A Review of Tools for Overcoming the Challenge of Monitoring of Social Media

A Review of Tools for Overcoming the Challenge of Monitoring of Social Media

Carlos Figueroa (University of Turabo, Puerto Rico) and Abraham Otero (University San Pablo, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4373-4.ch003
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Until recently, a company's communications with the public were unidirectional and mostly limited to advertisements in mass media. This gave companies almost complete control over their brand and image. Nowadays, a new set of media, in which the public has similar capabilities for creating content as companies has emerged: social media. The growth of this medium has been exponential, endowing it with a reach that can dwarf traditional mass media. Having or not having a presence in such media is not just a choice of the company. The company's customers and the general public can generate content related to a company without the company’s consent. There is no way for the company to avoid it. All they can do is listen to the conversations, engage in them, and try to dampen negative feelings while steering the overall conversation in positive directions. Given the size of social networks and the large number of conversations that they support on a daily basis, manual monitoring is impossible. In this chapter, the authors review and evaluate various tools to support the tasks of monitoring and managing the content of social media that is relevant for a company, a brand, or a product.
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Part of Web 2.0 is comprised of social networks, blogs, wikis, and other collaborative applications where end users are no longer mere spectators, but participants that generate content continuously and guide the direction of the conversation. In the past, business communications with the public were unidirectional and mostly limited to advertisements in mass media. Therefore, companies had strong control over their brand and image. Now the public has new ways to spread messages about companies through social media. These messages sometimes have a reach equal to or even superior to the reach of mass media messages. Heinlein and Kaplan (2010) found that at least in one medium (Internet) companies have lost complete control of the messages related to their own brand and products, since the public can guide the conversation and respond to the company on equal terms. The lack of full control over this new media forces companies to monitor and react to what happens in these new avenues of communication. (O’Reilly, 2007; Gallaugher, 2010; Constantinides, et al., 2008; Dösinger, et al., 2007)

To monitor social media, large amounts of heterogeneous information such as text, images, audio, videos and other unstructured data need to be analyzed. Sometimes these contents are negative, requiring prompt intervention to reduce or prevent damage to the reputation, products and/or services of the business or organization (Heinlein, Kaplan, 2010; Constantinides, et al., 2008; Bhattacharya, Du, & Sen, 2010). When no adequate and prompt action is taken, the image of the company may be affected negatively (Constantinides, et al., 2008; Social Media Report, 2010; Sterne, 2010; Leganza, 2010; Hutley, 2009).

All social networks provide user interfaces, usually via the Web browser or mobile applications, for creating and accessing user-created content. But these interfaces are intended for personal use, and for accessing only the content created by users who have some relationship between them such as friends, followers, etc. They are not intended for use by several people working within the same account (a very common scenario in a company). They do not provide effective mechanisms for discovering or monitoring discussions on a certain topic throughout the entire network. In addition, they only allow the user to manage content within the social network itself, while a company must maintain a presence in multiple social networks simultaneously.

Currently, there are various monitoring tools that provide assistance in the overwhelming task of social media content monitoring. These tools can monitor the generation of new content relevant to a certain area (a company, a brand, a product...), analyze the scope of the conversation, provide a sentiment analysis classifying the discussions in categories such as “Positive,” “Neutral,” and “Negative” trigger alerts or actions whenever a conversation on a certain topic is started, etc. (Constantinides, et al., 2008; Sterne 2010; Leganza, 2010; FreshMinds Research, 2010; Koch & Richter, 2008). There are over a hundred monitoring solutions of this nature (A Wiki of Social media Monitoring Solutions, 2011), making it difficult to select the most appropriate tool/tools for the particular context and needs of each company (FreshMinds Research, 2010).

Well exploited, social media monitoring can not only be used to respond to negative content related to a company, but it can also be integrated into business processes in the areas of marketing, market research, customer service, public relations, and sales among others. With the adequate support of monitoring tools, these functions can be carried out in a more effective manner and at a lower cost than with traditional solutions (Gleanster, 2010). However, before such tools can be used effectively in a company, both the staff who is going to participate in the social media monitoring task and the management must understand the potential of social media and how it can make a difference in their company (Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reputation Analysis: Capability to automatically determine how different keywords, terms, topics or user generated content within the mentions may harm a brand name, product or company.

Search or Query: Consult looking for mentions of brands, companies, products, topics, keywords or key terms, persons, Twitter or Facebook account users, businesses, URL’s, places, and other types of information on social media sites, news streams, and other Websites.

Influence Analysis: Metric to quantify the influence that certain social network users (influencers) have over other social network users because of their knowledge and reputation on a certain topic.

Online Community: Group of people with common interests who use Internet-based applications to interact with each other and share information.

Engagement: Interest and participation that the followers or fans demonstrate to the brand, product or company through concrete actions such as commenting content, sharing content, clicking a like button, retweeting, etc.

Sentiment Analysis: Capability to automatically classify user sentiment when performing a certain engagement action as, for example, negative, neutral or positive.

Social media: Group of Internet-based applications where users can engage with other users and share ideas, messages, information, videos, images, and other content.

Monitoring: Action of identifying the creation of new content that can take the form of text, audio, video, images or any other kind of user generated content that can be posted or upload in any social media. The ultimate goal of this task is to identify what is being said about a company, competitor, product or brand.

Social Profile: Account registered in some social media site that can be used to participate in the social media site, or to listen for user generated content or to launch marketing or public relations campaigns for a brand name, product, or company.

Alert/Alarm: Action that is taken automatically in response to a mention, post, comment, image, video or news has been published. It might take form of an email, an audible sound, a visible object on the screen, an RSS feed or a combination of them.

User Generated Content (UGC): Includes videos, images, audio files, messages in Facebook, posts in Twitter and other forms of media that can be created by social media users in any online community, and that is visible to others users in that online community, or to any Web user.

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