There are hundreds of tools you *could* use to monitor social media sites for discussions about your stuff. So how do you choose?
In this and a previous post, I’ve rounded up 40 of the best free tools, and suggested that, despite the bewildering choice, there are only four ways of putting those tools together in a listening strategy.
Part one covered 20 free tools and two methods: quick searches and email alerts. So I owe you 20 more tools and the other two methods, which are dashboards and aggregators. I’ll end with a list of essential RSS feeds (including, in case you don’t read that far, this little gem).
Method 3: ‘Start page’ dashboards
What is it? A single page showing mentions of your topic from across the web, arranged in a grid, updated in real time.
Advantages: Provides a fast, at-a-glance view; ideal for busy execs or non tech-savvy people; can be fine-tuned with laser accuracy.
Disadvantages: By far the most time-consuming option to build; easy to miss something important if not checked frequently.
Tools I use:
- Pageflakes – quickly and easily build a dashboard you can publish to the web or keep private. Here’s one I made delegated earlier. Each box was created the same way: using the ‘Add RSS Feed’ link on the left under the main menu.
- iGoogle – the same deal but with no equivalent of the publishing option in Pageflakes. Which means, if you’re sharing this with colleagues using a generic Google account, they will have to log out of their personal Gmail first. I love iGoogle for personal use but shy away from it at work for that reason.
Others worth trying:
- Netvibes – does the same thing as Pageflakes, right down to the ability to publish your dashboard.
- Djinngo, Odysen, My Yahoo, Symbaloo – it’s an increasingly crowded market. But with the first threeÂ offering such an extensive set of widgets and easy interface, why shop around?
Know of a better way? Got good or bad experiences of rolling out dashboards in your organisation? Let me know via comments.
Method 4: RSS Readers/aggregators
What is it? Desktop or web-based software that allows you to combine an unlimited amount of web content in a single location.
Advantages: Hugely scalable; allows you to mark items as ‘read’ like email, ensuring you miss nothing; easy categorisation of content.
Disadvantages: Can overwhelm less technical users; harder to share than a dashboard, with one notable exception…
Tools I use:
- Google Reader – truthfully? I’d be lost without it. It’s got its annoyances but this web-based reader steals a march on all the rest by allowing you to share interesting reads in a number of ways. Those ways include widgets like the one on the right of this blog, humble links like so, or by outputting a feed for all your shared items or just for individual categories. This last point is where things get really interesting. It means you can use your Reader to power two of the other methods I’ve covered – email alerts and dashboards – collating multiple sources into one supercharged feed to consume whichever way you prefer. See this excellent instruction sheet from DIUS handyman Steph Gray on how to do just that using Google Reader and Netvibes.
Others worth trying:
- Bloglines – easier on the eye than Google Reader, but lacks the sharing features.
- Mac: Vienna, NetNewsWire Windows: FeedDemon Both: RSSOwl – If you only use one computer, desktop software is worth a look as it can provide better alerting for new content.
So that’s it: the four methods, listed in order from novice to pro. Do you agree with them? Are there any others? How do YOU do it?
Must-have RSS feeds
Before I go, here is my pick of the must have RSS feeds to plug into any dashboard, email alert or aggregator you may be building.
- The Social Media Firehose – my new favourite toy.
- Technorati blog search
- Google web, blogs, news and video
- Twitter search
Harder to find:
- Run this pipe to get feeds for Flickr
- Use this to get YouTube feeds
- In Delicious grab feeds for tags or login, subscribe to multiple tags, and pull the feed from yourÂ subscriptions page
No feed? No problem:
Too much information?
- Feed Rinse – narrow down a broad feed to just the bits you want
Finally, some commercial options I’ve stumbled across while researching this piece:
- How to get more from Google Reader
- Beth Kanter on comment tracking tools
- Monitoring dashboards: why every company should have one
- How to set up a simple online monitoring system
- Top 15 tools for finding useful information online
- 10 steps to tracking your social reputation
- Create an online dashboard for your creative project
- Develop a social media plan in five easy steps
- 31 essential online tools for journalists