Revisiting Four Tools for Social Listening

Social listening is the practice of tracking what is said about your blog’s topic — and possibly even your blog’s identity — online. This listening might occur in the news, blogs, press releases, user forums, and other online areas. While corporations often use it for brand monitoring, social listening proves a useful tool for seeing trends and developing expertise, among other advantages.

Though many tools exist for social listening, no one tool supports every type of listening in one place. Instead, tools must be tested, evaluated, and perhaps replaced depending on your blog’s goals.

Evaluating tools should happen regularly — such as annually or quarterly. Another occasion to evaluate your social listening tools is changing blog directions. With new directions come new goals, and with new goals come new topics for listening.

Such is the case with this blog. It originally began as a documentary criticism and industry observations blog, with priorities on keeping up with new titles and developments in Oscar rules, distributors, and other patterns. Lately, it has shifted to historical topics, multimedia production, and game design and development in part because of my own creative interests and in part because of my work assignments.

With these changes, I re-auditioned the original four tools for social listening that I had been using:

  • Google Alerts
  • RSS Reader
  • Hootsuite
  • Email Newsletters

Google Alerts deliver a wealth of information to your inbox, daily or in real time depending on your preferences. I used to have an alert for “documentary,” but I quickly found the daily emails of 100+ news articles and blog posts too much to follow. After deleting the email unread too many times in a row, I unsubscribed from the alert.

The RSS reader I had been using, Reeder 4, has been replaced by two new services.

One is Feedly, a powerful reader that is easy to use and syncs across multiple platforms and devices. Adding specific feeds is simple, and checking the site regularly is easy through mobile and tablet apps.

The other is Flipboard, which brings together a variety of stories grouped by topic. I found their selections for augmented reality, virtual reality, and 360-degree video helpful in keeping up with industry and technology changes. It was fun to have a couple of my blog posts appear on there as well.

The advantage to both Feedly and Flipboard is that they enable discovery. Feedly suggests other feeds similar to ones you enter. Flipboard provides stories that align with my interests, a rare feat from an advertising-riddled social networking site anymore.

I abandoned Hootsuite not long after I set it up. Social media dashboards are great for real-time snapshots and for organizations that need to keep up-to-date, but I am not that audience. I also sought more content depth than monitoring sites like Twitter and Facebook could provide.

Email newsletters are a mixed bag. I tried about 40 different ones from various sources such as technology groups, media organizations, creativity and productivity gurus, social networking sites, and more.

The worst ones treated the newsletter as a form of advertising, announcing new releases of videos or books. They failed to address their audience in any personal way, so I found them rather dull.

The best ones offered a mix of information, including pieces created by the author or organization, and pieces created by others and curated for the newsletter. My favorite has been from Immerse, which brings together some great materials about VR and other forms of storytelling.

What are your favorite tools for social listening? How have your tools changed over time? Tell us more about them in the comments below.

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