How to Confidently Pick a Social Media Tool


Having to pick a dedicated social media tool is increasingly becoming something us marketers have to worry about. With so many tools on the market, some paid and some free, some old and some new, how do you decide which one will best meet your needs and give you delicious, usable data? Well, you start by asking the right questions so you can gather your intel and make an informed decision. Here are some things you may want to think about when trying to decide which social media tool your company wants to go steady with.

What are your goals for the tool?

Okay, so you want to start using a social media tool, right? Well, for what? What do you need the tool to do and how will you be using the information it gathers? Will you be using the tool for brand monitoring to find customers talking about you or to locate possible online reputation management issues? Will you be using the tool for competitive intelligence reasons, trying to see how your brand is doing against competitors? Are you looking for more information about your industry in general? How do you need this tool to help your business? Once you know, you can narrow in on the tools that specialize in just that.

What are you specific requirements for the tool?

Everyone is going to need a tool that does something or specializes in something different. If you’re going to be working in a team, then it may be really important that you can get multiple user profiles. If you’re a one man shop, then this probably isn’t an issue for you. If you’re a larger brand, you may want to find a tool that will offer unlimited searches. If you’re a small business owner, then you may only have a handful of terms that area really important to you.

Some questions you’ll want to consider:

  • How many user profiles will you need?
  • How many searches will you be running a day/month?
  • How frequently will you be creating reports?
  • What format do you need reports in?
  • How accessible does the tool make the data? Is there an easy-to-find dashboard or are you going to be hunting for information all the time?
  • How often do you need to be notified of new mentions? Weekly? Daily? In real-time?
  • How narrowly will you have to filter the information?

What type of information will you be collecting?

The bulk of your decision-making will come from weighing the different tools’ ability to track and present you with the information you’re most looking for. Some tools will do a better job monitoring all of your keywords, but they’ll ignore other important factors like links and sentiment tracking. Others will be able to look at sentiment, but won’t provide very detailed demographic information. You have to weigh what data is most important in helping you make smart decisions.

Some factors to consider:

  • How many keywords/terms will you be able to monitor?
  • Will you be able to filter results by demographics?
  • How about by location? Does it track by state, city, zip code?
  • Does the tool report on links?
  • Does the tool automatically track sentiment? How accurate is this feature, if so?
  • Can you manually attach or change sentiment?
  • Will it weight mentions based on the authority of the source?
  • Does it cap how many mentions it will display?
  • Can you filter by source type, URL or individual accounts/profiles?
  • Can you manually include new sources, URLs or profiles?

What are you doing with the data?

Once you have the data collected, then what? Do you need the tool to help interpret it for you or just collect it? Will you have to export the raw data somewhere else in order to fully analyze it? Do you need to turn your raw data into pretty charts to woo clients and higher ups? This will all play a part in your overall decision process. Collecting data is no good if you can’t then break it up to make it useful.

Other criteria to consider?

Once you collect all your information about the tool itself, there are still other considerations you’ll want to keep in mind. Things like:

  • What’s the reputation of the company behind the tool?
  • What is the quality of support? Have you done a Google search to find out?
  • Do they offer any type of training to help get business owners up to speed on how to use it/take advantage of features?
  • How intuitive is the interface? If it’s not usable, people aren’t going to use it.
  • What’s your budget and is the tool realistically within it?
  • Will the tool scale with your growth?
  • Does the company offer a transparent privacy policy? How are they using the data they collect?

Once you collect the information you’ll need to make your decision, you want to weigh what’s most important to you to help you make your final decision. Two things I’ll recommend:

  • Many tools will offer you a demo or trial period to help you decide if this tool is right for you. Take advantage of his period before jumping into. This is a good way to make sure that you like the UI, that it’s workable, and that you’ll feel comfortable using it.
  • Don’t just pick the cheapest option. It may sound good to your wallet but you often get exactly what you pay for. A tool that is a bit more costly but that comes with quality support is worth the investment.

Those are my tips for helping business owners confidently select a social media monitoring tool. How have you done it in the past? Which tools has your research led you to?

Your Comments

  • Jason Arican

    Hi Lisa-

    This is a great and very comprehensive.

    One thing I try to stress to clients is that there isn’t one, magic-bullet tool that will do everything for you. As an example, I always recommend using a Twitter client in addition to our tool in order to best monitor those results real-time.

    Also, being realistic about your keyword set is sooooo so important. Rather than creating an exhaustive list of every keyword you can think of that would be associated with a brand, it’s competitors and the industry, be focused and start small.

    There is a lot of information in social media, tracking very broad terms can be great for finding out where key conversations on these topics take place… but certainly not for day-to-day monitoring.

    Thanks for the post, I’ll be sure to share.

    Meltwater Buzz

  • Randy S

    When I read the headline, I thought, “why is she calling social media managers tools?”

    A question for everyone, has anyone run across a good, free tool that measure the reach of a post? For example, this tweet was retweeted this many times and saw this many impressions? Tweetreach just doesn’t cut it…

  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    My approach for looking up a new tool is kind of serendipitous. I read a lot, like, a lot. I see recommendations for new tools, especially in the “top 10 tools to do bla bla” kind of posts. I try go to the websites, take a tour, google for users using it, see comparison posts with similar services.
    I select a couple and sign up for a trial, and that’s how it works most of the times. This final step is particularly important, I mean, I agree, signing up is sometimes a daunting task and you wish you could make up your mind just following others’ opinions, but in the past this led me to the biggest decisional fuck ups of my life (just consider back in 2001 when the first iPod was released, I read a bit about it and without testing it I immediately proclaimed it the most useless piece of poop Apple could ever come up with, due to its price and effective use… oh boy).
    That’s how I signed up for Hootsuite and paired it with CoTweet for different purposes.
    That’s how I signed up for Mailchimp and never left it since.
    I think it works, the world of online services is really vast, and usually the customer is fairly more demanding than a classic user.

  • Elijah

    Hey Lisa – great article!

    Not going to lie, it’s so great that I’m about to re-position it and give it to some of my clients as a little “read through” when they are considering social media.

    “It’s gold Jerry, gold!”

  • margaret francis

    This is sound advice. Many of the social media marketers I know would love to get more practical advice of this sort. Keep the content coming!

  • Susan Silver

    Lisa great advice.
    This is something much needed for individuals as well as brands and agencies to look at. It’s easy to get lost in the flood of online tools, but only a few may be necessary depending on your goals. Thank you for stressing not just the account load you may be dealing with but your need for analytical support as well when choosing.

  • Scott Golembiewski

    Damn, I forgot all about this one. I had written a reaction to it but didn’t have time to edit on Friday. I think it was about running a smear campaign on your competitors, and shaming them in to submission, a free tool that works just as good as any.

  • Michelle Wohl

    Nice article. I would also add that many social media tools are now being created for specific industries. Revinate, for example, has created a solution specific to the hospitality industry. Others exist for pharma, wine, etc. I expect to see this trend growing as companies demand very specific features for their industry.

  • talitha

    Thank you for this important information. It’s a great article. And i agree with Michelle Wohl, there are many social media tools that are now being created for specific industries. And there will be coming more and more! I think in about ten years that we do everything throug internet!

  • Proform Pete

    There is a lot of information here to take in. There are some great ideas nonetheless. I kept thinking while reading you could probably make this post into a great flow graph.