We all know the feeling. You get a brand new toy, and all you can think about is playing with it. Forget the instructions, forget the careful set-up. Let’s just dive right in!

Next thing you know, this:

simpsons barbecue social media monitoring

…has turned into this:

simpsons barbecue media monitoring

This happens all the time for users testing out social media monitoring.

Mention offers users a free trial, and we get more than 10,000 sign-ups per month. Naturally, those users dive right in, create alerts (sometimes at random), and then are surprised when the results aren’t interesting.

We want to put an end to all this wasted effort. Starting now, let’s nip this in the bud.

So I talked to our expert account managers to find out where most people are going wrong. Here are the seven most painful monitoring mistakes they see.

1. Not having a plan

According to our Customer Success team, most monitoring failures come from the same place: the user hasn’t thought it all through.

It’s tempting to charge in, create alerts, and assume your monitoring tool will give you what you need. But it just doesn’t work like that. You get the best results by carefully setting up your account, thinking hard about what you want to achieve.

It’s not exactly exciting, but it’ll save you time and energy in the long run.

To begin, ask yourself the following questions:

What information am I hoping to find?

Do you want to know when people mention you, your competitors, or your wider industry? Are you looking for reviews, comments from customers, or news mentions?

If you try to monitor all of the above, don’t be surprised when you’re staring at a mess of mentions, with little idea what to do next.

What are the best keywords to use?

Your keywords are the single most important aspect to monitoring. Media monitoring is basically “keyword monitoring” – you’ll receive alerts whenever someone uses your keywords. So if you choose bad keywords, you’ll get bad data.

For starters, is your brand name a commonly used term? If so, it might not be a suitable keyword. Brand names like Apple or Orange are sure to bring in unwanted results:

apple mentions social media monitoring

The solution? Use Boolean queries to combine several keywords. Instead of “Apple,” listen for phrases like (“Apple” AND “computer”), (“Apple” AND “phone OR tablet”), or (“Apple” AND “Samsung”).

How often do I want to receive updates?

You could spend all day with your monitoring dashboard open, catching results as they come in. It’s certainly not a bad idea to keep it open in the background. But you’re busy, and part of your plan should be deciding when you will tune in each day to what’s being said:

From 10-10:30am each morning, I’ll check our monitoring tool and share results with my team. If I’m not here, [Person X] will do it.

That’ll work nicely. You might also choose to rely on email or SMS notifications to keep you up to date at all times. Have emails sent to your inbox at the same time each day, and you won’t even need to log in.

These emails can be sent to anyone you like, so you can keep the whole team in the loop without lifting a finger.

Take the time to plan out what you want to achieve with your monitoring tool. The most common mistake we see at Mention is that users create an account in excitement, don’t have a plan, and then get frustrated when the results aren’t what they expected.

And that’s when this happens:

Simpsons barbecue social listening

So that this doesn’t happen to you, here’s a quick guide to creating your first social listening alert:

Now, on to our second big mistake!

2. Casting the net too wide

Good monitoring should be focused and precise. When you create your first alert, it can be tempting to try to catch everything said on social media. After all, if you narrow your search down, you’re just limiting your results, right?

True, but limiting results has two big advantages:

  1. You don’t waste time wading through irrelevant mentions;
  2. You don’t pay for mentions that you don’t need.

Since social media monitoring gives you a quota – 10,000 mentions per month, for instance – you can’t afford to collect unnecessary data.

How do you avoid this?

This is where setting clear monitoring goals really helps. By choosing your focus before you start monitoring, your keywords often choose themselves.

For instance, if you care specifically about product complaints, simply limit your search from the start. Look for a combination of your brand name, plus negative words like “broken,” “hate,” etc:

boolean social listening

Boolean queries like the one above let you combine thousands of keywords. This way, you only receive mentions that match your query exactly.

In the case of the Samsung query above, the vast majority of mentions are exactly what we’re looking for, complaints:

samsung complaints social listening

The best media monitoring is precise and well-planned. Monitoring broad topics like “shoes” and “Italian food” is about as useful as not monitoring at all.

3. Not thinking outside the box

We just explained how to limit your search for more precise listening. But you also need to avoid restricting your alerts so much that you barely receive anything.

This can happen where the phrase you’re monitoring is already very precise – a person’s name, for example. In this case, you need to consider the other ways that people may refer to that person or product.

Suppose you’re Nike, and you want to monitor talk about the Jordan “True Blue”:

true blue jordan 3 social media monitoring

These shoes are known by a number of names: “True Blue,” “Air Jordan 3,” “Air Jordan III,” “Jordan III OG,” and more. Plus, you’ll need to track hashtags like “#jordan3,” #jordanOG,” “#jordantrueblue,” and so-on.

If you want a true overview of conversations around these shoes, you’ll need to monitor them all. Thankfully, Boolean alerts can also help with this. Build one master alert containing all of these keywords, using the thousands of characters permitted to you with these advanced queries.

To recap so far: big, broad keywords with no limitations don’t help. They just flood you with data. Very precise keywords are good, but you need to make sure you’ve covered your bases.

We want the Goldilocks result: where the mentions we get are “just right.”

Goldilocks and social listeningBy Gaspirtz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Not reacting quickly enough

One of the greatest benefits of social listening is that the best tools let you do it in real time. That means, as soon as someone mentions you on social, you know about it. Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram – it doesn’t matter.

That’s especially valuable for customer service, where a fast response can help you solve a client’s issue and build brand loyalty.

It’s perhaps even more important during a brand crisis. If you aren’t don’t know immediately when things start to go wrong, you may not react until it’s too late.

But it’s not enough to just listen in real time. You need an action plan, whether you’re simply responding to enquiries or putting out a fire.

Figure out the following:

Who’s in charge of your social listening tool?

The best tools are built for teamwork, but you still need someone to take responsibility. That could be your social media manager, someone from your customer service team, or you could share responsibilities throughout your staff.

But you need someone in charge of checking social mentions as they come in, and delegating responsibility when necessary.

Who should respond?

This one doesn’t need to be complicated. If the query is related to customer service, the response should come from a designated person in this team.

But before getting to this, the person in charge of your social media monitoring tool needs to know who to pass issues to. This needs to be clear long before the issue arises.

Note: In a crisis, you’ll probably want a different action plan. In this case, the difficult part can often be identifying the crisis. From there, your crisis plan will kick in.

For help creating a crisis management plan from scratch, download our workbook.

How will you be alerted?

Even with one team member in charge, you won’t necessarily always have eyes on your monitoring tool. They can’t stay chained to their desk, after all.

Make sure you have email or SMS alerts set up to notify you when extraordinary circumstances arrive. That’s what Mention Pulse does, and some other good marketing tools offer a similar service.

dribbble shot pulseMention’s Pulse alerts tell you when your keywords suddenly take off.

To make the most of your real-time social listening tool, you need to be ready to react as quickly as possible. If you do, you give yourself an advantage over your slow-to-respond competitors.

5. Ignoring the analytics

Many users monitor social media simply to track what people say about them, and react. That makes sense.

But if you only focus on individual mentions you can miss the bigger trends.

For instance, do you monitor the volume of mentions you receive? If you’re monitoring marketing campaigns, it’s important to be able to see how social media users react to them over time:

social listening volume

And that’s just the beginning. What about sentiment analysis for your brand? Do people generally say positive or negative things about you?

sentiment analysis social media monitoring

Tracking these major spikes in sentiment can tell you what people think of you and your products, and help you make improvements.

How can you use social media monitoring analytics?

Take a tour around your monitoring tool and get familiar with some of the most important metrics. In addition to the two above, these include:

  • Reach: how far your social posts – or posts about you – can travel, based on the author’s audience.
  • Languages: the number of posts about you in different languages. Don’t assume it’s only English-speakers interested in your brand.
  • Influence: this ranks how influential the social media authors talking about you are. It’s a great tool to find powerful people to share your message.

If all you do is read and respond to social mentions, you’re not making the most of the tool you’ve got.

6. Just sticking to the basics

Monitoring has come a long way in the last few years. You can do a lot more than just respond to a few tweets.

How you monitor social media depends again on your plan. If your chief goal is to hear conversations about you and respond to customers, that’s great. But you can also use social listening to:

  • Generate leads
  • Improve your product
  • Learn from your competitors
  • Find influencers
  • Manage a crisis

Let’s take a look at each of them one-by-one.

Generate leads

Social media is becoming more popular for finding customers. Marketers and salespeople know that, if everyone is using social media all the time, then this is where they need to reach prospects.

Social listening makes it easier to find and engage users looking for help. The process is simple:

  1. Track conversations related to your biggest selling points
  2. Find users whose problems you can solve
  3. Reach out and (delicately) offer your help

Social media can be an easy and effective lead generation tool, if you know what you’re doing.

For more help generating leads with social media monitoring, download our free guide.

Improve your product

Every company needs feedback. It doesn’t matter what you provide – physical goods, business advice, an app – it always helps to know what people like (or don’t like) about you.

Luckily, social media users love to voice their opinions. With a few simple monitoring alerts, you’ll see what works for your users and what doesn’t. You barely have to ask.

Monitor your competitors

Competitive analysis is a time-honored business strategy. One of the simplest ways to develop your own approach is to learn from what your competitors do.

Social media monitoring lets you do this in as little as five minutes. We won’t go into the full strategy in this post, since we did that already right here.

Find influencers

Influencer marketing is a must-have strategy. Influencers reach their followers more directly than any advertising campaign, and they’re usually much cheaper – sometimes free!

Plus, their followers believe what they say, which means a strong endorsement can work wonders for your business.

The tricky part is finding the right match, a high-profile person within your industry. Social listening helps you do this by ranking users who are already discussing your keywords. If your keywords are precise, the people using them will naturally be a good fit.

From there, you’ve just got to make a connection.

Manage a crisis

We’ve written a lot about this topic. In a nutshell, social listening tells you when a crisis breaks out, lets you monitor it as it progresses, and helps you survey the damage when it’s all over.

Rather than repeat ourselves, here are our most useful crisis management resources:

Don’t let the next social media crisis bring your company down.

Those were five different and more advanced ways that you can use social listening. Choose the ones that fit your business goals and give them a try!

7. Not working together

Monitoring benefits your whole company – customer service, sales, marketing, and even your CEO. One very common mistake is not sharing information between teams.

What does that mean?

We already agreed that you need to have one person (or several) in charge of your monitoring tool each day. But that doesn’t mean they can’t delegate. After all, you probably don’t want the same person responding to customer support questions, reaching out to influencers, and studying the competition.

That’s why good social listening tools are made for teams. For instance, Mention lets you assign follow-up to the most suitable team member:

team collaborate social listening

You can also use tags to categorize mentions. This way, one team member can monitor your feed, then package mentions to be followed-up by the appropriate person later.

Sharing alerts and creating tasks is not only efficient, it helps the company grow.

Even if you don’t use tags or assign mentions, it’s good to share your account with a few other helpful team members. You can even grant read-only access to anyone who might want to see what’s being said, but isn’t going to create or delete alerts.

This is even more valuable for agencies, as it lets them easily share information with clients.

Let’s recap

There are many reasons why social media monitoring might fail. Sometimes it’s because you didn’t know what you signed up for, and sometimes it’s because you didn’t understand the technology.

But most often, social listening strategies fail because they weren’t thought through fully. Either you didn’t really think about what you wanted to achieve, you rushed to create your keywords, or you didn’t include others around you who might be able to help.

Thankfully, fixing these errors is incredibly simple. You just need to take a little time to plan it out, and then return to your account regularly to see how you’re doing.

If you want to get the most out of your powerful monitoring technology, download our step-by-step guide to increasing social media engagement with Mention:

How to Increase Social Media Engagement With Mention

Patrick Whatman is Head of Content at Mention. He lives in Paris, loves music, and writes his own brand of cultural criticism for fun. Tweet him @mrwhatman where he mainly talks digital marketing, American sports and New Zealand trivia.

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