How to Track Social Mentions 101 - Your Guide to Making Social Work for You
We’ve all heard it. The buzz around social mentions - how harnessing them can virtually fuel your marketing engine for free or how social mentions can enhance brand awareness and magically drive lead generation.
And if you’re an SMB, or work in a small team, you’ve probably done the maths, figured out that you don’t have enough resources or time to leverage social mentions and moved on.
But even though you don’t have the budget of say a Salesforce or a Google, tracking social mentions and using them to your advantage is entirely possible and with a proper strategy in place, it’s even… (dare I say it?) easy.
But what’s more important - especially for smaller teams and businesses - is that social mentions and organic social media are virtually free marketing channels, which is always a big win when you’re constrained by budget and resources. Need more proof? 62% of adults in the U.S get their news from social media. Not taking advantage of this could mean you’re losing out on a major, quick win. So how do you go about this and where do you start?
This guide covers everything you need to know about social mentions, including what they are, how they can be tracked - especially if you’re a small team - and how you can leverage them.
But before we dive in, don't take it from me! Keep an eye out for quotes sprinkled throughout the post to find out what some expert voices have said about the topic !
"A key component for almost every fast-growing SMB is social media. Savvy business owners understand the magnitude of engaging customers and prospects on whatever social platforms they are using to gather information on products and services, post reviews and pictures, and to connect with other customers and prospects to get their opinions. Social media is where the discussions are happening in 2017! If you aren’t tracking the social mentions for your company, as well as your competition, you are competing with one hand tied behind your back."
Brian Moran - @brianmoran, SMB marketing and Social Media Expert
1. Let’s Start with the Basics - What is a Social Mention?
Social mention – definition. In the simplest terms, a social mention occurs each time a keyword, brand or hashtag that you are monitoring is used on social media. You can categorize them by channel (or social network), sentiment (the general attitude that is conveyed by the post containing the mention), or engagement.
The consumer today is completely different from the consumer of a decade ago, in that social media has become a key part of their daily online lives. Social networks have made self-expression extremely easy. Moreover, with a snap of your fingers, you can reach an audience of thousands of people. That’s what makes social media such a powerful tool. Imagine having an army of loyal followers talking about your brand and engaging their audience of hundreds of thousands of people. That’s hundreds of thousands of potential leads for you.
Do I have your attention yet? Thought as much!
So how do you dig deeper into the vast array of social mentions? Their sheer numbers alone can be staggering and a bit intimidating to smaller teams. Here’s what makes up a social mention:
Reach: The number of people who are exposed to your search term or brand, or the number of eyeballs you’ve potentially grabbed.
Sentiment: A sentiment indicator looks at the overall attitude or tonality of the posts wherein your keyword has been mentioned. In other words, the ratio of the positive posts to the negative posts. This is especially helpful when looking at large volumes of results.
Engagement: Here we're talking about interactions with your posts – in the form of likes, comments, and shares.
Keep in mind while planning campaigns that you must not adopt a granular view of posts on social media, but the overall picture and theme of conversations taking place around a particular keyword or brand. In this way, you can choose in which direction to steer your conversations - which is really the end goal here.
2. Remind Me Why Social Mentions are Important Again?
"Tracking brand mentions is an extremely important part of marketing, it allows you to jump in a conversation and help your brand in real time, this is extremely important for brands in general and not something that should be overlooked."
Matt G Davison - @mattgdavison, Founder, Travel Tractions
Social mentions - especially for fast-growing companies - can serve as a versatile tool that helps you not only connect with your audience on social media but also aid your team in many other ways. Here’re just a few of them:
Identify the right audience
Social networks serve as a platform for people to express themselves. Therefore, they’re a pretty accurate source of information when it comes to understanding your audience. What ELSE does your target audience talk about on social media? What do they do in their free time? What interests them the most? These are the questions you’re going to get answered on social media.
The trick is to identify people who engage with your keyword or hashtags on social media, follow them and find out what interests them. This may seem time-consuming at first - and I won’t lie, it really is - but it’s worth the initial investment, especially when you’re building your audience and trying to create personas and customer profiles. In the long-term, this is going to give you ideas on who to target, how to identify new audiences and sometimes, even geographical areas you can expand to! Try it - your business development team is going to thank you for it.
Social media is fertile ground for ideas and, as a consequence, it’s a great research tool. You get live insights from your audience and that means you can understand what appeals to them or can predict with a reasonable degree of accuracy, what will appeal to them tomorrow and use that in your marketing campaigns.
In fact, that’s what ASOS did for their winter 2012 campaign, which won them a Cannes Lions Design Gold and £5m (€5.46m) in sales. The ASOS team were well aware that the process of “getting ready” was a big deal for their target audience - and one of the major sources of this information would have probably been social media - and they harnessed this fact to draft a highly successful campaign which drove thousands of hits and likes, and millions in sales.
As social media managers, we can take a leaf out of their book and adopt a similar strategy. By understanding what your audience values, you can brainstorm ideas for your next big marketing campaign. Moreover, with trending topics being at the forefront of viral marketing campaigns, it’s quite easy to jump on the bandwagon and launch a targeted marketing campaign that drives both engagement and the right kind of leads.
Anything that your brand does (and I really do mean anything), whether good or bad, finds its way onto social media. That makes social media a make or break platform for your brand image - in other words, social CRM is the most powerful CRM platform that you have at your disposal. While monitoring every complaint may sound like a tedious chore, the investment really pays off. Look at Wendy’s for example. They’ve made a name for themselves with their snappy comebacks and witty jokes when customers compare them to other fast-food chains.
Or you can check out Slack’s Twitter account where they post helpful tips, offer advice and updates - all with a healthy dose of humor and fun.
This can be difficult for a small team, but you should make a point of using social media as the first point of contact for support issues and providing help online - happy customers definitely reward you on social media and that’s the kind of visibility you’re after.
What you should definitely NOT do is what Pepsi did when it faced a PR disaster earlier this year.
Word-of-mouth, according to McKinsey, is the most powerful marketing tool. Social media is more than just Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. – it’s the new word-of mouth, and the best part about it is that it’s trackable. You can use it to build communities, shape conversations and contribute to active groups where you can meet your next evangelists and influencers.
Communities aren't just on Facebook and Twitter, though. Look into Quora, inbound.org and other discussion forums to build up your conversation. Depending on your product and team you can also check out reddit, Imgur and LinkedIn.
A word of caution - a community takes a while to build and work on - so if you’re expecting short term results or overnight changes, it’s probably not going to work for you. However, it is well worth the time and investment because a community can make or break your brand. Red Bull is a great example of a brand that hit the sweet spot with community support. The drink thrived on and owned the somewhat controversial image it had in the 90s - with rumors to battle at every step of the way. It appealed to the edgy youth demographic and slowly, but surely evolved into a lifestyle brand associated with sports, music, and media. Last year over 6 billion cans of Red Bull were sold worldwide - a remarkable number for a drink that made it to the market just thirty years ago (Coke for example, was founded in 1892).
3. What’s the Right Way to Track Social Mentions?
The internet is filled with blog posts promising to give you the winning “formula” for tracking and counting your social mentions. The simple answer here is this: there is no one size fits all. It depends on your priorities and business model. But here’s a quick look at what metrics matter the most.
This is the best indicator of how well a post resonated with your community. Always keep in mind that though the number of followers you have is significant, it’s even more important to have the right followers - people who interact with and evangelize your brand. The higher the number of likes, shares and comments on your post, the more engaged your community is. The reason being that you want to engage your community as best as you can and in the long term, grow a community of users who thoroughly like interacting with your brand or keyword. Once your community is more mature, you can consider delving deeper and monitoring the quality of engagement per post - this gives a picture of overall community health. Often, spotting early adopters and engaging with them can greatly help with this.
Clicks per post
It’s all very well having viral content riding the social airwaves, but don’t lose track of the fact that the most vital thing you want to achieve through the content is engagement with your product. This is what makes up the traffic and visits to your website from your social media efforts. It’s the best way to understand which type of posts are working to bring people back to your page and which aren’t.
Share of voice
This is a purely quantitative metric and compares your social presence with that of your main competitors. While it’s crucial to focus on enhancing the quality of your posts, it’s also important to keep track of the big picture and check how well you’re doing when compared with your major competitors. Share of voice also gives a good idea of the social networks that are working well for you and those that have room for improvement. For example, B2B businesses usually see a lot of growth via LinkedIn (for both paid and organic) and B2C businesses usually stick to the tried and tested Instagram or Facebook.
This one is an unterrated metric today, but still worth looking at from time to time. Sure, as we said before, it's really about how engaged your community is on social, but in order to stay in business, it's vital that you keep growing your audience. Put this number into context over a period of time and you'll see which posts exactly led to new followers. Armed with this info, you can go on to create posts that replicate success so you don't end up as an internet one-post wonder.
Waking up to a 300% rise in social mentions may seem like great news on the face of it, but if you’ve not put out any content, this could mean that you’re dealing with a communications crisis. A quick glance at the posts and the overall sentiment behind them can spare you the guesswork. Sentiment is a helpful indicator of how your brand is perceived on social media and is vital for fast growing businesses.
These are the main metrics we look at while analyzing our social mentions. We've covered more of these metrics in our Social Media Listening Guide. We also tend to look at factors such as the profiles of our followers, visual mentions, and comments, among other things.
4. Can You go Beyond Social with Social Mentions?
"Social listening tools continue to drive incredible insights for all brands and content creators, small or large — but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In blending social listening with AI + machine learning, platforms will truly evolve in such a pioneering way that the industry has never seen before. Soon, these tools will become so intelligent that the AI will be able to understand and ‘consume’ a brand’s ‘tone of voice’ and personality and as a result, create (and ‘output’) its own suggested content that is algorithmically proven to have a higher yield.
Finally, every buzzword is indeed colliding, but for once, it’s happening in the best possible way (while being unbelievably powerful)."
Tom Popmaronis, @tpopomaronis, Columnist @ Inc. Magazine and Forbes
Social mentions, when combined with social listening, can be a versatile tool which you can use for a number of purposes beyond simply growing your brand and community on social networks. You’d be surprised at the nifty ways in which people use the information they receive on social media. Here are three different ways in which you can go beyond social with social mentions.
Fuel your content marketing engine
A useful hack when planning your content calendar, is to work backward so that you write about what your customers want to read rather than the other way around. And the best source of this information is social media. What is your core audience interested in? What does it want to learn more about? What will it be interested in, today, tomorrow, in a couple of weeks?
Social mentions provide the answer to all of these questions. Analyzing posts mentioning your keyword and digging deeper by finding topics closely related to them can give you a good idea of emerging trends or topics that your target audience would want to hear about and you can then develop your content calendar accordingly. A hashtag tracking tool, for example, provides a very easy way to do this.
For instance, if I look for social mentions for Sephora, I can see that #instamakeup is an emerging topic. Going by the information in the screenshot, a content campaign in conjunction with Anastasia Beverly Hills or Huda Beauty around the theme of #makeupaddict on either Twitter or Instagram could really pay off for Sephora.
Monitoring your reputation
The internet can make or break your brand - virtually overnight. With that kind of pressure at all times of the day, it’s critical to keep an eye out for any social mentions that could be a threat. Enter reputation management. Your communications team can sleep easy knowing that they’ll have all the information they need to anticipate any crisis.
Social mentions play a huge role in anticipating communications crises - emerging themes or hashtags as shown above can be a very good indicator of an impending crisis. Deutsche Telekom is a perfect example of a brand that responds to social mentions and reacts to them in a timely manner before they get blown out of proportion. They’ve accomplished this by putting a system in place that integrates live social listening into their crisis management processes.
Fine-tuning your product
Because social media is a perfect platform for self-expression, you don’t have to look too far to understand what your clients like best about your product. Or more importantly, what their pain points are. What would make their lives easier? What does the competition have that you don’t? The answers to these questions can more often than not be found on social media and passing this onto your product team could mean exciting things for your consumer base and not-so-exciting, but necessary things for your product team. In fact, Lego’s virtually made fishing for product intelligence online into something of an art form and clearly, it’s working very well for them.
5. Top Five Tools that Track Social Mentions - for FREE!
Tracking and analyzing social mentions may seem like a Herculean task - but having the right tools makes it achievable, if not easy. To make things sweeter, I’ve put together a list of tools that will help you track your social mentions for free - but do keep in mind that free tools may often be a part of a freemium model or may not have all the features that their paid counterparts have. Since SMBs and fast-growing companies are often constrained by budget and resources, these tools are the perfect picks for them.
If you’re looking for a tool that lets you track hashtags and social mentions, then this is definitely the tool for you. Free Social Search allows you to do is search all social networks at once for your brand mentions or your hashtags, pulling up a list of relevant posts with details on engagement, reach and sentiment of each. It also organizes your data by channel, demographic, and geographical data. Most importantly, you can use this tool to research and predict emerging trends that allow you to plan your next big multichannel marketing campaign. The best part about it? It’s forever free.
For example, looking at the screenshot above, Magnolia Bakery in New York City could consider a summer dessert line featuring their cupcakes because #summer is an emerging theme and #cupcake appears twice in the related hashtags. This drives home the point that it is probably one of the most popular items on their menu.
HootSuite's free plan allows you to set up a stream and monitor your keywords or hashtags using their streams layout. The best part about this tool is its ability to manage and monitor up to three social profiles. It makes your data actionable. You can, for instance, use the streams to find compelling content for your target audience and then post it on your social channels. It also allows you to schedule content well in advance - which makes it your best friend when you’re on the road or when you’re planning a content campaign months in advance.
Twitter is a popular tool - especially now that it’s become Donald Trump’s favorite mode of communication. TweetDeck is a tool designed to help you keep an eye on Twitter. It works in a manner similar to the streams offered by HootSuite but is exclusively for Twitter. You’re able to login with your business account and you can monitor your social mentions. What’s even cooler about the tool is the added functionality it offers you to monitor your influencers and followers. Plus, you can schedule tweets.
Hashtagify is a free tool that helps you identify related hashtags and trends associated with your keywords, along with the most recent tweets about it. Moreover, clicking on each of the associated hashtags reveals how popular they are and how closely related they are with your main hashtag. Pretty neat if you’re looking to make your tweets more popular!
Followerwonk is a free tool from Moz that allows you to gauge the authority of your Twitter account. It provides valuable insights that help enhance your brand presence and increase customer loyalty. Personally, though, I feel like the best part of the app is the ability it gives you to monitor and compare your Twitter account with that of your competitors’. This allows you to find new influencers, find out what works for your competitors and what doesn’t and leverage that knowledge.
6. Here’s Some Inspiration to Get You Started…
"Any time somebody mentions you on social media, you need to pay attention. Anything one person says is something a hundred other people may have thought but didn't say. It's crucial to not only respond to these mentions but track them, integrate them into your marketing campaigns, use them as opportunities to discover new topics to cover and new horizons to explore."
Pratik Dholakiya - @DholakiyaPratik, Co-Founder, E2M Solutions
Getting social right is quite tricky but these three companies demonstrated that leveraging social mentions and listening to your audience can really pay off. Here’s a look at three campaigns which demonstrate how social mentions can help you go viral.
How did a relatively small online furniture store beat the Amazon giant to become the Internet Retailer of the year in 2016? They used social media to drive engagement for their products by creating a campaign powered by content from their users.
Using Instagram as their channel of choice, they ask customers to submit pictures of furniture they bought on wayfair.com using the hashtag #wayfairathome. This helps their audience visualize what their living room, bedroom or den could look like with a piece of furniture from Wayfair. Each featured post also has a link to the product being featured in the picture which translates to more sales.
Wayfair demonstrates that it understands its target audience in the following manner. Buying furniture online may often be associated with uncertainty, second guessing etc. Wayfair has studied its target audience well enough to appreciate that being unable to visualize furniture on home turf may often be what’s holding people back from making a purchase. They’re using a well curated Instagram feed from happy customers as an online catalog to help new customers make their purchases.
The community management team at ASOS has demonstrated time and again that their social game is on point. With ASOS Insiders – a community of fashionable 20-something influencers - ASOS has shown that they understand that 84% of millennials don’t like being “sold to”. “ASOS Insiders” basically post pictures of themselves on their social channels wearing ensembles that can be found on ASOS. Think of it as something like a dedicated stable of fashion bloggers for ASOS dotted all over the globe, thereby enabling the fashion giant to penetrate their individual communities.
Customers or would-be customers from said blogger’s followers are able to see what these outfits look like on someone they connect with and can buy them directly off their social channels or on ASOS.
#Shotoniphone – taking social offline: Who doesn’t want their 15 minutes of fame by appearing on an Apple billboard in an exotic location? Definitely not iPhone users. Showing a deep understanding of their users, Apple switched up its marketing strategy which was traditionally associated with beautiful product pictures and ran a hugely successful worldwide ad campaign powered by user-generated content.
Originally created in 2015 to showcase iPhone 6’s major selling point – its camera lens, this campaign continues to enjoy success all over the world even today. Apple called out to its users to send them pictures which were shot with their iPhone cameras and started a global ad campaign by putting their users in the limelight. Apple aims to demonstrate the evolution of the iPhone camera with this UGC fueled marketing campaign. And it seems to have definitely worked with Apple winning the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions in 2015 and exponentially driving up engagement with the brand.
Tracking and measuring social mentions can turn things around for your business. If done properly, this will help you understand your customers, speak their language, and discover many obvious (and not so obvious) insights.
I hope this guide has provided you with useful information that will help you get started on tracking your mentions. And if you have any questions, you can always leave them in the comments below – I'd love to start a conversation about this!
Why not give Free Social Search a go and track your social mentions for free now?