A social media monitoring tool isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a PR and marketing must. But if you’re not using the right one, or you’re not using one at all, you’re missing an opportunity to drive more leads, increase revenue and protect your brand profile.
If, for example, you want to maximise marketing campaign ROI, offer customer service that outclasses your competitors, get Google or another search engine to notice your site, connect with influential figures who’ll generate more leads, or avoid a PR disaster and save your reputation, choosing the right technologies for your business should be top of your to-do list.
A great monitoring tool won’t just make your community managers’ lives easier. It’ll also give you the insights you need to lead C-suite discussions on where the business goes next. Take Warren Talbot, Marketing Manager at Vans. Turning to the right tool wasn’t just a strategy to make handling day-to-day social media simpler, it was a way to “justify strategic business decisions”.
He told us “social media is sometimes perceived as a very new sphere for upper management, and getting sign-off without hard facts, data and ROI is a significant challenge” - one that could only be addressed with the right technology.
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Table of Contents
Monitoring and listening: the difference
The benefits of monitoring and listening to social media
Should I use a tool or do it manually?
The top social media monitoring tools for 2021
|YouScan||Zoho Social||Sprinklr Modern Engagement|
Monitoring and listening: the difference
You’ll hear people talking about listening when they mean monitoring, and vice versa, but technically they are different things. The key distinction lies in how close you are to the action: think zoomed in vs. zoomed out.
Social media monitoring means dealing with the day-to-day of your platform feeds. It’s liking a comment on Instagram, getting into a conversation on Facebook or replying to a post on TikTok.
Social media listening shows you the bigger picture. If you have all those likes, comments and posts gathered into graphs and categories, you’ll see patterns at play. You can then make decisions based on your understanding of what your customers or competitors are doing, within the context of industry changes.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why marketers and PRs at successful companies take this approach.
The benefits of monitoring and listening to social media
- Connect with the most valuable members of your market
- Roll out best-in-class customer service
- Predict, measure and maximise the ROI of marketing campaigns
- Stay one step ahead of competitors
- Predict and capitalise on new market trends
- Protect brand reputation in a PR crisis
- Help people find your brand when they're searching for it
The bottom line: paying attention to brand activity is a sword and a shield - whether you’re managing an enterprise or an SME business, it can protect and promote your brand simultaneously - with a combination of human and technological input.
Should I use a tool or do it manually?
In the fast-paced world of digital, you’re better off using a tool than trying to handle tasks manually. The latter can quickly become unreliable, so you’re likely to miss important conversations. It also wastes time you could dedicate more usefully to other projects.
Instead of flicking distractedly between platforms, delegate monitoring to a tool and put your time and effort into more important activities. The best tools can track, aggregate and analyse editorial media, tweets, posts and conversations for you - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether you’re in South Africa, Egypt or India.
Now, to understand choosing the right tool. Use this list of to find out which of these top solutions (in no particular order) suits your team best.
The top social media monitoring tools for 2021
Meltwater is the Swiss Army knife of media monitoring tools, with social media management, audience insights, listening, sentiment analysis and influencer management - all housed in one easy-to-use communications platform.
Trusted by over 28,000 clients worldwide, it’s a sophisticated option, ideal for enterprise teams and committed SMEs.
The platform offers intuitive, highly customisable monitoring dashboards where you can track conversations in real-time, pinpoint developments in community sentiment, and capitalise on the most valuable mentions.
This platform covers networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter (the whole tweet archive, not just a 10% sampling) but it also tracks Pinterest, YouTube, message boards and forums like Reddit and Quora, and over 300 million blogs.
And while some tools and apps put a cap on how many mentions, Boolean key phrases, influencers or competitors you can monitor, with Meltwater you get unlimited searches to filter a mammoth data pool of 200 billion conversations - across the globe.
Once you’ve compiled the most relevant searches, you can turn them into drill-down reports to help you refine and improve your KPIs, or convert them to easy-to-understand visuals to present to the C-suite.
In short, Meltwater is a social media analytics powerhouse. Backed up by a 24/7 multi-language service team. It’ll quickly prove ROI for those who master its far-reaching functionality.
While Sprout is primarily a social media management tool for SMES to handle day-to-day publishing, it also offers media monitoring functionality too.
With the Smart Inbox sitting at the heart of the monitoring dashboard, you can bring messages, mentions and tags from core channels into one central hub, instead of switching between networks to track notifications. Set up inbox filtering and tagging options to help you prioritise interactions, and save time to focus on the most valuable opportunities online.
You can also track the most important conversations by setting up Sprout keyword searches to watch for company and product mentions. Sprout ‘trend reports’ provide insights on Twitter performance (though not the other core platforms), showing where your efforts are working, and offer a breakdown by the most common hashtags, trending topics and popular public figures.
Hootsuite’s monitoring solution lives on an easy-to-use dashboard in its social media management platform. Hootsuite is best known for Streams – a centralised feed of all your brand’s mentions, comments and tags across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. This makes it easy to filter, reply to or ‘like’ conversations, and to assign items to colleagues who are best placed to respond.
Hootsuite Inbox is similar to Streams in that it collates all your social inboxes into one feed, so you can monitor and respond to messages without jumping between channels or chasing email alerts. As a paid add-on, you can also set up saved replies for frequently asked questions.
It’s ideal for brands with medium levels of activity online. They also offer a more advanced listening tool, Hootsuite Insights, where you can drill down into audience trends and segments in real-time, benchmark brand health against competitors and track conversations across blogs, forums and message boards.
Cyfe offers you the chance to centralise insights from your media activity (as well as site data, sales journeys, marketing spend and customer support) into widget-filled dashboards. The emphasis is on visualisation over interaction, so if you need something with both monitoring and interaction functionality instead, you’d do better with a tool like Meltwater or Hootsuite.
That said, it’s very easy to get started: to track the core platforms for mentions, keywords and likes, you can either use one of their pre-built dashboards or customise your own from multiple display widgets.
The tool will then pull real-time data on your (or your competitors’) social media activity into the dashboard for you to monitor live or export as a report. To get notified of a spike in mentions or engagement - perhaps to capitalise on influence or remedy a mistake - you can also set up instant email and text alerts.
It’s a simple but reliable dashboard, best suited for SMEs or agencies who need a consolidated overview of their or their clients’ online activity.
Talkwalker is an advanced monitoring and insights tool aimed at large agencies and global brands who want insights on consumer sentiment, relationships with public figures, competitor benchmarking and reputation management.
Companies with strong levels of activity across multiple regions can monitor written content on digital and offline media in 187 languages – and if you upgrade to the Enterprise package, you can track visual content too.
Depending on your package, you get between 10,000 and 1 million monthly results for keyword, brand, hashtag and influencer searches. Similarly, the entry-level package offers a year of retrospective data – which extends to 2 years in the full subscription.
Use ready-made dashboards to monitor brand health, understand audience insights and analyse campaigns, or build custom dashboards to track tailored topics and keywords. The Talkwalker analytics dashboard breaks down social activity into the core metrics (e.g. mentions, sentiment, hashtags, engagement).
Something to think about: if you’re after a comprehensive media reporting tool that also has scheduling and publishing packed in as well, you might want to look at Meltwater.
Digimind is a tool best suited to understanding brand reputation.
You can use the platform to trawl for brand mentions and gather insights on reader sentiment from your main networks, as well as millions of publications.
If you’re looking for a platform to help you publish content and manage conversations with your audience, this won’t be on your list. But if you’re after a tool that specialises in unearthing insights on what they feel about your brand, competitors and industry, Digimind could be what you’re after.
The Brand24 analytics/reporting tool gives Sprout a run for its money, and is best suited for marketers at medium-size brands. With an emphasis on day-to-day media monitoring, you’re more likely to use Brand24 for middle-weight analysis and reporting, but less so if you need to extract high-level insights.
Track brand mentions and run keyword searches across your core channels, as well as blogs, news sites and visual platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Use the Mentions and Analysis dashboards to understand sentiment and the activity of public figures online. You can then export your analysis into template, custom reports or visualisations including graphs and word-clouds.
The Brand24 social listening functions are solid. But to get deeper insights on ROI and social metrics, you’ll want to look to a more advanced tool.
Agorapulse is a 2-for-1 tool: a management platform supplemented by social listening functionality.
You get an easy-to-use monitoring inbox called Social Inbox (echoing Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox) that brings all your brand’s social comments, mentions and conversations into one feed for easy responding. There’s also a comprehensive influencer outreach dashboard and an integrated CRM.
Alongside the tool’s reliable publishing and scheduling features, you can measure and improve the ROI of your content strategy thanks to ready-made, one-click reports.
Synthesio is a strong contender for enterprise or global brands on the hunt for a reporting tool. With multiple interactive dashboards, you can use Synthesio for audience monitoring, advanced data reporting, and to extract key business insights.
Once you’ve set the interface up yourself, or used a template, the main social listening dashboard is built around a Listen feed and an Analyze display, with filters available for breaking down data by time period, region and (up to) 20 languages.
Like the Meltwater tool, Synthesio covers a full gamut of media sources alongside news, blogs and forums, for which you can build search queries based on Boolean-phrase keywords, your brand name or centered around specific platforms.
Synthesio brings out key metrics to help you prove your wins, including a heavy emphasis on KPIs. With a section dedicated solely to ROI, you can show how share of voice, reach, or customer sentiment gains are justifying your marketing efforts.
TweetDeck is Twitter’s media monitoring dashboard. If the other channels aren’t relevant to your marketing or PR strategy, TweetDeck is a simple monitoring tool for tracking and responding to Twitter mentions and conversations.
It offers a series of streams (similar to Hootsuite), which allow you to track direct mentions, inbox messages and real-time tweet searches in parallel feeds. So, if you set up searches for your brand and common misspellings alongside competitor names, you or your team will see conversations fed live into the dashboard and be able to respond quickly. It’s free and very straightforward - ideal for the social media manager of a public figure or a startup only interested in Twitter activity.
Mention is a streamlined and easy-to-use tool with reliable analytics, a reach across platforms, and a level of simplicity best aligned with small-to-medium brands.
If you want to keep tabs on brand mentions, run simple real-time searches for competitors and public figures (e.g. filtered by channel, language and date) and get daily alerts for brand mentions across the previous past 24 hours, Mention could be the tool for you.
You can also set up their Pulse alerts to get notified of a recent spike in mentions – crucial for making the most of a boost in reader sentiment, or managing the fall-out of a PR slip.
With Starter, Pro and Enterprise benefits, Awario is a flexible tool you can scale as your business grows. It tracks the usual suspects and will alert you to mentions, competitors, top influencer-based interactions and changes in the way consumers perceive your brand.
It can also help you grow brand engagement by responding to conversations quickly, cut through social noise to find audience insights, and improve marketing campaigns with detailed consumer intelligence. Furthermore, you can rely on the tool’s Boolean function to find even the most niche conversation data.
13. Buffer Analyze
You probably know Buffer for its publishing platform, but they also offer a strong entry-level contender in the monitoring and analytics space.
You can use the Buffer Analyse dashboard to measure media impact across platforms, export detailed reports on relevant KPIs and inform your strategy with insights on what’s working well. Data is broken down by typical metrics - including comments, mentions, retweets, likes and shares.
As a mid-weight tool, the platform doesn’t offer huge detail on target market demographics, but it will suit marketers who’ve realised it’s time to make more of their social data.
Keyhole is an SME-level media monitoring and reporting tool, best for tracking campaign impact and keeping tabs on conversations. Their user-friendly dashboards come with an easy learning curve so you can quickly start following customer sentiment, evaluating opportunities among your audiences and benchmark against competitors.
The platform also offers real-time influencer-related, hashtag and keyword searches across communities.
A highlight is its visualisation functions: which allow you to convert activity into heatmaps, charts and word-clouds which you can display as is, or export into company presentations.
Socialbakers competes with tools like Sprout and Hootsuite, so if you’re after a more sophisticated option, opt for the likes of Meltwater, Synthesio or Talkwalker.
Socialbakers covers the spectrum from day-to-day media monitoring and interaction to media listening. The listening function sits beside content research and content planning, media management and influencer discovery, as well as analytics and reporting.
You can choose from hundreds of metrics and widgets to design your own dashboard. Also, under the Analytics tab, you can run top-level analysis – for instance, you can extract insights on evolving trends by tracking comparisons between competitors, industries and countries – as well as more in-depth analysis thanks to AI suggestions.
Once you’ve gathered insights, you can export reports with graphs, charts or tables, share campaign results and prove campaign ROI.
Sendible is a comprehensive media management tool with scheduling, monitoring and consumer insights available on one platform. Designed for marketers who want to handle several brands at once, it can be ideal for agencies - but could also be suitable for SMEs who want a solid solution for publishing, social monitoring and reporting.
The listening and reporting functions are thorough, and cover all the main platforms. Like Hootsuite, you can assign items and conversations to the most relevant member of your team to speed up response times.
Sendible’s monitoring dashboard is intuitive, and its Reports offering is easy to run and makes insights straightforward – you’ll get exportable data on mentions, sentiment, public figures and more.
But if you need granular insights into demographics, for example, or competitor benchmarking - you’re better off with a more comprehensive insights tool like Meltwater, Talkwalker or Synthesio.
Falcon.io is an uncomplicated media management package with a listening and analytics dashboard, as well as scheduling, publishing and inbox functions. Like Sendible, it’s an ideal tool for agencies to handle multiple brands concurrently or for SMEs that can afford bigger spends.
Falcon’s analytics dashboard displays helpful breakdowns of posts so you can understand reactions, connect with consumers and benchmark industry performance. The dashboards could be more intuitive, but once you’ve learnt the ropes, you can start tracking mentions, run influencer research and get share-of-voice metrics across the major social media channels and media sources.
The BuzzSumo platform comprises 4 pillars: discovery, research, influencer and monitoring.
The Discovery dashboard shows you the best-performing content from your team and your competitors to help you build stronger communities. It’s in the Monitoring dashboard that you can monitor real-time brand mentions, market trends and competitor social activity.
The core analytics and listening functions sit in the Research dashboard where you can run keyword, influencer, user and Boolean phrase searches across an index of 5 billion items. Compare the results of new campaigns against old ones (with up to 5 years’ historical data) or track trends to capitalise on new market opportunities.
YouScan stands out as an image-first tool. In addition to capturing written brand mentions, it turns visual data including logos, backgrounds and people in posts on social media, blogs, news and forums into ‘Visual Insights’.
If your product appears in a tweet image, for example, the tool will spot your brand and extract real-life, contextual insights about your products and your customers - who they are, where they are, what they’re doing – so you get a deeper understanding of your market. It’s also ideal for measuring sponsorship ROI, finding more user-generated content and connecting with the most valuable brand ambassadors.
YouScan processes millions of visual mentions every day, integrates with your CRM for easy team collaboration, and comes with an AI-powered assistant called Aina who can alert you to positive insights and negative conversations.
20. Zoho Social
Zoho Social offers a user-friendly platform for social media management, monitoring and analytics.
For monitoring and listening, you’ll want to head to the Monitor section and set up monitoring streams. Zoho’s streams are reliably customisable and you can add columns for Twitter interactions, for specific public figures, or for conversations with particular leads.
Zoho makes media monitoring a cross-team experience, thanks to integrations with its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Every dashboard from Monitor to Posts and Reports has an “Add to CRM” option, so if you’re already using Zoho CRM, it’s simple to start using the Zoho Social tool.
It might not be as sophisticated as the likes of Meltwater, but it does come with high-level listening tools and reporting that will easily satisfy small businesses.
Sprinklr’s monitoring and listening tool comes as part of its broader customer intelligence package, and is aimed at enterprise brands. It covers 23 social networks – as well as message boards and Asian networks like Weibo and WeChat.
Template and custom reports dashboards offer comprehensive analytics for campaigns, and viewer demographics. It also comes with far-reaching drill-down functionality and a growing list of visual widgets that make it easy to understand your data and measure your social media impact.
2021 is the time to level up your social media monitoring
With a rise in digital communication and brands furiously competing to garner consumer attention on the internet, media monitoring has become an important facet of modern research, marketing and PR.
However, it’s a pointless exercise without the right social listening tools to help you distill information and gain useful functionality, relative to the size of your business and the scope of your work.
Whether you’re in Silicon Valley, Scotland or Singapore, there are useful tools to aid you in managing mentions, preempting a crisis and collaboratively keeping tabs on your brand and competitors.
If you’re curious to hear why over 30,000 companies worldwide trust Meltwater to help with their media monitoring, fill out the form below!