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To automate or not to automate - Monitoring social media


In an effort to save money and time, many businesses look to automate as much as they can. We always try to help our clients work at optimal efficiency but the key is to not lose effectiveness. There are some areas of business where automation just doesn’t work.

Monitoring social media is one of those areas. Sure, write posts ahead of time and schedule them to publish throughout the week - that’s efficient. But we need to be careful about automating your social monitoring (listening).

What is Listening?

We’re not talking about listening as in “honey, you’re not listening to me!” Listening is much different in the social media realm. Here, you actually get to pick apart every word someone says! We’re not talking about just making sure you hear customer complaints; we’re talking about keeping a pulse on your market.

  • Who are your customers listening to (influencers)?
  • What words are they using?
  • Are they talking about your competition?
  • Did someone have an issue with your company or product?

When to Respond?

Responses require a personal touch and if you attempt to automate this, you risk losing that “humanness” (totally a word) and a real connection with your audience.   

Although we recommend trying to respond to all comments about you or your brand, we realize that’s not always possible.

If you only have a few minutes each day, you can’t respond to everyone. If you must (absolutely must) choose who you should respond to, respond to influencers and anyone that’s significantly upset with good reason (meaning: you screwed up).

Did you know that 72% of people who complain on Twitter expect a response within an hour?


As you go through and monitor conversations on social media, you’ll notice some messages that you should simply listen to and reflect. Not everything requires a response (for instance, trolls try to bait people into an argument for fun or say random things just to try to get someone worked up; it’s usually best to ignore these people unless you have a witty retort that won’t get you in trouble with the boss).


If you run across a genuine complaint, respond. Don’t hide from them. Many times, your response can win that customer back.

If someone is offering praise, show your appreciation. It doesn’t have to be long-winded; a simple, “thank you!” often works just fine.

Use your best judgement, but when in doubt, run it by a team member for a second opinion.

When you do respond, be sure to:

  • respond promptly and accurately
  • show gratitude and respect. Never respond in an offensive or defensive way
  • include facts, not opinions
  • link to your source materials when referencing facts
  • respond in a tone/voice that reflects the company’s culture and values
  • let the person know how you’re connected to the company.

Streamline with Tools

There are tools to help streamline your social monitoring but still allow you to maintain that personal connection with your audience.

Paid tools

If you are considering investing in a paid tool, there are a handful that help with social media monitoring, interacting, and marketing strategy. We recommend using one of these heavy-hitters if you see heavy social engagement or need to track your social efforts and tie them back to your overall marketing goals.

HubSpot Marketing

HubSpot includes a social media monitoring tool as a part of its complete marketing software package. The tool tracks social mentions from leads, opportunities, and customers and logs those interactions into your contacts database. The value here is not only in the ability to both monitor and react within the tool itself, but to also track how these conversations integrate with your entire marketing strategy.


This tool works with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram but also has capabilities of listening to more than just social media (and weeding out the irrelevant stuff); its reach spreads across the web including forums, blogs and websites. Plus, custom settings allow certain keywords to automatically assign response tasks to specific members of your team.


Sprout social is a little more expensive than Mention, but works with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn. This tool also has incredible reports and analytics, plus a smart inbox to help streamline engagement that makes it easy for teams to work together.

Free tools

If you’re just getting started and not even sure how much interaction you might have on your social channels, here are some free social media monitoring tools you might want to check out.


A simple dashboard with search capabilities of Twitter. Plus, you can add columns for your account, influencers’ accounts, hashtags, etc. But obviously, this only works with Twitter.

Google Alerts

This tool should be used regardless of your goals or plans. Set up alerts for any keywords or mentions across the web. When Google spots one, you’ll get an email with a link to the source. It’s simple and very helpful for keeping an ear open for your brand and your competitors.  


Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn AND YouTube. The free plan allows you to connect three social profiles and offers basic reporting. The tool is very easy to use and has tutorials available to help get you started.

Social Mention

This is different than “Mention” listed above (paid tool). This is a very simple online tool that allows you to simply type in a keyword or company/brand name for a full list of everything found on the web (sites like Reddit, etc.). While it’s not the easiest list to work though, there’s also a list of common keywords and sentiment rating.

With this overview, you should be able to at least get started listening to what’s going on in the social world around you. Just remember to be consistent with your listening and responses. Automate your notifications and alerts, but always be genuine and human with your responses!

For more tips on how to manage social media for your business, download our free ebook! 

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