If you’re a corporation or marketer who uses social media for marketing purposes, you need to be able to listen and monitor your surroundings for conversation about your brand. A lot of companies are using dashboards just for this reason. A dashboard is basically your central hub for conversation discovery, aggregation, tracking and archiving. It’s comprised of multiple data sources such as Twitter mentions, blog searches, web searches and so forth. There are companies that will do this for you, of course for a fee. If your budget allows for it, it’s an option worth looking into. Netvibes is a great brand monitoring alternative and it’s free.
So what exactly is Netvibes?
Those of us who have been around awhile know what it is, but if you’re new to the web you might not be using it, much less heard of it. Netvibes is an Ajax-based, personalized start page much like Pageflakes, My Yahoo, or iGoogle. The first thing you will want to do is register for an account if you have not already done so.
Configure your dashboard tabs:
As you can see from the screen shot above, I have four tabs configured in no particular order. The most important aspect of my social media dashboard is the “Listening Post”. For testing purposes, I added the additional tabs with corresponding RSS feeds. I’m a die-hard Google Reader user, as I use it for reading all of my RSS feeds. For me, it’s not crucial to have my RSS feeds on my dashboard, but I thought it would be a nice additional element. I believe a complete dashboard should be used for monitoring, not only your brand, but for your competitors as well. Thanks in part to RSS, and a variety of widgets, this is easily done using netvibes. If you’re not a big Google Reader fan and love RSS, I would highly recommend adding RSS feeds to your netvibes account. You have the option of reading the feed content on the actual website, or within netvibes. It’s a full blown and very impressive RSS reader. You can also highly customize your content modules by resizing them and placing them anywhere on your page.
What makes this work is RSS and widgets:
The power behind this is RSS. The majority of services that you will be monitoring all offer RSS feeds for your desired search queries. The widgets are an additional bonus. There are some nice hacks you can create with widgets that simply can’t be done with RSS.
On your netvibes page, at the very top, on the left hand side, you will see an “Add content” icon. This brings up the content module. You have a few options here. All you should be concerned about at this point is the “Add a feed” option. Start inputting the RSS feeds you want to monitor. Create a new tab and label it competitors. Input your competitors RSS feeds in that tab. The next tab you want to create and the most important one of all is the listening post tab.
What should we be monitoring?
- Search engines, the main one being Google. RSS for web search results is coming soon.
- Google Blog Search. RSS for search queries is available.
- Technorati advanced search. RSS for search queries is available.
- WordPress.com search. (precautionary measure) RSS for search queries is available.
- Micro-blogging applications such as Twitter search & Tumblr search. RSS for queries.
- FriendFeed advanced search. RSS for search queries is available. look on browser bar.
- Delicious search. RSS for search queries is available
- SocialMention.com. RSS for search queries is available
- Social Media Firehose. (Yahoo Pipes) RSS for search queries is available.
- Spy.appspot.com. RSS for search queries is available.
Do not use all of these service together. This will lead to mass duplication issues.
The services I listed, offer you a variety of monitoring options depending on your needs. If you notice the last three I listed, numbers eight, nine and ten are social content aggregators. They aggregate data from multiple sources including Twitter, FriendFeed and so forth. You can use any one of the three to achieve the same outcomes. It’s never a good idea to keep all of your eggs in one basket, that is why I listed three of them. Also, results might vary slightly from each service. Personally I prefer always going to the source and cutting out the middle man. If I’m strictly looking for Twitter mentions, I would set up a RSS search query directly from Twitter search. Take note of number nine, the Social Media Firehose. It’s a Yahoo Pipe that searches an impressive forty services for brand monitoring. Services I left out are covered in this pipe such as Backtype, Digg, Flickr, Youtube, etc. You can clone this pipe and configure it to your needs, or create a brand new pipe altogether.
Customize your dashboard. Make it efficient and visually appealing:
While there is no right or wrong way to organize your grid. Find a solution and tweak it. I prefer more boxes on my dashboard, and always go with four. You can change this anytime, the point is make it efficient. Clutter should not exist at all. Create new tabs/pages for the additional stuff. There is a decent variety of themes and wallpapers to choose from. You can also customize it further by using your own graphics and color selections for the background.
Integrate widgets into your dashboard:
There are close to a few thousand widgets that you can choose from. Check out the “Essential widgets” option for a good selection of the crucial ones, such as a Calendar, Link module Webnote and HTML modules. Also, any of the communications modules, such as Google Talk, Gmail, Google Maps. There is also social networking widgets for Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. Be sure to check out the netvibes ecosystem, it’s their universal directory of widgets.
Create your listening post:
Now comes the best part, tweaking your listening post. As you can see from the testing dashboard I set up in the above image, mine is relatively easy and simple. It’s been configured to monitor any instance of the word Fruchter. I have RSS feeds for Twitter, Social Mention, Google Blog Search, Technorati, Spy, and YackTrack plugged in. I also have RSS feeds plugged in for Flickr image search, and YouTube.
What my social media dashboard is missing, is Google Analytics. I would have liked a way to view my traffic stats in the dashboard. The widget I found for this was broken at the time of testing. I’m sure there is another hack around this though.
You will notice a module called ” FiltrFeed”, that’s an RSS feed from Filtrbox. Filtrbox is a media monitoring service. They have free and paid plans for brand monitoring. It’s a service I have been using for a few months now, and I’m very impressed with it. I profiled them back in September on a post called 10 tools for listening in social media. They reached out to me on Twitter, and gave me the tip about using the RSS feed for the filters I have setup there. I was unaware they offered this feature, as I get daily briefing emails for the content filters I have set up. As a result, I never venture off into the control panel area. I will be doing a nice review of their service in the oncoming days. Stay tuned for that, and be sure to check out their service.