I have been in the business of media relations since 1995 and I have seen my fair share of tools and sources trends that have emerged and disappeared. The “Next big thing” is always around the next corner. So the question one must ask is what are the objectives of our social media communications plan? And how do these tools and sources afford us the ability to engage in critical thinking? In other words, the tail (e.g. tools and sources) should not be waging the dog (e.g. social media comm plan). The easiest way to look at this issue is through the eyes of a personal media plan versus a corporate media plan.
Personal Social Media Plan: In this case, the free tools and sources are the safest way to go since they afford both a media monitoring and organic engagement capability. In my case, I use a Hootsuite account with your standard RSS feeds, Twitter account and Facebook helps too. For the rest of my personal media monitoring and feedback capability, I rely on Google Alerts. Aside from the inordinate amount of time required to apply and familiarize myself with the tools and sources, one must also be aware of their other limitations.
Limitations: Google alerts searches a database of approximately 1,000 outlets in Canada. It is unable to provide searches that are time based (e.g. past year, past month, past week or the past 24 hours). In other words, everything is lumped together. There is also something to be said for having the ability to consult with someone to help you with your searches and/or resolve issues. Finally, Google Alerts has virtual no social media monitoring capability. So you have to have something in addition to Google Alerts to gain an accurate monitoring capability.
Corporate Social Media Plan: Before I appear to be placing and advert in this blog for the Meltwater company, let me just say that I am using them as an example to contrast the tools and sources afforded by corporate media monitoring capabilities with those of free media monitoring and will try to keep my comments to the generic advantages. Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that by relying on an external company one does not have to research, choose, constantly validate and apply various monitoring tools and sources. This can take a lot of time. Other advantages include:
Advantages: Hiring a company like Meltwater significantly increases the searchable database. They have access to approximately 10,000 outlets in both official languages that can be divided by provinces, with specific time frames and are listed in chronological order. This provides the user with the ability to detect trends. In fact, their database can be searched as far back as 2010! They also provide you with some analysis that may help direct your focus on the issues of importance. You may also reach a contact person that can help you with your searches and they have a partnership with Facebook and Twitter, so searches done through Meltwater also includes these two important social media platforms.
Summary: Notwithstanding the price differential between free monitoring versus corporate monitoring, one must ask themselve: How do these tools and sources afford us the ability to engage in critical thinking? when time is in short supply, given the speed with which social and traditional media operate, we need to make sure that the tail (e.g. tools and sources) is not waging the dog (e.g. social media comm plan).