10 Research Tools for Social Media Strategies

Before you decide to implement any tactic in social media, the first question you should ask is “Why?” Why should I have a Facebook page? Why should I have a Twitter account? Too many times I’ve run into companies asking why their social media strategy failed and when I ask these companies why they implemented a particular tactic, inevitably one of the answers I hear is “Because our agency said they could do that.” I then ask the person seeking advice if the agency explained why they should implement the tactic and very rarely do I hear “Because they found our audience was there.”

Research is the foundation to any social media or integrated marketing strategy. You have to understand and know where the conversations are going on, what are the trends, who are the influencers, and who are the evangelists before you start engaging in social media. If you set off engaging, it is a lot like walking blindly into a burning building. Businesses can encounter a lot of “dangers” that they might not be prepared for.

Research however goes beyond just “keyword research” using the Google AdWords tool and discovering seasonal trends. People in social media communities share and speak differently than how they search. More jargon and slang is used in these communities because they are more comfortable. You must understand that keyword research with your SEO or PPC set of words is just the beginning. There’s a lot more to be done if you’re going to discover key insights to make your social media strategy successful.

Research tools are indispensible and can take many forms for different companies depending on resources, capabilities, and budgets. From free to enterprise level, there are a lot of tools that marketers can use in combination to come up with the answers they need to choose the right tactics to become part of a successful social media strategy.

Buzz Monitoring Tools

  • Google Alerts (free): You can use Google Alerts as a rudimentary buzz monitoring tool now that Google is including conversations in its index. Google’s now indexing Twitter conversations and posts on open profiles and fan pages on places like Facebook and LinkedIn. This is pretty rudimentary and doesn’t include sentiment.
  • Trackur (free – nominal fees): Trackur is a buzz monitoring tool that is ideal for small businesses and bloggers who are on a limited budget. Trackur has several tiers of payment including a free version and an API. Trackur also gives you some idea of sentiment and influence within its results.
  • Radian6 (enterprise level fees): Radian6 is probably the better known buzz monitoring tool in the industry. This tool gives you a lot of insight into the conversation currently happening around the brands you would like to monitor. It also includes sentiment analysis and allows workflow assignments to attend to conversations you find relevant to your strategy.
  • Alterian’s SM2 (enterprise level fees): SM2 can be a data geek’s dream. This tool can give you a wealth of data based on keywords and phrases, rather than just brands. Workflow assignments, sentiment analysis, and ranking of popularity of the conversations are all included with this tool.

Research Tools

  • Google Trends (free): This is a free tool from Google that you can use to spot trends happening currently in the world. It shows the hottest searches currently going on and you can drill in to find out a little bit more about the trends. This can be useful in creating content on the fly and being relevant to current conversations.
  • Google Insights (free): Google Insights is a little different than the Trends tool in that you can choose the terms you want to compare in trending. This is helpful in discovering if one word is used more than another, or perhaps one person is more popular than another. It gives you a country breakdown of the popularity too.
  • Twitter Trends (free): Looking into the trends that happen on Twitter can be pretty fascinating. Using the trends that aren’t promoted can lead you into conversations that are very relevant during the moment and can gain you quick insight.
  • Technorati (free): You can use Technorati to help your team find key influencers in your community to build relationships. By searching on either “Blog” or “Post” for certain key phrases, you can discover who are the key bloggers that have some sort of “sway” with their followers.
  • Compete and Quantcast (mid-tier fees): These two tools give you demographic data into a site’s makeup. These sites allow you to get a feel for ages, genders, referrers, and a lot of other significant data about a site that will better inform your strategy if you should be considering (or not) building relationships with them.
  • Linkdex (mid-tier fees): Linkdex is a tool that can analyze the links coming into a site and classify them based on the type of sites the links are coming from. What’s even better about this tool is that you can compare sites side by side and get a feel for what kind of content is being seen as valuable enough to link to.

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