Shelly Kramer
March 12, 2015

Social Media Insights and Monitoring on a Startup Budget

By Shelly Kramer

So a month (or several) ago I had my great friend Wendy Scherer of The Social Studies Group on the  #V3Live Videochat Show. The topic we discussed was one that pretty much everyone is interested in — Maximizing Social Media Monitoring and Insights on a Startup Budget. I mean, who doesn’t want to know that, right? Another awesome friend, Mickey Gomez, took some great notes during our conversation and she was kind enough to share them with me so that I could eventually get around to writing this post.

Wendy is a researcher and a netnographer and absolutely brilliant when it comes to anything having to do with data. I’ve referred her to so many friends I’ve stopped counting, and without exception they all come back to me to report that working with Wendy made all the difference in the project or campaign they were working on. Read that: hire Wendy whenever possible—she’s incredible. Okay, back to the subject at hand. When it comes to social media monitoring, being able to gather the data you need, dial down into the most useful insights, and then being able to use that information as you craft your marketing strategies for the coming year and beyond, that’s what we all want, isn’t it? Even better, learning how to do it for free or with a very small budget, well, these tips, tools, and tricks might just be your new favorite thing. So, let’s talk about those things.

Work Smarter, Use Tools

It’s pretty much a given in our data-driven world that when you know how to not only gather data, but also to analyze and use it, it will change everything about the way that you work and the results you’re able to generate. The right kind of platforms and tools are an integral part of your overall success and, when you’re a small business, a nonprofit, or a startup, that’s even more true.

There are many free analysis tools out there to help you collect and drill down into data. Here are some that Wendy covered in our conversation as some of her favorites.

  • Mention: Mention is an awesome tool and my team and I also use it all the time. Mention has a freemium level that will deliver web mentions to you. We use Mention for competitive intelligence and brand mentions, both for ourselves and for our clients and it’s really valuable. Make sure you regularly refine your terms and the criteria you use for optimum results. Also be sure to check out Mention’s advanced search options. There is a lot you can do with the free platform, but Mention is so awesome that we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t suggest you also check out the paid version of the platform – it’s really pretty sweet.
  • IceRocket: IceRocket is an interesting tool as it allows you to look at trends over time, which is very helpful when developing a strategy or a plan. IceRocket will also show you when people are talking which is important when it comes to what you’re doing in the social media space.
  • Topsy: Topsy allows you to start wide and learn about things that make you curious. For someone like me, that means I could get sucked into Topsy on an all day basis, as everything makes me curious. Check out Topsy when you’re working in a new vertical or for a new client and use it to help determine what content is important to you and start narrowing from there.
  • BuzzSumo: What matters to you? You can type in a subject and find the top shared articles about certain topics (again, be sure to use solid search terms and criteria).
  • HootSuite: We’ve long been fans of Hootsuite and, while we use the paid Hootsuite platform, there’s a lot you can do with the free version. Wendy suggests that you check out using it to not only run a search, but also running a search within a search. It’s quick and pretty precise, and allows you to track trends in a pretty cool way.


Finding Influencers (meaning those you should care about finding or connecting with):

  • FollowerWonk: FollowerWonk is an impressive tool to use to find influencers based on their Twitter bio.
  • BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo can isolate influencers based on social channels and it will show you the top content or the top influencers. You can drill down for more specific queries. This is really helpful when you’re doing influencer campaigns for brands and/or are a brand wanting to identify influencers you’d like to court, connect with, and build a relationship with.


  • Many Eyes: Many Eyes has some limited functionality, for instance, you can’t use it if you’re using Chrome, but it’s very useful for tracking trends and discussions in a space with which you may be unfamiliar. For example, competitive analysis in a certain niche, speaking on a topic in a particular area or to a particular audience. Also, you can get heaps of data via BuzzSumo and input it into Many Eyes for a quick and easy data scan, which would take ages if you were reading every article
  • Wordle: Wordle is extremely helpful because it allows you to visualize data using word clouds.

Sometimes businesses think that their consumers are interested in their products or services for reasons that they are, in fact, not. Speaking from the trenches, we find this happens all the time, and part of our job is convincing our clients what it is that their customers and prospects really are interested in. Smart data analysis will help you to determine what people really care about (or want) versus what you (or your clients) think people (consumers, clients, stakeholders) care about (or want).

There has never been a time when we’ve had greater access to information, data, and insights given the varied ways in which conversations are taking place online. All you have to do is pay attention and, of course, know the right tools to use to help make the process of paying attention easier and more effective.

What You Need to Get Started

In researching data and trends, here’s what you should keep in mind and where you need to start:

  • Know what you’re looking for
  • Use data and insights for marketing, but also for product development and customer service cycles
  • Ask questions. Lots of questions
  • Always be curious
  • Think like a consumer
  • Think like a strategist
  • Use your imagination
  • Listen

Wendy closed our conversation by mentioning a comment Robert Scoble, a well-known figure in the tech/entrepreneur space, said when asked about the secret to his success. His response– “I try to be where the wave is going.” We think that’s a large part of the key to success, for any company, in any vertical, serving any customer base. Great things seldom happen by accident. And you can set yourself up for success by knowing how to listen, gather data, analyze it, and then use what it is you’re hearing to develop effective marketing strategies.


Shelly KramerMarketing/brand strategist, idea generator, digital content magician, scribbler, information junkie. Luv MilkDuds+Beer. Member of Oversharers Anonymous.

This piece was originally titled “The Key to Social Media Monitoring and Insights on a Startup Budget” and posted on the now defunct V3 Integrated Marketing

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