Have you heard of “buzz monitoring”? That’s what some social media specialist firms will sell you: effectively, they promise to keep an eye on what customers are saying about your company in all social corners of the web, from Twitter to Facebook to customer forums. It’s certainly valuable knowledge, and who in this day and age can afford to ignore that ‘buzz’?
For the smaller business, however, the cost of this sort of exercise is prohibitive – and if your customer base is small, it may not be worthwhile sweeping the vastness of the web to find just a few mentions here and there.
If you have the time, though, there’s a certain amount of low-tech buzz monitoring you can do for yourself. Let’s look at Twitter for starters.
Now, Twitter comes with its own search bar, and a once- or twice-daily search for your brand name or URL takes almost no time. Practically speaking, for the small business, twice a day is a good interval, because the search results delivered only go back a few hours. That goes some way towards indicating how basic the inbuilt Twitter search tool is, and it certainly does have its limitations, which is why a number of other Twitter search platforms have sprung up in recent months.
Three of the many are Twitscoop, Monitter, and Tweetscan; you may also have heard of Summize, which was obviously prime amongst the bunch, as Twitter chose to buy it and replace its own search with its superior functionality. The rest of the bunch tend to offer pretty similar search results, but each has features of its own which you may or may not appreciate. Twitscoop features a hypnotic ‘tag cloud’ which changes as you watch it. Monitor’s homepage offers ready-made monitoring of interesting words and phrases; it also allows you to search by geographical location, which could be invaluable if your business services a very local area. Tweetscan is the most pared-down of the three, but tends to be fairly highly-regarded, perhaps amongst those who aren’t interested in bells and whistles.
Any of these will do a serviceable job for you, although some business names are easier to search for in this way than others. For example, I have done work for a company named ‘Embassy’. Searching for the brand name alone will bring hundreds of results, but few of them are relevant to that company – most are talking about visas or country entry requirements. Sometimes you have to get a little more creative and start combining keywords. Embassy sells English courses, so a search for ‘Embassy school’, ‘Embassy course’ or ‘Embassy English’ will often yield better results.
If none of this appeals, then a ‘back to basics’ way to monitor your buzz may be to scrutinize your site’s visitor logs, particularly your inbound links (always an instructive exercise). You may find that several of them are from Twitter, and if so, you will be able to go back and find out just what was being said. Life’s never simple, though. Bear in mind that because of the character restrictions on Twitter, many people use a URL shortening service like Tinyurl.cc. In these cases, your inbound links won’t be from Twitter, but from TinyURL, Bit.ly, sniper, or one of the myriad other similar services.
For many, then, the solution will be to use a careful blend of both search, and visitor logs. It’s easy to get obsessed, though, so don’t spend too much time trying to trace those inbound links! Once you do find them, however, it <I>is</I> worth getting a little obsessed: obsessed by engaging with your customers. Don’t be afraid to reply – Twitter is a public forum. Put right misconceptions, address any mention of poor customer service, and thank people for positive mentions (Richer Sounds, I have heard, even give vouchers to those who they find singing their praises). That’s how you’ll really find out the value of buzz monitoring.