My communications manager and I recently met with Hootsuite to discuss implementation of the platform. She and I are working to engage in more relevant conversations, broaden our audience, attract new customers, expand into new market segments, and gain valuable customer insights. We recognize listening and understanding our audiences is critical in order to achieve these goals. Sarah Patrick, senior content strategist at Clutch says, “I like to think of social listening as the technological version of active listening” (qtd Rosenblatt et al). A platform like Hootsuite would certainly provide the social listening capabilities we are seeking; however, the price tag is a bit too steep for our non-profit educational organization. After our meeting, I started to wonder if some version of social listening (a social listening light- if you will) could be done for free. After some pretty extensive research, the answer seems to be sort of, but not really.
There are some free tools out there. Google Trends and Google Alerts are two that were identified by Brian Whalley his article titled, “The 12 Best Free Social Media Monitoring Tools for Every Marketing Team.” Google Trends allows marketers to perform simple keyword monitoring. You can track any keyword on the sources that Google tracks including, blogs, forums, news sites, and YouTube. Once the alerts are setup mentions are delivered to your inbox. You can select to have mentions as they happen or you can elect to receive all your mentions once per day or once per week. Google Trends allows marketers to enter a keyword and get a graph that displays the popularity of the search term over time for a given location. The data provided is an outstanding source for content ideation and creation.
But are Google Trend and Google Alerts enough? The answer seems to be an unequivocal no. One of the main limitations of Google’s tools is that listening does not reach beyond web sources. More robust systems will allow you to track social media, and let’s be serious as a digital marketer tracking social is a must. According to Patrick Whatman, author of “5 Reasons Why Google Alerts Just Aren’t Enough Anymore,” social “has quickly become the most direct channel of interaction between brands and customers.” Another benefit to a paid social listening tool is that you have immediate access to customers so you can mitigate issues before they become firestorms. Lastly a more comprehensive social listening tool, will give you access to analytics and reports, whereas Google’s free tools will not.
The bottom line is social listening is a valuable tool to help us learn more about customers, our brand, and our competitors. We can stay ahead of trends, improve customer experience, and build meaningful relationships. In researching social listening, I’ve discovered that there a tons of tools to fit every budget. I’ll be setting up a few more demos for the communications manager and me. I am now confident we can find a tool that meets our needs and our budget.
“4 Best Tools for Social Listening.” Neil Patel, 23 Jan. 2020, neilpatel.com/blog/social-listening-tools/.
“How to Use Google Trends in Your Content Strategy.” Triberr, 29 Jan. 2019, blog.triberr.com/how-to-use-google-trends-in-your-content-strategy/.
Rosenblatt MBA, Meryl, Taylor Curran, and Jessica Treiber. “Building Brands through Social Listening.” (2018).
Whalley, Brian. “The 12 Best Free Social Media Monitoring Tools for Every Marketing Team.” HubSpot Blog, blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29437/20-free-social-media-and-brand-monitoring-tools-that-rock.aspx.
Whatman, Patrick. “5 Reasons Why Google Alerts Just Aren’t Enough Anymore.” Mention, 18 Feb. 2020, mention.com/en/blog/google-alerts/.