Tracking tools can be an aide to getting your customers to help you market your brand by publicly endorsing you. But tracking tools are not magic potions; you need to use them judiciously, and they will only ever be effective if you have already have a great website and a first class web host.
Articles abound on the internet about the best tracking tools on the market. But if you’re a beginner, they all seem very much alike. So, where do you start?
Back to basics
The purpose of your branding campaign is to raise awareness of your business, product, service or even your idea. If you’re an NGO, you want people to engage volunteers, supporters and donors. If you’re a blogger, you want to be liked and followed and for users to interact with you and your ideas. If you’re a business, you want customers - potential and existing – to buy your product, like it and spread the word.
The good news is that there are ways to do this besides employing expensive external marketing consultants who will generally start by analysing the public perception of your brand. And you can do that yourself.
The power of social media
While you may think you have a great product or service, and that your website is engaging and innovative, you may be unaware that potential customers are passing you by or that you have unhappy customers spreading the word on social media.
Brand tracking applications identify how users react to your brand. You can use them to:
- Profile your fans
- Learn about your customer's concerns and preferences
- Understand where criticism is coming from
- Know what you need to focus on to improve your brand reputation
- Engage with customers one-on-one
What should you be tracking?
Comments, shares, likes, tweets and re-tweets, links, inbound links and public engagement are all valuable indicators, to a larger or lesser extent, of awareness of your brand. But these raw figures need to be analysed and put into context. Thousands of re-tweets about you, if negative, can have a devastating impact on your business. In contrast, thousands of positive shares about your new product idea can literally open the pockets of potential funders for your new business. In short – positive sentiment and not just multiple mentions are what you need to be monitoring.
- Impressions – how many people are even slightly interested in what you’re selling or what you have to say, and how many are talking about you?
- Responses – how many people are engaging with your brand, and is the response mainly positive or negative?
- Audience – are you reaching your intended market or has your strategy had an unexpected response or customer uptake?
A note of caution on sentiment trackingSentiment is expressed in many different ways by humans. For instance, an exclamation mark in Twitter can be difficult to analyse as either positive or negative, and particularly so by a tool.
How to choose a toolYou need to consider which social networking platform your most want to monitor. For instance, a home decor business would benefit from a tool like Tailwind which follows pins from your website to Pinterest. A combination of tools to start with is recommended. After some experimentation, you’ll be able to select the tool that best serves your needs.
Tip: Start with tools that offer a trial or free version before committing to a contract and look for reviews.
What are you hoping to achieve? – Do you want to identify negative issues, respond to support issues or identify the best channel for marketing?
Free or paid? - How much are you prepared to pay to monitor your brand, regarding cost and time?
What features are you looking for? – Do you want the ability to track by location or language? Do you want the tool to analyse data as well as monitor sentiment? How easy should setup be? Who will be reading the reports – the Finance department or the Marketing department?
Top tracking tools to get you started
Brand monitoring is a very personal affair; what matters to you may not matter to the next guy. We’re going to break down some of the top brand tracking tools into categories to make it easier for you to decide where to start on your brand monitoring journey. Bear in mind, while you get what you pay for in life, free tools are an excellent way to learn about sentiment tracking. They can help you define your objectives and understand what features these kinds of tools usually offer and how they work. By their very limitations, they can highlight what you’d like to have and help you make a decision about how much you want to budget for this type of functionality in your marketing strategy.
Social niche specialist (good if you know exactly what you want)
- Tailwind – monitors pins from your website.
- Pagelever – allows you to track and monitor Facebook activity about your brand.
- LinkedIn Analytics –a powerful platform for individuals and businesses that allow anyone to create a professional network. You can use the premium version to see who watches your profile or brand.
- Tweetdeck and Followerwonk can be used for real-time tracking of your brand on Twitter.
- ReviewPush - designed for businesses with multiple locations, this tool, monitors your business’s reviews on sites like Google, Facebook and Foursquare.
- Reputation Ranger - targets four niche industries: hotel and travel, restaurants and bars, plumbers and home contractors, and automotive sales and service. It monitors Facebook and industry-related sites.
- TrustYou – targets hoteliers. It monitors social platforms and niche travel sites for customer comments and reviews.
Enterprise (good for large enterprises)
- Synthesio (free trial available) – one of PC Mag’s top-rated business tools for 2016, Synthesio offers nearly every feature you could need to monitor your brand, including share of voice metrics. Price-wise, it’s in the same category as Brandwatch, Crimson Hexagon and Sysomos, all highly rated themselves.
- Ahrefs (free trial available) –comprehensive features enable you to keep track of your site’s URLs, incoming links, backlinks and anchor texts, and monitor online mentions. It can be used to evaluate your website SEO content and reveal your competitors’ ranking keywords. This is enterprise-level monitoring at a reasonable price.
Free (good for individuals and startups)
- Google Alerts – allows you to create alerts for keywords. You receive a notification whenever those keywords are mentioned online.
- Hootsuite (basic plan) – keeps a real-time check on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter chatter and shares about your brand. Hootsuite allows you to monitor the most popular social networks from a central dashboard.
- Hotjar (basic plan) – a website analytics and feedback tool that gives you insight into how visitors interact with your site, e.g. what they click on or hover over. You can also activate a feedback form to collect visitor comments.
- Buffer – has to be mentioned. It is a time-saving tool that allows you to update all your social channels with one click. Also provides analytics for your social profiles.
- Google Analytics (GA) – a groundbreaker and still one of the most effective tools for measuring brand awareness on almost every level. From content keywords to display impressions, GA allows you to monitor your site traffic over different channels