The first step of any social influence marketing plan should be to listen – not just what people are saying about your company, but about you as a person, your competitors, and key trends in your industry.  I’ve been spending some time recently looking at a lot of different social media listening tools.  The factors I believe are important in this type of tool are:

  • The number of sources indexed – Twitter, Technorati, Youtube, etc…
  • The number of results
  • The quality of results – How many are actually about my search term vs. spam
  • Sentiment Analysis – Are the mentions positive?  Do people hate me?  I wanna know…
  • Trend Analysis – Can I see spikes and ebbs in mentions?  What about by locations?
  • RSS – Can I get an RSS feed of this (this is critical for real use)
  • Email Alerts – Can I get a weekly report emailed?  Can I get an email of mentions a day increase above a certain threshold (or dip)?
  • Widgets – Can I display all public mentions on my site?

Below is a brief comparison and analysis on my findings of the free services (a post on paid services will be coming soon)

Yahoo! Pipes

My initial plan was to use Yahoo! Pipes to create an RSS feed of mentions across the major sites (Twitter, Google Alerts, Google Blogsearch, Technorati and Youtube). I was pleasantly surprised to find many people had the same idea and extended it far beyond the major sites to include: Backtype, Techmeme, Boardtracker, WordPress and many others. Sweet! I ran the seemingly most popular version for the term “codechef” (one of the projects I work on) and was quite disappointed with the results. Only 33 results? Where are the tweets? Aright, time to investigate. I fired up the Yahoo! Pipes editor and was immediately regretting it:

Yahoo! Pipes SMM Firehouse

Er… Ok.  While in theory Yahoo! Pipes looked like the perfect tool for this, trying to extend or modify a pipe isn’t very easy. Also you are passing query parameters dynamically in the URL, if they underlying site makes a change, you won’t get results and might never know.  Rather then trying to develop and maintain this myself, I realized there must be a lot of other people who want to do this.

SocialMention

SocialMeniton is the best tool I came across.  It indexed all the sources I expected (plus some I didn’t), gave the best results (in terms of both quality and quantity), provided tools for aggregation and analysis and had a really cool widget:

SocialMention

You can filter based on source (blogs, photos, videos, forums, etc…), sentiment (view only negative mentions), keywords, users, etc…  Super cool.  Also the analytics, number of retweets, authors, last mention, average time between mentions is awesome.  It’d be nice if the photos were shown as thumbnails in the full list of results (they are when you click on photos), but that’s a small thing.

Here’s a embed of their real-time widget for everyone’s favorite rapper (mesmerizing):


Collecta

Collecta was better then most but still lacking critical features to be considered seriously. It displays search results in a Twitter style stream (and also shows thumbnails of images). Also gives a nice preview of blog posts and articles:


Collecta


Though without an RSS feed of results or tools for aggregation and analysis, this isn’t likely to be useful.

WhosTalkin

The last app I came across worth mentioning is WhosTalkin. Although this tool is also lacking RSS feeds and analysis, the site is fast and friendly. It’s easy to filter across results and is nice for a one-time search:


WhosTalkin


Conclusion

Currently it seems like SocialMention is far ahead of it’s competitors though this field is rapidly evolving and new players come in daily. Here is a summary of the tools described above:

Yahoo! Pipes SocialMention Collecta Whostalkin
Sources Indexed As many as you want to configure (most popular “firehouse” has 40) 80+ Not mentioned, though I saw all the big guns 50+
Number of Results 33 124 45 130
Quality of Results No spam No spam No spam 10% Spam
Sentiment Analysis No Yes No No
Trend Anlysis No Not really No No
RSS Feeds Yes Yes No :( Coming Soon
Email Alerts Real-time and daily Daily Nope Nope
Widgets No Yes No No



Next week I have demo’s of a few of the paid tools, to see what they can do, that we can’t do on our own. Know of any tools I missed? Have a different opinion? Let me know…

Related posts:

  1. Measuring the Success of Social Media Campaigns
  2. Slides from Social Media Training Sessions
  3. An Intro to Social Data Portability
  4. The Transition to Real-Time, Social Search
  5. Advertising Is Not a Sustainable Business Model for the Web (unless you are a Search Engine)