I have a secret confession to make. I love playing around with monitoring tools. I don’t geek out about a lot of things but I really enjoy seeing how comprehensive a monitoring tool is. Over the last year I have tried two different paid services, BuzzLogic and Radian6. Radian6 pretty much blew my mind, it was something to behold and if I had to recommend a paid service to someone that would be it right now.
However for the average person out there, the small businesses, the blogger, and really money conscious clients a paid service isn’t going to work. While Google Alerts are pretty solid they don’t pick up everything. Sometimes you need to create something that is a little more comprehensive. Have no fear though; you can easily construct your own monitoring service using a feed reader. (Personally I like Google Reader.) Below is a breakdown on the services that I use to create a monitoring service. I have used pretty much every free service out there and these were ones that I felt were giving me the best mix of results. (Note: There is going to be a lot of repeat stories in here.)
In this example I am centering it around the search for a companies name, which isn’t going to include searches for other keywords, competition, or the names of executives. I want to keep this simple.
Folder 1: Must reads- This folder contains two services that I feel pick up a good overview of where your name is being mentioned on the web. This is the one folder that I know if I only have a couple of minutes to spend looking that I HAVE to hit. For this I use Google Alerts and I actually pay for Trackur. (I know this is supposed to be about free services. But I am just telling you what I have in my mix.)
Folder 2: Blogs- I have rotated through a few services with this. There are always a few blogs that neither of the services in folder 1 pick up. So I use two services here that pick up the slack Blog Pulse and Technorati. Although I continually debate if I want to drop Technorati or not, I have never seen a site lose value so quickly. Plus the site is sluggish and the feeds have more errors than anyone that I use in this. It does pull up stories that others miss though
Folder 3: Blog Comments- I think 90% of the time it just picks up things from all the Gawker properties but I am still convinced you need to have this in the mix. Backtype is the comment monitoring system that I use right now.
Folder 4: General Social Media- I kind of use this as a backup to everything else. I think Social Mention does a pretty good job monitoring and I view this as backup to view every couple of days. The other services pick up everything here and more but I still like to have this kicking around to see if something might slip through the cracks. (If you don’t use Trackur you may want to put this in folder number 1.)
Folder 5: Message Boards- Board Reader does a good job at following conversations where people often forget to look, message boards. I have witnessed some pretty inspired conversations because of this monitoring tool.
Folder 6: Social Bookmarking- The only service I really monitor here is Digg. I just like to know if any stories mentioning my URL or keywords are put onto the site. Depending on who you are, your site, and a few other factors you will probably hardly get mentioned here but it is still worth monitoring just in case.
Folder 7: Microblogging- I used to have twitter search and a few other things in here but I have really been impressed by the Twingly microblog search. I dumped everything else just to use that.
To fill these folders run a search on these services and then subscribe to the RSS feed in whatever service or tool you prefer. Remember when using most of these services you will want to use quotation marks around the specific name of an item to refine your search.
This has been a pretty effective monitoring tool for me on a personal and professional level and it takes less than half an hour to set it up.
How do you monitor the web?