Social Media Monitoring on the Cheap

Problem– you want to get buzz and backlinks for your startup or small business; you’re hearing about all these sweet  social media monitoring platforms, but you don’t want to pay and Google Alerts isn’t social enough (it doesn’t pick up Tweets, Digg, Youtube, etc).  What to do?  Try building your own!

As a bootstrapper, I always felt like good enough shouldn’t be the enemy of perfect, so here’s my quick and dirty way to setup a social media monitoring system using several free services: SocialMention, FeedRinse, Google Reader, and AideRSS.

A few caveats:

  • If I were setting up full scale monitoring for a real campaign, I would have monitored many more keywords and phrases, which would require a lot more tweaking of the keywords and filters.
  • Right now, Social Mention seems to get some crazy results.  And I have not tested to see if their results are truly complete.  So beware, your effectiveness with this method is only as good as their ability to capture everything (and not bring you too much junk).  That’s a big if.  Now, if Social Mention doesn’t work out for you, then you could cobble together your own set of RSS search feeds directly from Google Alerts, Google Blog Search, Technorati, Topix, Twitter, etc. but that would take more time.
  • AideRSS is great in terms of identifying the most influential blog posts, but it’s helpless with Twitter, Youtube, and the rest of social media.  If someone says something on Twitter, it always has a PostRank of 1 regardless of how many followers that person has or their blog’s PageRank.  So you can’t turn off your brain entirely… I just find AideRSS saves me time and helps me avoid missing the most important posts.

Here are some other free services to check out: Addict-o-Matic, Dataopedia, Perspctv, and HowSociable.  For those folks who are using the full-service offerings like Radian6, Visible Technologies, MightyBrand, Attentio, Buzzding, Buzzlogic, Buzzmetrics, Buzznumbers, Buzzgain, Collective Intellect, Techrigy, CymphonyeCairn, Filtrbox, Vibemetrix, Scout Labs, or Trackur, I’d love to hear some feedback about the cool things they do beyond this sort of super-basic monitoring, especially if you’re using them to find and engage SEO link-building opportunities.  What are the killer extra features for you?

Lastly, thanks for the folks at Greenling, Austin’s best organic produce delivery service, for being my guinea pig.

Update: Here are some new posts outlining other people’s strategies to monitor social media for free:


  • Jeremy Bencken

    Hi Wendy,

    If you put your name in quotes, that should do the trick:

    “Foundation for Global Collaboration”

    That will be an exact phrase match. You might consider dropping “and Peace” if sometimes people refer to the organization without that. You wouldn’t want to miss those mentions.

    Hope that helps!


  • Hi Jeremy,

    Thank you very much for writing about this. As a start-up non-profit, our main concern is costs, so this is a great way for us to track if and how people are talking about us.

    I would like to ask you though, what’s the best way to track our name (Foundation for Global Collaboration and Peace) without returning too much noise, since it’s a multi-word name. (I tried putting it in quotes and still got about 10:1 noise to real content ratio and the content was 99% stuff from our own blog.)

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

  • Social Media Monitoring is really interesting, but there are so many different tools mentioned in this post and I don´t think I will have time to check them all.
    What would be the best tool, if I want to check especially effectiveness of twitter?

  • Great Post my friend, really i’m impressed – i search all day which company i need to choose to get those services, while i read your post i understand that they just provide the same stuff that i can make for free, all they have is better graphic – and who need graphic today if twitter works their way with 140 characters,

    Nice Job

  • You can do social media monitoring by using my free OPML maker to create a file that you can import into Google Reader. It lets you choose which meta engines to use and add a list of search phrases.

    p.s. Interestingly, some meta engines work better for different sectors/industries so you’re right, you have to twiddle a bit.

  • Great post, Jeremy. I have looked at a few of the social metrics tracking technologies and I have yet to find one that beats good ol’ customized Excel reports. Sure it may take a half hour every morning to pull data and another half hour to analyze #s, but you have to be hands on at a certain point IMO.

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  • Jeremy, thanks for the great demo (I see you’re using Jing – I just started using the software recently myself) and post. It’s always interesting to hear about the free services that exist out there. We’ve been using Radian6 for several months now and although we have mixed feelings, some of the best extra features you’re asking about have to do with the graphing and analysis capability. You might be interested in a blog post I wrote up recently (also check out the comments for more meat). I think the biggest challenge is turning monitoring results into concrete metrics you can use in a targeted social campaigns.


  • Impactwatch is also a full-service media monitoring platform. Some of the benefits we offer over free services:

    -unlimited volume and complexity of keyword search strings
    -unlimited historical archiving of media mentions
    -ability to tag mentions by any attribute (PR message, corp initiative, key influencer/exec, products, business unit)
    -automated metrics and graphs
    -customized daily emails of coverage
    -automated, exportable coverage reports
    -optional integration of print and broadcast coverage
    -optional human analysts for sentiment and tagging

  • A great primer for folks, and I think it’s good, too, that you offered a few different choices and noted that one size doesn’t always fit all for a combination of tools.

    Re. how PostRank works, true — we take the different social media sites/apps into account as engagement metrics sources, but we don’t take other forms of metrics within those services into account to determine individual site engagement. (E.g. like you mention, we note that someone tweeted about a blog post, but don’t take into account the tweeter’s relationship with the blogger, number of tweeter’s followers, or other relationship management issues.) Really, getting into that would be an entirely different company. 🙂

    Of course, in my experience you never get a chance to turn off your brain while doing monitoring anyway, given the constant filtering for duplicates, translating non-English posts, and finding information and determining how to engage with people. 🙂

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