An overview of free social media monitoring tools from PRSA Health Academy

Monitoring and measurement are the key components of any public relations, marketing and/or communications plan. As more and more of us rely on web, digital, social and mobile media, the traditional monitoring tools are evolving, but perhaps not fast enough to meet either demand or our specific needs.

Critical Mention (I’m a customer) now will allow you to compare social and online coverage with radio and TV in real time in one all-inclusive application (it’s primarily Twitter). Radian6 and Meltwater are also pricey but reasonably effective means of monitoring social media and trying to organize and make sense out of internet chatter. But what about those campaigns where budget is a serious issue, where the cost of monitoring makes a positive ROI difficult to achieve?

The good news is that there are some pretty good social media research and analytics programs out there that are absolutely free. Kathleen Stansberry, PhD, Assistant Professor, Strategic Social Media, at Cleveland State University recently provided an overview at PRSA Health Academy’s annual meeting. Let’s break these down into five categories: medium specific monitoring, mobile tracking, influencer identification, online network analysis and textual analysis.

1. Medium Specific: Many of the most powerful social media analytics tools are incorporated as part of the platforms they address. The most famous is Google Analytics, which is kind of the gold standard that everyone knows.

Google Analytics:

Then there are ones that are more specific to their form of social media: Facebook Insights:

Twitter Analytics:

Pinterest Analytics:

LinkedIn Analytics:

Link Tracking by Bitly:

Instagram Tracking by Social Rank:

2. Mobile Tracking As I’ve written before, the future is mobile; according to a recent PEW Internet and American Life poll, 64% of people in the United States own smartphones. The rapid expansion of mobile media has opened a plethora of new opportunities to reach individuals, as well as new challenges in tracking message dissemination and engagement. Here are some apps for building relationships with difficult to engage populations, measuring mobile use:

Tracking Tools: Flurry:

Google Universal:

Data Collection: MyInsights:

Survey Monkey:


3.  Influencer Identification Influencer identification is the key to influencer marketing campaigns. Public relations practitioners have long understood the significance of working with influencers to drive public opinion. The rise in social media use has given voice to a variety of online experts who are skilled at using online technologies to create engagement and amplify your messaging. These are tools that are best for online media campaign planning and implementation, distributing messages, relationship building in targeted communities

FollowerWonk (Twitter):

ViralWoot (Pinterest):

Iconosquare (Instagram):

Quintly (Facebook):

4. Online Network Analysis This isn’t about a computer network per se; it’s more about individual internet or social communities. Network analysis research in this context examines the relationships between individual members of online communities and social watering holes. In network analysis, software tools can be used to create visual representations of people, groups, organizations, social media connections, web links, and much more. This is a good way to identify influencers, visualize social connections, and understanding information flow




5. Textual Analysis Textual analysis is a method used to better understand the needs, thoughts, interests, and concerns of key publics. In digital textual analysis a researcher examines content such as blogs, social media posts, videos, webpages, etc. to identify key themes, sentiment statements, and emotional issues. All of that is good for researching customer concerns, identifying potential hot topics and emerging crises, understanding brand position. This goes way beyond key word search capabilities; it gets into meaning and context.

Social Mention:

Topsy (Twitter):


Tams Analyzer (Mac only):

QDA Miner Lite:

You’ll find some of these very easy to use, others are frustrating, but keep in mind the one thing they all have in common—they are free. We get what we pay for, but it in this case, there’s a lot of value and knowledge to be gained.