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Tools worth their weight in gold
In many ways, 2009 was the year of the "a-ha!" moment for social media marketing. While many people long-involved with social media and word-of-mouth marketing knew it was only a matter of time for the masses to embrace this type of marketing, others were just starting to get their arms around the importance of establishing and leveraging their social footprint to build engagement, dialogue, and awareness.
As more companies, brands, and individuals are building their social media presences, the universe of online tools -- which used to be somewhat more limited -- continues to expand on a daily basis. Not only do we have more choices in how we place content and measure social media, but the tools available to us also change and improve just as frequently.
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To provide a little background on me: I run a social media marketing agency (KARMA Media Labs) that helps organizations and individuals connect with their target audiences and build word of mouth in the communities where they live. In order to find these audiences and strike a chord, it's important to be armed with the right tools to listen to what is being said, find the right influencers, communicate with your audience in a way that is relevant, and provide content that is likely to be shared.
The following is a list of some my favorite tools and sites -- some free, some paid -- that have been worth their weight in gold in not only finding that desired audience and key influencers, but also putting the right content in front of them to build conversation and word of mouth.Tools for listening, visualizing
For honing in on conversations
Tool: Social Mention
As mentioned earlier, one of the critical components of a successful social media campaign is listening to your audience. One of my favorite free tools to monitor conversation and buzz across social media is Social Mention, which gives a great snapshot of blog, forum, and microblog buzz, sentiment, and keywords. It also tracks video, image, comment, and social bookmarking tags and mentions. While somewhat rudimentary in its search capabilities, my work colleagues and I are big fans of Social Mention and use it on a daily basis to not only find the places where people are engaged in dialogue, but also in reporting buzz to our clients.
For taking a social snapshot
As an alternative to Social Mention, when we want a quick, visual picture of brand, personality, or meme buzz across the most popular social spaces, we use Addict-O-Matic's social search engine. This free tool shows real-time placements in social networks, communities, and blogs.
Tools for sentiments, influencers
For weighing sentiments
Tools: Radian6 and/or SM2
If more drilled-down and specific data are needed for a social listening initiative, two paid tools dominate our usage: Radian6 and Alterian's SM2. Both offer great analytical tools, easy-to-use interfaces, powerful data retrieval (and good coverage), agency administration, graphing capabilities, workflow control, and dashboard and exporting functionality. And all at a very reasonable price. The main difference between the two systems is the intervention of actual human beings in the filtering of search results for SM2 and slightly different (and we think better) sentiment scoring for SM2. But the full control of search management and backend from Radian6 amply compensates.
For finding influencers
When building a social media marketing strategy, it's important to not only find your audience, but also the tastemakers who influence your audience -- from bloggers to forum moderators. A great free tool for finding communities and influencers related to your audiences' interests is Alltop.com. With Alltop, you discover some of the most relevant sites for not only reaching influencers, but also getting your content in front of the right people who are likely to engage with it.