to classify social media tools:

If you’re managing brands or clients in social media, there are probably three functions that are of primary importance to your work: monitoring, workflow, and measurement tools. Many tools will fall clearly into one category or another, but there are an increasing number of applications that overlap multiple categories. There aren’t really any tools that do all three things very well, however, so you will probably need to use more than one to accomplish all of these activities, at least for now.

Workflow

Workflow, or engagement, tools help you coordinate multiple social media accounts with multiple authors, allowing you to assign tasks and post updates. These are the communication tools and Twitter clients; if you manage any social media accounts, you’ll probably spend a lot of your time using these kinds of tools. You could also include social CRM applications in this category, as those help organize customers. Our favorites in the workflow category include CoTweet, TweetDeck and HootSuite, but there are tons more in the business dashboard category on oneforty. Many of these workflow tools provide some simple metrics and basic monitoring capabilities, but for more in-depth and comprehensive statistics or listening features, you’ll need to look at tools in the other two categories.

Monitoring

Monitoring (also known as listening and brand tracking) tools help you cut through the mass of social media conversations to get at the ones that mean something to you and your clients. These tools are great for keeping track of what people are saying about a topic, and which conversations are important to participate in or respond to. There are a variety of brand tracking tools listed on oneforty. Many monitoring tools provide some sort of measurement, often through content analysis in an attempt to understand concepts like sentiment and influencers. On the flip side, some measurement tools provide monitoring capabilities; for example, TweetReach Pro is used by a lot of our customers for monitoring brand mentions.

Measurement

Finally, measurement tools analyze social media conversations to put numbers to the chatter. These are all the metrics, statistics, and analysis tools. TweetReach is primarily a measurement tool. This category is probably the most diverse of the three overall social media tools areas. Metrics can be calculated in so many ways for so many stakeholders that each individual measurement tool provides a slightly different spin with its numbers. Because of this, it can be overwhelming trying to choose which metrics tool to use for your particular needs.

And this is why we find it helpful to further break the measurement category down into three more specific areas: paid, owned, and earned media. Forrester recently published research that explains the differences between paid, owned and earned media. I definitely recommend this post if you haven’t read it, but here’s the gist.

  • Owned media refers to the sites a company runs – its website, Twitter account, Facebook page, and so on. Owned media metrics tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights help you understand how people are interacting with official sites.
  • Paid, or bought, media refers to any advertising or sponsorship, like a sponsored Twitter trend, a Google ad, or any other paid social action. Usually you get some metrics from whomever you purchased the content (like Twitter’s sponsored trend analytics).
  • Finally, earned media refers to all the conversation generated from those owned and paid media. This includes word of mouth, spontaneous customer opinion, and any kind of buzz about a brand, product or company that you didn’t pay for or create yourself.

A digital campaign will include elements of all three media types, but you only really control the owned and paid messages. With the earned media conversation, you can simply monitor, respond and measure. Earned media is where TweetReach comes in. Our goal is to help you understand the impact of conversations that spring up in social media about your clients, whether it’s related to a specific campaign or event, or whether it’s the general ambient chatter about a topic that occurs in spaces like Twitter. We want to help you answer questions like:

  • What was the reach of a conversation?
  • How many people are talking about a topic?
  • How many people could have seen tweets about a topic?
  • What tweets are generating the most buzz?
  • Who is generating the most buzz about a topic?
  • How does this week’s buzz compare to last week’s buzz? How about this month’s buzz?
  • What conversation did a particular paid campaign spark?

Different measurement tools will provide different metrics in different formats. And many of them can be used in combination with each other and with monitoring and workflow tools. It can be difficult and time-consuming to pick the right tool for your particular needs, but the good news is that the tool you need probably exists. Again, we’ll refer you to oneforty – they currently index nearly 250 social media analytics tools (including TweetReach, hint hint).

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