Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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June 25, 2011

Social media monitoring & crisis communications: When is it too much, too little, and too much “noise?”

It is not only key to be aware of the quantity of the discussions and conversations emerging, but also look at the quality of the information being shared as well.  Not only is this key for regular public relations activities and monitoring, but also in crisis communication situations. Determining how social media can be implemented and used in a crisis communication is key, which was the topic of conversation I had during my presentations a few months ago at PRSA Digital Impact Conference and the Integrate Conference in West Virginia.  Linda Popky (fellow IMC professor and Marketing Research Professional) interviewed me right after my presentation at WVU on this very topic.  Thank you Linda and it was great talking with you at the conference!

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Many platforms looking at social media monitoring specifically are emerging every day, and it all comes down to how much you would like to pay per month for the services, and which platforms can provide the most comprehensive and thorough analysis of what exactly is going on. Here are a few points to keep in mind when monitoring the discussions and conversations emerging through social media in crisis situations.

  • Be open to testing and trying out new social media monitoring sites. Being an explorer in the field of monitoring social media will be a win-win situation for you.  If it doesn’t work out for a particular site, you have learned something you would not have been aware of if you had not tried it out.  However, if you found a diamond in a great and fabulous resource, then you will have gained a lot in this process.  There are many to choose from – so start trying these out!
  • Solidify your SEO terms and hashtags you want to monitor beforehand.  This is key – because it all depends on whether you get a million hits back where only 10% are meaningful, or you get 90% is exactly what you want.  Determining this early on is absolutely key and will make life a lot easier in getting in collecting the data from these sites.
  • Free social media monitoring tools are a good starting point to see what is out there.  There are several that I have used in my research that have been extremely useful in monitoring a crisis situation emerging.  Social Mention, Topsy Analytics, and Perspctv are just a few to give you some insight into this area and on particular social media platforms.  Social mention gets almost everything, but Topsy is specific for Twitter and Perspctv focuses on Twitter, blogs, and news.  Here is a list of some more from TheNextWeb you all might want to check out as well.
  • Purpose is to get a snapshot, not everything. Remember, you are getting a snapshot of what is being said to give you an idea of the overall themes and trends emerging.  This will not be everything that is being said, but it will be enough to paint a picture.
  • Paid services are good as well – just make sure to do your research on them ahead of time. Making sure that you are aware of the pricing, amount of control you have over the data, and how the data will be presented to you is key as well.  Radian6, PeopleBrowsr, and Cision are just a few that come to mind you all might want to take a look at further.
  • Keep in mind emerging platforms that are specific for certain situations. There are some social media monitoring sites that are dedicated to focus on looking at specific scenarios, like crisis situations.   SwiftRiver is one along with others that has been tested and used in monitoring discussions and conversations in various crisis situations, including the 2010 Haiti Earthquake.  This project from Ushahidi focuses on capturing real-time information across platforms for journalists and crisis professionals so they are up to date with the latest trends and see how they are presented based on their priority and accuracy.  BBC News has developed an app for this as well to help journalists with this type of information.
  • Determine your evaluation and social media measurement components ahead of time.  Whether you are doing a content analysis or tracking conversations, you need to solidify these way ahead of time.  Social media measurement is about making sure that you are specific, consistent, and thorough in your analysis.

In summary, what is key to be aware of is that you have to make sure that the data being collected is manageable, but it should also serve as the purpose for providing you with a snapshot into what is going on at the moment.  In addition, keeping in mind that like with new emerging technologies involved with social media and mobile technologies, the monitoring services and website features will evolve as well.  So, it is key to keep up with the latest trends and features in this area as well.  Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,

Karen

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