By Keith Butler || April 4, 2017

Originally posted by EvansHardy+Young

The large number of social monitoring tools available makes choosing the correct one a challenge for food commodity and CPG brands. At EvansHardy+Young, we take an aggressive approach to tool selection, and you should too.

We know selecting the right tool is a crucial business decision. The wrong decision will directly impact your business’ bottom line, so seeking professional expertise is worth consideration.

Should you decide on the do-it-yourself approach, you need a plan before starting the selection process. When you begin looking at social monitoring tools, take a walk on the wild side, and conduct research. This upfront approach will save you time, and more importantly, money.

Information that yields insights

First, focus on data–what information you will want your social monitoring tool to collect. You’ll want to capture general activity, like audience reach numbers, most active keywords or hashtags, and overall social sentiment. But you’ll also need a deeper understanding of audience behaviors, something beyond simple social sentiment or geography. For food marketing, you’ll want to get close to key influencers, those with the most relevant followers, so match your specific food product or service against those on social who attract that audience.

 

What features will you need?

By knowing the data you want to collect, you can determine specific features the monitoring tool must include. For a start, Hootsuite outlines 9 must-have features you’ll want to include.

For food marketers, food and lifestyle bloggers are especially important to advancing your social media and general marketing efforts. Having a tool that will help you to identify, attract, and communicate with influential food champions is of critical importance. Food bloggers are prolific publishers, so it will be important to keep up with them and to engage within that community.

Additionally, consider features beyond data collection. You’ll want to be able to respond directly to social posts via the tool. And if currently you have several tools, you’ll need to integrate them onto a single platform.

Reports and analytics play a critical role in determining the effectiveness of your social campaigns. At EH+Y, we approach reports using a 360-degree view, examining levels of influence versus just reach — a hashtag and keyword management plan that distinguishes among food product, cultural and brand references — and other techniques to capture more comprehensive insight into what’s most impacting the social campaign. This provides a detailed understanding of what’s working and areas in need of optimization.

For a quick reference, here’s a recent feature comparison of 10 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) social media management and analytics tools for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and enterprise brands, with tech-savvy marketers in mind:

Chart from The Best Social Media Management & Analytics Tools of 2017, by Rob Marvin and Alyson Behr, PC Mag
Tip: Take a test drive of any tool you are considering. Most will offer either a free trial period or a test drive period. And consider who within your organization will actually use the tool, their level of experience, and if training will be needed.

Consider the pricing model

How you pay is directly dependent on which tool you choose. Pricing models vary widely–from a free tool with limited features to a sliding scale based on usage. For example, Nuvi is a very powerful tool we’ve used, which bases fees on the number of mentions pulled in during usage.  This volume-based pricing model means you may start out at one price level, then find as you increase usage or expand your reach, the price grows accordingly.

Expect your usage to increase over time. We’ve seen the volume of activity established when we first set up a monitoring function often increases quickly, driven by the desire to expand reach and adding new competitors, more keywords or hashtags. So plan for increased usage, either initially, or as you use the tool over time.

 

Ask about customer support

We’ve all experienced the demise of customer service as SaaS devolves into ‘software-as-self-help’. Many social media tools essentially remove the human aspect of customer service and approach it instead as a ‘find it yourself’ model through FAQs, Help documents, and other online resources. So when you select a social monitoring tool provider, be certain to ask about customer support.

  • Will you have a dedicated support person for your business?
  • Is support provided in the monthly fee or is it an additional charge?
  • Will you qualify for product upgrades?

Tip: And ask for current user references. It’s not often easy to get these, but if you can speak with an existing customer, you will get a closer understanding of what the tool can do and possibly its limitations.

 

Last thought

No social media monitoring tools use the same metrics or methodology for calculating the metrics. The numbers change, so it will be important to understand how each defines their own metrics and to recognize that once you’ve adopted a new tool, your historical numbers will not match what the new tool generates.

Taking the time to plan first will ensure you select a tool that best matches your requirements, expands with you as your social activities grow, and keeps the cost and investment within budget. For food marketers, social media is a compelling channel for advancing your product promotions, driving consumers to your retail locations, and for growing your brand.