Social media provides a wealth of information that small and middle market businesses can use in their product research, marketing campaigns and reputation management. Every large brand owner uses social media for promoting and managing products and the business's reputation. Even for small and midsized businesses, social media monitoring is a must.

In the U.S., 71 percent of adult Internet users are active on Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center. Additionally, an average of 320 million Twitter users are active each month, and LinkedIn has more than 400 million members in more than 200 countries. Such tools allow businesses to provide valuable, engaging content for customers, and online reviews help spread the word to new customers, helping a company build its brand.

Social media platforms are dynamic; organizations should use them proactively, especially for activities like quickly responding to complaints or concerns raised on such sites. This requires the use of social media monitoring tools. Small and middle market businesses can invest in integrated media monitoring solutions to help them track multiple sites or take advantage of simpler, free online tools.

Social Media Monitoring Tools

Social media monitoring uses software that scans the Internet for mentions of a business's brand or for topics of interest. It draws attention to applicable posts and organizes this data so that you can analyze and act upon it. It's important to monitor as wide a range of social media sites as possible, looking beyond the most popular sites by including forums, blogs and online review sites your consumers frequent. If your audience is international, be sure to cover languages other than English.

One feature to look for is an engagement tool that searches for comments and complaints posted online and enables a business to respond to those posts quickly. As a best practice, assign an employee the task of monitoring for such posts and responding from within the monitoring application. More complex software should provide analytics and reporting capabilities, which will help you understand which social media posts are positive, negative or neutral on a particular subject. With that information, you can tailor your response to best engage with your audience. Results appear as easy-to-digest reports, and some analytics tools provide the ability to integrate the reports into customer relationship management applications.

Access to online help is another thing to consider when choosing a platform, especially given the dynamic, constantly changing nature of social media. Many platforms provide online documentation on using the product along with email and phone support.

Maintaining a good reputation is important for any business, no matter its size, and social media is a useful tool for enhancing reputations and for helping a business expand its presence. But it is also vital for small businesses to proactively control and manage its use, which can be much better done using social media monitoring tools designed for exactly this purpose.

Tags: reputation management social media monitoring social media