You're a marketer who's hip to the idea of social media: You have a blog for your company or client, you know Facebook inside and out, and you can Tweet with the best of them. So you've got the communicating part down pat.
But the big question is, Are you listening? If you have customers, chances are they're talking about you to their friends, to their coworkers, and to anyone else who will listen.
Here are some of the top tools for listening to and monitoring the online chatter about your brand:
Google Alerts is the steady rock in the sometimes white-water world of monitoring. You can easily target keywords that are important to your brand and receive streaming or batched reports—choose your own adventure.
Billing itself as "the leading blog search engine," Technorati has been helping bloggers and those with their fingers on the blog pulse stay informed for years.
Tracking your brand or a product is one thing, but turning that tracking into a measure of consumer sentiment about your brand or product is something completely different. For that, Jodange has TOM (Top of Mind), which tracks consumer sentiment about your brand or product across the Web.
Want to know how your brand or product is trending compared with others? Trendrr uses comparison graphing to show relationships and discover trends in real time. Use the free account, or bump it up to the Enterprise level for more functionality.
What are people talking about on Facebook? Lexicon searches Facebook walls for keywords and provides a snapshot of the chatter volume around those terms.
Everyone is talking about Twitter, but what are people talking about on Twitter? Beyond the integrated search of Twitter apps like Twhirl and TweetDeck, Monitter provides real-time monitoring of the Twittersphere.
In the world of Twitter, URL shortening is the Obi-Wan (it's your only hope) for effectively connecting with the public. Tweetburner also lets you track the clicks on those magically shortened links, giving you some hard numbers.
Public relations shop Waggener Edstrom recently launched its Twitter-monitoring tool, Twendz. The tool piggybacks off Twitter Search to monitor and provide user sentiment for the real-time Twitterstream—70 tweets at a time.
TruCast by Visible Technologies provides in-depth, keyword-based monitoring of the social Web with an emphasis on blogs and forums. Its dashboard applications provide visual representations of sentiment and trends for your brands online.
10. and 11. Radian6 and Cision
Radian6 pulls information from the social Web, and analyzes and provides consumer sentiment ratings for your brand. When paired with CisionPoint from Cision, the evolved Bacon's of today, Radian6's dashboard can provide a wealth of information.
Techrigy's SM2 is a social-media monitoring and analysis solution for PR and marketing folks. With a focus on complete analysis and comparison, the SM2 experience draws information from all major social-media channels.
Collective Intellect (CI) is a real-time intelligence platform, based on advanced artificial intelligence. Its solution provides automatic categorization of conversations based on CI’s proprietary filtering technology. According to CI, its technologies provide credible groupings and reduce the "noise" seen in other keyword-based searches.
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Listening and making sense of how your brand lives on the Web is only part of the equation. How you use that information to interact with the public is the next step.