Social Mention is a godsend for online reputation managers - When it comes to gauging social sentiment in real time, there are few tools that do it better for free than Social Mention. The platform measures the “strength,” “passion,” “sentiment” and “reach,” of a search term, breaking down the number and nature of mentions a day across 100+ social media properties including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, G+ as well as aggregators like FriendFeed (since dead and gone) and Digg, or so their About Page says. Granted, their listing long since decommissioned social feeds in their sources is anything but reassuring, but the results obtained are oftentimes surprisingly faithful to those of higher-tier social media management platforms like Hootsuite.
Here's a tidy summary of what you can expect from Social Mentions, an executive summary to the detailed explaination to follow:
Social Mentions doesn't cause a dime to use, making it great for ORMs who are still learning the ropes and tight on cash. It offers plenty of the perks of some of the bigger names in town (social sentiment tracking, mention metrics, RSS) without the additional "power user" features (custom lists, alerts).
Social Mentions is great for first timers, but established ORMs looking to expand their social media offerings should consider looking elsewhere. The platform has limited API functionality, no longer supports alerts, and often timed out while we were testing the API.
The information that can be extracted from Social Mentions is primarily qualititve (general sentiment regarding a specific search term), as opposed to hard numbers on posting demographics. While this can be invaluable information during an initial investigation on brand sentiment, more permanent social media reputation campaigns might require more detailed and substatial information.
Social Mentions provides impressively up to date information on brand temprament and online reputation. We used the platform to investigate day-old news topics and found the results to be hours old at most in many cases.
How does Social Mention work?
How does Social Mention work to acquire this accurate information of theirs? The FAQ answer to which is a rather opaque (and funny) “it works just fine thank you for asking.” Not particularly helpful for the thorough online reputation manager who needs to know the validity and confidence level of the information they’re basing their campaign strategies on, but funny nonetheless. The ambiguous definitions of the factors that the platform tracks is another reason why their metrics might be taken with a grain of salt; “Strength,” for example, is defined as the “likelihood that your brand is being discussed in social media”.
The platform also has an API but upon pressing the respective resource page for further details, it’s learned that access to non-commercial market usage requests are limited to 100 queries a day, and that commercial users need contact Social Mention. Detracting somewhat from Social Mention’s value is the simplicity of the API, which possesses a less than satisfying list of possible responses to choose from when compared to other APIs like Sprout Social’s. The much-loved Alerts feature Social Mention had before is also gone as of when this article is being written. Even with some areas left for improvement Social Mention is still a very good platform, let’s take a closer look at it in action:
The default search page is as straightforward as one would hope - a single input field for the search term and a drop down menu to choose the social media of interest. The former takes search Boolean search operators in much the same way as Google or other web-crawling search engines, the latter allows the searcher to choose between searching “All” social media sources or a singular choice of Blogs, Microblogs, Bookmarks, Images, Videos, or Questions.
The two most invaluable selections from this drop down menu to an online reputation manager are the “All” and “Blogs” tabs, the latter giving a broad overview of a brand’s social temperament at any given time, the latter giving an narrow perception of user-generated content on the brand. A good approach is to start with a search for all mentions, then narrow down to Blogs. We feel the other categories have less use. The pictures search for example is better replaced by Tineye or Google Image search. The video search is replaceable with the Google video search or Youtube.
Searching for a known, popular term like a celebrity’s name yields abundant, if somewhat generic results. Meanwhile, searching for a specific term or brand name returns little if any results at all. Some additional functionality can be squeezed out of the search engine by using the Advanced Search and Preferences tab, accessible after conducting an initial search:
Advanced Search functions in much the same way as Google’s, enabling users to search for exact matches (equivalent to using quotation marks), omit undesirable search phrases (equivalent to using NOT) or search for a generic string (equivalent to stringing search terms together with AND). Additional features include searching by language and location, facilitating powerful geographical demographic sectioning, as well as changing the number of search results per page.
While the Alerts function is no longer available:
-the RSS and CSV functionalities located the left of the search results page are still (theoretically) running:
We use the term "theoretically" because they’re part of what was to us an overloaded API and timed out frequently:
All in all, Social Mention is a good tool to use in gauging non-critical qualitative brand or personal temperament on social media. "It works." is pretty much the feeling we had while working with Social Mention. It does what it promises reasonably well (fresh results, depth of results) but certainly does leave the ORM poewr user wanting more (Alerts function not working, RSS timing out). Other solutions like Hootsuite or Spout Social may be better suited to serious ORM firms and freelance professionals seeking more solid numbers to base their campaigning ons.
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