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Confusion Surrounding Social Media Monitoring

Here are some verbatim responses I often get when asking public servants the following question: “Have you ever monitored social media while at work?”

  • “social media monitoring is not our responsibility, it’s done by the [comms/web/IT] people]”
  • “we have a social media monitoring tool gathering info for us”
  • “we already do  media monitoring”
  • “our [branch/department/organization] doesn’t have time for social media monitoring”
  • “we are already ‘doing’ Google Analytics”

Here are my short responses to each:

“social media monitoring is not our responsibility, it’s done by the [comms/web/IT] people]”

Imagine going back 15-20 years and replacing the question with: “Have you ever used an internet search engine while at work?”. You’d get the exact same sort of responses, i.e. it’s not my responsibility, that’s something the web guys do, i’m not a techie, etc…

It’s 2012 folks. Just like using a search engine at one point or another has become ubiquitous to nearly every profession on earth, so should tracking relevant communities and content experts be everyone’s responsibility if they want to be better at their job. To some people this may be as simple as knowing that there is an industry hashtag on Twitter that they can quickly check once a week and filter to see what links are being shared. To others it may be simply creating a Google Alert tracking the blogosphere for anyone mentioning anything about their initiative. Others still (usually full-time positions) may be hardcore social media monitoring analysts tracking and analysing sentiment, influencers and discussion levels across various social platforms, etc…

Everyone has a role to play in this. Do not confuse day-to-day social media monitoring that’s relevant to you with official corporate/organizational social media monitoring and analysis.

 “we have a social media monitoring tool gathering info for us”

Great I have a fancy scientific calculator as well. Does that make me Grigori Perelman ? Social media monitoring tools are great (I use plenty), but for heaven’s sake please allocate resources to analyse and interpret the data + colourful charts spit out by the tool. In the words of Avinash Kaushik “you need to be able to find actionable insights”. Use the 80/20 rule. If you have allocated resources for social media monitoring, 20% of them should go to the tool and 80% on human analysis. I’ve seen many situations where an organization has broken their budget by paying for an expensive tool, but has nobody allocated to anything other than printing out the default reports the tool spits out. Quite similar to what happened early on with the web site analytics industry (i.e. Web Trends, etc…)

“we already do  media monitoring”

Agreed. You definitely do have someone in media relations or corporate communications gathering press clippings, newspaper mentions, TV mentions etc…However,

  • A.) What on earth does that have to do with you tracking communities relevant to you? Think back to my “using a search engine” example.
  • B.) While many major  traditional media monitoring companies now claim to also monitor “social”, they are still lagging far behind specialized social media monitoring platforms such as Nexalogy, Radian 6 , Alterian, etc… Therefore as far as organizational social media monitoring, I am yet to see an existing traditional monitoring platform that comes close. If you do have both, just make sure the people involved are working together as clearly there is tremendous overlap between what constitutes “social” and “traditional” media these days (e.g. how would you classify a top rated comment on a front page on-line globe and mail article?).

“our [branch/department/organization] doesn’t have time for social media monitoring”

Read my response to answer #1 and make the time. It may not necessarily be  your role to be doing the “official” organizational monitoring, but everyone needs to learn the benefits of  “unofficial” monitoring for their own initiatives.

“we are already ‘doing’ Google Analytics”

Excellent, however that has very little to do with social media monitoring. Google Analytics is a website analytics program. Yes it has new built-in social tracking features, however these are all still in relation to your website or online properties that you control (i.e. wherever you are able to install tracking code). Just like any “tool” it still needs a human brain to help interpret and analyse the data it collects into actionable insights.

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  1. Steve Wynn

    What you left our here Mike is not only having the human component who can do this, but having a human component who can effectively gather and understand the data in order to deliver recomendatiosn to sr. management or colleagues that make sense and ar doable.

  2. Agreed. That’s what I meant by getting “actionable insights” . I should have clarified, but you did that for me. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for this post, and differentiating the types of monitoring. It’s much needed! As we’ve discussed before, people have to start viewing various social media platforms as social databases that reflect specific components of human interaction. This is especially important for social policy analysts (government or otherwise) to develop new forms of evidence-based policy analysis beyond the typical survey methodologies that are usually cumbersome and expensive.

    The other main component people should consider, not discussed, is that the current TB social media policy is still inherently restrictive for government communications to conduct free-flowing interactions with their respective publics. Until the policy develops beyond its current risk averse structure, departments should be conducting formalized social media analysis to guide future communications, but more importantly, develop new and faster business intelligence practices that act as tools for policy makers. The one caveat here is that departments must conduct their social media analysis within Canada’s privacy legislation (cleaning the data) to avoid any issues.


  4. I’ve talked a lot about the necessity for SM for emergency management and crisis comms purposes. To really operationalize that monitoring effort you need three key components in my estimation:
    1- the right kind of general situational awareness and ongoing outreach to know the rough parameters of your monitoring: keywords, audiences, to watch for …
    2- the actual tools to aggregate, curate, analyze and growing in importance, to visualize the data
    3- the human interpretation … do the results (the algorithm output ???) “jibe” with your expectations? what are the variations … how do you need to tweak item 1 to fix any issue ..

    without the three pieces …you end up with an incomplete puzzle and less the optimal situational awareness or business intel that will allow you to use resources strategically for emergency response or be truly competitive …

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