- Social media monitoring is the practice of following tags, mentions, and comments on social media and other online channels to get insights into customer attitudes toward a particular industry, brand, product/service, etc.
- Social media monitoring and social media listening are different but are often conflated. To take full advantage of your social media monitoring tool, you’ll probably want to combine monitoring and listening features.
- To build a social media monitoring tool, you should go through a five-step process that includes defining your purpose, researching the market, choosing features for your MVP, collecting user feedback, and improving your product.
If only business owners knew what their potential customers really wanted — without the need for lengthy market research and failed startup launches — they would be able to turn their business ideas into billions of dollars pretty fast. Sounds like a dream? Wait. Although entrepreneurs can’t read their potential customers’ minds, they can read what people post on social media. This is where social media monitoring tools come into play.
If you’re looking for ways to better know your customers without spending considerable effort and time, or if you’re thinking about building a social media monitoring platform, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we discuss the concept of social media monitoring and give tips on how to build a platform for reading your customers’ minds… that is, what they post on social media.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is social media monitoring?
Social media monitoring is the process of observing what people are saying about your industry, brand, product or service, competitors, etc. on the internet and gathering this information in order to analyze it later.
An important thing about social media monitoring is that it deals not only with social media channels. Actually, you can track activity on diverse online resources including YouTube, blogs, forums, news websites, photo sharing channels like Pinterest and Flickr, and so on.
Why is social media monitoring important?
While the initial goal of social media was to provide people with an easy way to build personal connections, business owners soon realized it was also a great way to promote their brands. Thus, they started producing content to post on social media, aiming to reach wider audiences than they had in the past. However, producing content without measuring its performance didn’t help businesses much. That's why social media marketing tools started to appear.
These tools have functionality that allows you to track separate words and phrases such as your brand name, product/service name, and industry-specific terms. By tracking these phrases, you can see how people mention your brand, what they think about it, how they feel about it, what they want to be different, and so on. Using social media monitoring tools, you can discover:
- Social share of voice — the percentage of conversations on social media mentioning your brand compared to your competitors
- Social sentiment analysis — the mood people show when discussing your brand, product/service, industry, etc.
- Social ROI — helps you calculate return on investment from running your marketing campaigns
- Relevant keywords and hashtags — reveal what is trending in your industry now and get hints about hashtags and keywords you can use to take advantage of your social media marketing
Knowing these things, your business can benefit in four significant ways.
Learn the market and competitors
Knowing what people think about the current market, you can discover pain points you haven’t thought about and make an effort to address them before your competitors do.
As for competitors, you can gather information about their marketing campaigns, their strengths/weaknesses, and their customers’ feedback. This will help you analyze how your competitors perform, what you can improve to perform better, or what novelties you can bring to the industry to become a market leader.
Improve customer satisfaction
If your customers are unhappy with your product or service, they will likely talk about it on the internet. Noticing their dissatisfaction promptly allows you to react in a timely manner, start conversations with your customers, and try to resolve issues or even prevent undesirable situations.
At the same time, by noticing what your customers like about your product, you can get inspired to work even harder to satisfy their needs and reach your goals.
Generate ideas for marketing campaigns
Looking into social media conversations can be a great source of inspiration. You can notice upcoming industry trends, see what your competitors are doing on social media, and analyze your customers’ behavior to find new ways to promote your products or services. You can also enhance your existing marketing strategies by evaluating how your current strategies work.
Find influencers to cooperate with
By observing your customers and potential target audience, you can come across influencers who work in your industry. In a world where social media is a powerful tool to sell products and services, cooperating with influencers can bring your brand to a new level.
Terms you should know before building a custom social media monitoring tool
There are several key terms related to social media monitoring tools. To avoid confusion and help you understand what approaches you can take advantage of, we take a look at four terms below.
Social media tracking is a synonym for social media monitoring.
Social media management is the process of managing your accounts on social media channels, posting, communicating with your current and potential customers, and doing other things that involve brand promotion. You can manage your social media channels with a scheduling app.
Social media analytics means collecting data from social media reports such as social media mentions, likes, shares, comments, and hashtags.
Social intelligence is a broad concept that involves analyzing multiple signals users make on the web, including on social media and other channels. Analysis of the data derived as a result of social intelligence is then used to draw conclusions about previous campaigns, and improve business operations.
Another term closely connected with social media monitoring is social media listening. We would like to pay extra attention to the difference between these two practices, as you might want to take advantage of both when building your software.
Listening not only helps us better understand what the conversations are about our brand in the digital space, it lets us make sure we’re dominating share of voice in our industry in a relevant, impactful and positive way.
Kara Wenman, Digital Content Marketing Manager at James Hardie
We have already mentioned that social media monitoring is the process of gathering and sorting data about your brand, products/services, competitors, industry, and so on. Social media listening is the process of analyzing this data and using it to achieve the best results by running marketing campaigns on social media channels (and elsewhere).
There can be monitoring without listening, but there can’t be listening without monitoring. If you decide to build a social media monitoring tool, one of the best options might be to combine monitoring and listening features in one app. By doing this, you’ll get powerful software that not only provides you with raw data but also helps you take action to improve your social media presence or even your product or service.
Note! The features you implement in your tool will depend on your current goals and the resources you’re ready to spend on app development.
How to build custom social media monitoring software
Once you decide to develop a social media monitoring platform, you should be systematic about your approach to development. In this section, we describe the steps you should take to build a high-quality product that will meet market demand and address your customers’ pain points.
1. Focus on your purpose
Before you start working on your product, you should set a clear, measurable goal. Building a social media monitoring platform without understanding what you’re building and why sets you on the path to product failure from the very beginning.
Start work on your software by answering the following questions:
- What tool are you building?
Is it for internal use? Or is it a tool that you want to sell through a SaaS business model? By deciding on this, you will be able to clearly define the functionality you need.
- Why are you building this tool?
You might run a social media marketing company and notice that the tools you use don’t meet all your needs. So you come up with an idea to create a tailored tool that can streamline processes inside your company. That’s exactly what happened to one of our clients who decided to build an SMM platform for social media management and analysis. Our client built this tool for internal use with the intention to sell it as a SaaS product in the future.
Knowing exactly what he needed for better performance within his own company and what market gap he could fill, our client managed to build a successful product, attract investments, and advance to SaaS application development on the basis of an app he initially developed for internal usage.
Perhaps you have a situation similar to our client’s, or perhaps you want to build a product that you’ll be able to sell for a six-figure sum in five years. Whatever your reason for creating a social channels monitoring tool, you should understand it clearly from the beginning because it will define the direction of development.
2. Research the market
Once you decide what tool you want to build and why, you should concentrate on researching the market and your competitors. Again, you have to answer two primary questions:
- What do target users want?
- What do target users have?
To answer the first question, you need to understand your customers. This means you have to analyze your target audience and create an ideal customer profile. With a description of your ideal customers at hand, you’ll be able to define what solution they seek.
If you’re building SMM software for use inside your company, you already know everything about your target customer because it’s you. You also know other software solutions in your niche and the situation on the market, which means you can start building your tool right away, basing your requirements on your own experience.
If you’re building a SaaS tool you want to sell to other companies, you should put time and effort into understanding your target audience. To learn more about them, you can use social media monitoring tools to help you understand your industry, your customers, and your competitors as well as trends and challenges.
CyberGhost, an online privacy tool, once used Hootsuite to discover the location of users who might want to use their service.
This listening approach has led to some big wins. One initiative led to 30,000 new free users (CyberGhost often offers free accounts to regions affected by unjust government internet restriction) — 25% of whom eventually became paying users of CyberGhost.
To answer the second question, you should analyze existing social media marketing tools, which you probably already did when researching your ideal customers. This will help you understand the current market situation and if you can offer customers a solution to their pain points.
Let’s compare marketing automation platforms with social media monitoring functionality.
Hootsuite has social media monitoring functionality. It allows companies to schedule and analyze posts as well as get insights into the world of users’ opinions. Hootsuite supports the most popular social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It also provides access to more than 100 other online channels including blogs and forums.
Sprout Social is an all-in-one social media platform that offers a number of MarTech services such as management functionality, social monitoring and listening tools, and analytics and reporting features. In other words, it has every feature a business needs to track its market position and take action to improve it.
Agorapulse is similar to the abovementioned solutions and allows users to take advantage of monitoring the most popular social media channels as well as other web resources. This tool is available as both a web app and mobile app, so users can monitor the situation in their industry and engage with customers even on the go.
Once you know what your users want and what the market offers, you might already have ideas about what tool and functionality you can offer your customers to meet their needs, fill the market gap, and overtake your competitors.
3. Decide on features for your MVP
In addition to basic features that any SMM-related tool should have, such as authorization, sign-up/sign-in, password reset functionality, social media integrations, access levels, and push notifications, social media monitoring software should have some specific functionality.
A listening grid is a module of your social media monitoring tool where all information from social media and other channels is gathered and categorized. The listening grid should reflect the channels, countries, languages, and topics monitored.
Data analysis allows users of a social media monitoring platform to get insights into gathered information. This data analysis should contain a number of filters that help users sort information into such sections as customer segmentation, brand monitoring, active conversations to join, and market and competitor research.
Sentiment analysis should include elements of text analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. This functionality is responsible for quick analysis of what social media users say about your brand, product/service, and competitors. You should be able to get information about users’ moods by opening the sentiment analysis tab.
Historical data allows users to take a look back at the previous statistics in order to analyze how successful they are in improving their marketing efforts, customer satisfaction, and so on. This functionality should allow users to track data for the past day, week, month, or year. Some filtering functionality should also be included in this section so users of a social media monitoring tool can track historical data by channel, country, topic, etc.
The dashboard is a customizable section of your social media monitoring tool that provides a quick overview of user activity and quick access to different tabs and other modules of the tool.
With these features implemented into the first version of your product, you can launch your social media monitoring tool to a wide audience. When choosing the features for your MVP, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t implement as many features as possible. Your MVP should only have the most important and prioritized functionality that will meet your target audience’s basic needs.
4. Collect users’ feedback
Once your MVP is available for users, it’s time to find out what they think about it. Asking for user feedback is a crucial part of improving your product.
Ask users what they like about your product and what they don’t. Ask what missing features could help them better meet their needs.
You should analyze all feedback in order to make your users more satisfied with your product. Once you know how to make your product better, you can focus on maintaining and improving your product.
5. Build an improvement plan and start growing your product
A software product isn’t something you launch once and get revenue from for the rest of your life. Technologies advance at lightning speed, the market changes, users face new challenges, and your competitors continue working on their products, so your app should keep up. If you want your social media monitoring platform to compete for years to come, you must update it frequently.
To successfully grow your product, you should build a clear roadmap on the basis of your users’ feedback, your competitors’ strategies, and advancements in technology and your industry. With this knowledge, you can extend your team if necessary and gradually add new features. Once you release a new feature, you should once again collect feedback from users, analyze the market and your competitors, learn from this information, prepare another improvement plan, and start another improvement iteration. By constantly working on your product and refining it based on feedback, you will likely find your path to growing a successful social media monitoring tool.
Who can develop a social media monitoring platform for you?
Traditionally, when it comes to web app development, you can choose among an in-house team, an outsourcing company, and freelancers. Let’s take a look at the distinctives of each of these models.
Hiring an in-house team to create a custom monitoring solution for social media is a good option if you’re ready to dedicate a lot of time, money, and resources to recruiting and hiring employees and developing your product. It will work if you have specific business or technical background and can run the project on your own.
One of the downsides of developing a social media monitoring program in-house is that it can be quite expensive, especially if your business is located in the United States, Canada, or Australia. At the same time, if you can afford to hire an in-house team, it can bring you a number of benefits, including:
- a team who shares your company’s vision and values so you know you’re working towards a single goal
- being with your team in the same place and time zone, which simplifies communication
- a high level of involvement with a team that dedicates all their time and energy to working on your project
You might want to delegate development of your social media marketing tool to another company in or outside your city, region, or even country, which is called outsourcing. You might сhoose a software development company to cooperate with on an outsourcing basis for the following reasons:
- Lower development costs. One of the biggest advantages of outsourcing is the ability to reduce software development costs. For example, if your business is located in the US, where development costs are among the highest in the world, you might want to consider outsourcing to Ukraine or another country in Central or Eastern Europe, as countries in this part of the world have the best price-to-quality ratio for software development services.
- No extra expenses. In addition to the ability to choose a company with lower rates, you can also avoid extra expenses such as for renting an office, buying and upgrading hardware, and paying recruiters to hire a project team.
- Project management. When you outsource product development, you can fully entrust your project to the company of your choice. Outsourcing companies usually lead their projects from the beginning till the end, and this includes all processes such as choosing a software development team structure to meet the needs of your project, organizing a streamlined workflow to build your project within the desired timeline and budget, and providing you with software development consulting services to choose the best way to build your app. Meanwhile, you can focus your efforts on business aspects of your startup, such as marketing and attracting investments.
You might want to work with freelancers when building your social media monitoring program if:
- you need to strengthen your existing development team. You might already have a team who works on your project and sometimes needs help with minor tasks or a specific technology. This is a good reason to hire a couple of freelancers to work on your project who will back up your in-house developers if needed.
- you don’t have enough work to hire a team and want to do some minor things before you start full-scale development of your social media monitoring software. You might take advantage of cooperating with freelancers if you need to prototype your app or write a piece of functionality to check your app’s technical feasibility.
- you want to minimize software development costs. Working with freelancers is the cheapest among all cooperation options. You can find freelance developers and other specialists in countries with some of the lowest rates, which is great if you have a limited development budget.
Along with the benefits you might get from cooperating with freelancers, you should remember that you will be the one in charge of running the whole project. So to build a quality social media monitoring tool, you’ll need enough business and technical expertise to manage the project properly.
How much does it cost to build a custom social media monitoring tool?
The cost to develop a social media monitoring tool mainly depends on the following factors:
- Your team — in-house team, outsourcing company, or freelancers
- The location of your team
- The scope of work — the number of features you want to implement and their complexity
Speaking from our experience, if you want to build a high-quality social media monitoring platform, you might spend $200,000 or more if you ask an outsourcing company to build your software from scratch. However, this doesn’t mean you need to spend the whole sum at once. Custom software development is a gradual process, and to build an in-demand product, you first have to check your idea’s viability during a discovery phase, prove its technical feasibility with a proof of concept (PoC), and make a prototype. With a PoC or prototype, you can reach out to investors and raise money for developing your MVP and improving your product further.
To find out the precise cost of developing your software, consult your development team.
Social media monitoring is a powerful tool that helps users get insights from threads, posts, comments, and mentions on the internet in general and on social media in particular. Once you have this information, you can build conversations with your customers and improve your social media presence. Moreover, the data you collect can be a source of inspiration to come up with new ideas for how to improve your product and outperform your competitors.
If you want to take advantage of a social media monitoring platform for your own business or provide such a platform to other businesses, building social media monitoring software can be one of your greatest investments.
Q: What is social media monitoring?
A: Social media monitoring is the process of gathering, structuring, and sorting data you get from social media platforms and other online channels with the aim to analyze it and improve your social media presence.
Q: How does social media monitoring work?
A: For social media monitoring, you should use social media monitoring tools. These tools work as crawlers, gathering, scanning and analyzing information from a number of social media platforms, blogs, forums, etc. They index websites which then allows monitoring metrics, opinions, and mentions about specific products, brands, companies, and people.
Q: What’s the difference between social listening and social media monitoring?
A: Social media monitoring aims to gather and sort data about your brand, industry, and competitors as well as customers’ moods and reactions to your product/service. Social media listening aims to analyze the information you collect in order to find ways to take advantage of your social media efforts.