Social Media Monitoring: Big Brand Bang for Under $100


By Lisa Peyton, VP  Bonfire Social Media Let me start off by assuring that none of the platforms mentioned have compensated me in any way or asked me to promote their products. I simply hoped to find a good tool for a reasonable price that would allow me to track metrics associated with campaign goals. I should also add that with the dozens of great tools available, there was no way to include them all. If you have experience with a great tool, PLEASE SHARE with the community by commenting on this post. The information provided on each tool below is only PART of the equation when searching for a good social media monitoring solution. The MOST important question that should be asked is: What do you need to track and why? Most tools out there will report on endless amounts of data. The real trick is finding the tool that will report on the data you need to determine if campaign goals are being met.


The first step to finding a great tool for my client was taking a look at campaign goals. The primary goals included growing their Facebook fan base as rapidly as possible (BAD GOAL) and tracking, meaning which social media platforms and influencers were the most active for their brand terms. A good goal is measurable and time-sensitive, but not many clients come to the table armed with goals that include this level of detail. So I made a few changes and came up with these working goals:
  • Grow Facebook fan base by 100% in 3 months
  • Increase overall fan page interactions by 100% in 3 months
  • Identify the most active social media platforms for brand terms in 3 months
  • Identify the most influential and active brand advocates on social media networks

The Search Begins

I now had the information I needed to discover if there was a tool available to help me report on these specific metrics. Facebook would give me all the data I needed for number of fans and interactions. But I still needed help assessing the overall share of voice on each platform and top influencers. After endless hours of testing, I was able to find a tool that just about hit the mark. ViralHeat was a clear choice and provided the most value. I have outlined my findings and would advocate perhaps using more than one of these tools to provide a complete monitoring solution based upon your unique campaign goals.

ViralHeat Pricing:$9.99 – $89.99 Supported Platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Real-time Web, Video (YouTube), Google Buzz Business Plan Capabilities:
  • Up to 40 profiles
  • Unlimited mentions
  • Sentiment analysis
  • API access
  • Data stored for 1 month
  • Exportable data via summary Excel reports
  • Branded email reports and alerts
  • Branded system
  • Influencer identification and analytics
  • Ability to set up goals
  • Good for multiple product tracking and brand terms with multiple variations
  • Includes Facebook data
  • Facebook page data incomplete
  • Sentiment tool inaccurate
  • Stores data for only 30 days

Any social media monitoring tool worth consideration HAS to include Facebook data. Viral Heat offers extensive data on Facebook page mentions and comments as well as data from Twitter, the real-time Web, YouTube and Google Buzz (ack!). For the money, this has to be one of the best tools available. They provide an easy-to-use interface complete with eye-catching graphs and branded with your company logo.

The main dashboard presents a graph featuring a snapshot of data from all active profiles as well as a callout to what’s viral in your account. This sounded a bit sketchy and I wasn’t convinced they would be able to populate this with valuable information. However, after a few days of monitoring, I noticed this section of the dashboard highlighted a comment made by @CHRISROCK that gave a shout-out to my client’s brand. I was impressed. I didn’t even have to navigate away from the main dashboard to find this random tweet sent out to more than 70,000 followers in Brazil. Another great feature of this tool is its ability to combine profiles. This is essential if your brand has multiple products or variations. You can create a unique profile or search query for each brand term, and then combine them to determine which one is getting the largest share of mentions. Viral Heat produces a bar graph with the data that can be exported into a JPG, PNG, PDF or vector image. In fact, every graph can be exported in your chosen format and easily added to reports, presentations, documents, etc. All alerts, email updates, and reports can carry your own brand. You can choose to have a daily or hourly digest sent to anyone you choose. The email alert includes a summary of the most recent mentions on Twitter, YouTube,  Facebook, and Google Buzz. Other extremely useful features include identifying and ranking “influencers,” making it extremely easy to find and connect with important online brand advocates. They have also made it very easy to share notable mentions. There’s an email link by all mentions that will shoot off a branded (your company) email with author and comment specifics to team members, coworkers or clients. When you drill down into mention details, the data is well organized with a link that explains how they determined each reported metric. A graph shows the number of mentions from each network with the ability to view 1 day, 7 days or 1 month. Unfortunately, the tool only stores data for 30 days. I contacted their support team about aggregating data for longer periods of time and was advised that such an option is nonexistent. So the ability to measure month-over-month results would require exporting the data monthly and aggregating manually – a total drag. Another notable disappointment is the the sentiment analysis feature. I’m not sure anyone can make a tool that can automatically read sentiment. That said, when I tried to see what they classified as “negative” mentions, they were all positive. There is no getting around the fact that a reasonably observant human HAS to sort through all the data and find the nuggets that are truly actionable. The Facebook page results are also shaky. The Viral Heat results didn’t include the largest and most active Facebook pages that I had identified as being associated with my brand. Instead, they listed a handful of small pages that had recent comments with my brand term. I took a closer look and found my queried brand term on the missing pages, which left me wondering how the tool was identifying and ranking “top” Facebook pages. Overall though, this tool is an amazing value for the monthly fee. I found it to be a great option for monitoring Twitter, YouTube and Facebook page comments. It is not as strong at identifying Facebook pages and determining sentiment. If you like easily exportable graphs, branded email alerts and have multiple products or brand variations, this could be the right tool for you.

eCairn Pricing: $99 – $199 Supported Platforms: YouTube, Twitter, Forums, Blogs, Comments Capabilities:
  • Ability to store data for up to 6 months
  • Exportable graphs in JPG, PNG, CSV format
  • Sentiment is determined by a manual ranking system
  • Track share of voice for brand terms
  • Identify candidates for blogger outreach
  • Supports multiple users/team members
  • Stores data up to 6 months
  • Doesn’t include Facebook data
  • Less intuitive interface
  • No email alert system

eCairn is more of a conversation tracking tool than social media monitoring tool. It can report on brand search terms and provide a 6 month, high-level view. I really wanted to like this tool as they replied promptly to my requests for additional information and were extremely pleasant. Unfortunately, I found it a bit difficult to navigate my way through all the features and had a hard time setting up my profile.

The actual social media data from sources such as Twitter and YouTube are somewhat isolated and don’t appear to be ranked in any particular order. This left me sifting through pages of comments, videos, etc. They have a feature that will automatically perform searches for your key terms, identifying blogs that are actively talking about your brand. Once these sources are presented, it’s up the user to manually add them to the community. The sample report they shared with me included the top blogs, a map showing interconnections between the “top 47 influencers” and share of voice between their client and a competitor. The mapping feature is only available in the more robust package, priced at $199 per month.

Social Report Pricing: $9 – $79 Supported Platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, YouTube. Currently in Beta: Flickr, Bebo, Digg, Foursquare, LastFM, Vimeo Capabilities:
  • Manage multiple accounts and users with variable permission levels
  • Monitor up to 10 social media accounts
  • Basic reporting only
  • Most extensive range of social media platforms
  • Large amount of data with easy-to-read graphs
  • Graphs can’t be exported
  • Reporting feature doesn’t present any real value

This tool is by far the widest reaching in terms of covering many different social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn with Foursquare, Flickr and Vimeo – all in beta. The amount of data presented for each platform is astounding and the tool allows you to segment the data by category. Several useful graphs are presented within the main dashboard and on a platform-specific dashboard. However, I wasn’t able to export the graphs.

Within the Facebook data tab you can access specifics surrounding your Facebook page. You can view all photos posted on the page along with the number of comments and likes for each one. There are great graphs showing the number of interactions, posts, comments, etc. But once again, these aren’t exportable and this data is already available within Facebook itself. Another strength of this tool involves accessing interesting demographic information, along with listed interests of your fans and followers. It aggregates interests from all of your monitored social media accounts and lists which ones are the most popular. This could help formulate the types of content that your audience finds relevant. If you’re attempting to grow your online presence and want a snapshot at the growth rate of each account, this tool would be useful. It houses several activity timelines and can track and store data for more than a year. Where the tool really fails, though, is with reporting. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to export the juiciest data and the standard PDF reports aren’t customizable. The Executive Summary report may be useful for a very high-level look at the account, but provides no actionable data. I think this tool could be very valuable for small business owners and marketers looking to get some high-level stats across a wide spectrum of social media platforms. The tool does aggregate and compare data across all platforms and presents a very-easy-to-use interface. The insights surrounding Facebook data and Twitter were particularly interesting and could aid in the management of extremely active accounts.

Beevolve Pricing: $29.95 – $299.95 Supported Platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Blogs Capabilities:
  • Monitors volume of mentions across top sources
  • Can filter conversations by category, location, age and gender
  • Can compare the volume of different brand terms or compare your brand to competitor
  • 12 search terms and 5 user logins for $99 per month
  • Unlimited amount of mentions per month
  • Can have multiple client profiles
  • Unlimited results
  • Can’t export graphs
  • Reports aren’t customizable and only present the most basic data

Honorable Mentions

Lithium (Scoutlabs) Pricing: Starts at $449 per month Supported Platforms: Twtter, Facebook, Blogs, Forums, News, Comments, Flickr and YouTube Capabilities:
  • Customized reports with your company logo
  • Tracks and graphs data for up to 6 months
  • All detailed data exportable in HTML or CSV format
  • Easily add multiple users and workspaces
  • Customizable email alerts
  • Bulky reporting features
  • Accurate sentiment tracking
  • Aggregates up to 6 months of data
  • Unable to sort Twitter mentions by influence
  • Higher price-point

I realize this tool isn’t officially under $100, but with the ability to set up several dashboards it can come in under $100 per client. The tool initially seemed to hit all the items on my wish list: Facebook data, intuitive interface, customizable reports and exportable graphs in PDF or CSV format. The only drawback I could find was its weak Twitter offering. The mentions were listed in what appeared to be a random order without any insight into top influencers. With 1,900-plus mentions, sorting through all of them would be impossible. This is where Viral Heat outshines Lithium – with its apparent ability to rank Twitter mentions by influence and reach.

The tool offers up sentiment analysis and they do a much better job at this than Viral Heat. The majority of comments they marked as negative were truly negative. They had a much larger number of comments they considered “neutral,” which leads me to believe they have installed stricter guidelines when trying to determine sentiment. The ability to sort comments by sentiment makes the otherwise random listing of mentions much more valuable and actionable. Their team directed me to a post outlining how their tool was able to track ONE Facebook page, but that feature wasn’t enabled in my trial version. The post says that Lithium can track “the Facebook page of your choice and get posts, comments and ‘like’ data in a viewable, trendable form, plus sentiment, quotes, graphs, metrics and reports that use Facebook data.” This sounds like exactly what I was looking for, but I wasn’t able to try it out firsthand. Buzzstream Pricing: $49 – $399 Platforms: Twitter, Blogs Capabilities:
  • 3 users
  • Unlimited number of contacts
  • 15 searches
  • Limited results (20,000 for $99 plan)
  • Team collaboration
  • Email alerts
  • CSV import and export
  • Monitor any RSS feed

This is a zippy tool that I thought deserved a mention. While not really a social media monitoring tool, it does fill the bill in terms of finding and ranking Twitter and blog mentions. The tool can easily find and contact bloggers and Twitter influencers within a particular industry. It provides the user with detailed contact information from nothing more than a tweet. Within seconds, you have the blogger’s email address and any other available contact info.

It also has a fairly bulky tracking feature that allows you to track all correspondence with your chosen media influencers. You can simply add an account email alias in the CC of emails that you would like tracked within the tool. The history of correspondence – whether by Twitter, email or other method – can be attached to the contact created with Buzzstream.

The serious drawback of this tool is that the search results for brand or industry keywords are limited to only 20,000 for the $99 per month plan. That may sound like quite a few, but I burned through that in just a couple days. However, if I had been more selective and a bit more careful with my searches, I’m sure that number would have stretched much further. I really like this tool for campaigns that are purely driven by blogger and media outreach. It’s more of a PR tool than a monitoring tool. But with the lines between PR and social media becoming increasingly blurred every day, I thought it deserved a mention. About Bonfire Social Media Bonfire Social Media is an award-winning social media agency dedicated to strategically marketing businesses through social communications and social media. The Bonfire team works with clients to develop effective and measurable marketing strategies that produce results. Services include Social Media Strategy and Development, Paid Social Search, Social Media Management and Social Media Consulting, Training and Education. ]]>


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