It’s how you locate the people who are already talking online about your stuff, and how you figure out the best ways to talk to them. (And, in my experience, it’s how you get addicted).
But how do you do it?
I’ve been doing a lot of listening online recently, both professionally and personally. I’ve found that, while there are hundreds of different tools for doing it, there are – I think - only four different ways in which the tools can be consumed by the listener. (All of which I use in combination). I’ve listed those four ways below.
Do you agree with my list? How do you listen online? I’d love to hear about your experience of using the methods I’ve listed here, or other ways I have missed.
The 4 methods are:
- Quick searches
- Email alerts
- ‘Start page’ dashboards
- RSS aggregators/readers
I will cover methods 1 and 2 today, and 3 and 4 in a later post. There will also be a bonus list of the main sources I use for grabbing RSS feeds plus some commercial options for outsourcing your online monitoring.
Method 1: Quick searches
What is it? Keyword searches entered via specific websites
Advantages: Speed, ease of use, ideal for testing or refining query terms or getting an instant snapshot of the buzz about your topic
Disadvantages: Less fine-grained than other methods, can bring back irrelevant results (e.g. international or niche sources), one-time-only searching means you will need to repeat it manually
Tools I use:
- Addictomatic – lets you search up to 24 sources in one go including blogs, micro-blogs, news and video. Limited customisation means results are international, not UK. No RSS feed for search results but you can bookmark your results page and add an Addictomatic search box to your browser toolbar.
- Hittery – here you can build a personal search dashboard from an impressive range of engines. As above, you can’t refine parameters beyond certain limits, but you can plug a Hittery widget into your iGoogle or Netvibes start page thus combining this method with the dashboard approach (see method 3).
- Google blogsearch, Technorati, Twingly – a simple blog search can often be more informative than the meta searches above. These three are my blog searches of choice. What are yours?
- Monitter, Twitter search – it also pays to use tools like these two to keep take a more in-depth look at what’s being said on popular micro-blogging platform Twitter. Why so? Twitter is full of social media early adopters, so if someone is tweeting about your topic, chances are they’re blogging about it too.
Others to try:
- Rollyo – ‘roll your own’ search engine, share it, or use ones others have shared
- Search me – a ‘visual’ search engine (like a kind of Cover Flow for websites). Potentially great for quick online brand monitoring.
- FriendFeed search – returns brilliantly relevant results because it’s based on the stuff friendfeed users (i.e. more of your friendly social media early adopters) have blogged, bookmarked or tweeted. Included here as a ‘quick search’ rather than a source because, unless I’m missing a trick, there’s no RSS feed for the results, which is a shame.
- Trendpedia – one of a number of free buzz metrics tools, this one shows you results from blogs with a nifty trending graph – great for tracking how discussion on your topic rises and falls in relation to the messages you put out.
- Twuzzer – if your listening campaign has a geographical element, e.g. you’re a local council, this location-based Twitter search could be just the thing.
Any big ones I’ve missed? What searches do you use and trust? Let me know via comments.
Method 2: Email alerts
What is it? Alerts sent direct to your email inbox either regularly (daily/weekly digest) or immediately on any new mentions of your search topic
Advantages: Reactive, doesn’t rely on you remembering to check, fast, easy to forward on to other people, familiar medium
Disadvantages: Limited sources, interruptive, no integration with other tools, one recipient only, can be time consuming to set up advanced alerts from multiple sources
Tools I use:
- Google alerts – the mother of all email alerts. It’s dead easy to sign up: just perform a news search on Google then click the ‘News Alerts’ link on the left menu to create an email alert for that result. You can set up as many as you need and don’t even need to create an account. Plus you can use the .co.uk or .com to return results that work for you.
- [Any RSS feed] +Feedburner – with a bit of jiggery-pokery, you can turn *any* RSS feed into an email alert by signing up for a Feedburner account and using the built in tools. (I can go into this in more depth if you want to know how: just ask). And, with Feedmysearch turning Google searches into RSS, it lets you fine tune your email alerts beyond Google’s own system (albeit more fiddly fiddlily?)
- Google Reader or Yahoo Pipes + Feedburner – we’re entering advanced territory here. But if you want to turn multiple RSS feeds into a single email alert, here’s one way to do it.Â Combine multiple RSS sources into a single tag in Google reader, share that tag (settings > folders and tags > share) and then grab the RSS feed from the public page to take to Feedburner. Here’s one I made earlier, for my GTD tag. I’m assured you can do the same thing using Yahoo Pipes, but haven’t tried it myself.
Others worth trying:
- Tweetscan – set up email alerts for Twitter searches.
- Yahoo alerts, Windows Live alerts – two alternatives to Google but, unlike the big G, both of these require you to create an account.
- info4local – for human-edited email alerts from Government in the UK, trust i4l.
- [Edit] Social Media Firehose – this amazing tool searches a load of social sites and outputs as email or RSS.
So what do you think? Do you receive email alerts from tools other than those I’ve listed? Does anyone know a better way of turning RSS feeds into email alerts than Feedburner? (I’ve tried another: RSSFwd, but it seems to be inactive).
Stay tuned (via my RSS or email subscription) for part two, where I’ll cover how you can monitor the online buzz using dashboards and RSS aggregators. If you can’t wait until then, here’s some links to other blog posts on this topic.
- Mulqueeny on Addictomatic
- 26 free online tools for buzz monitoring
- Get a personal online dashboard with Hittery
- 10 tools for listening in social media
- Listen means more than you may think
- Monitoring social media before you have a budget
- 5 ways to sell social media to your boss (listening is one of them)
- Alternatives to Google Alerts
- 5 free tools for personal reputation management
- Buzz monitoring, observing and tracking