I'd like to know how the world perceives our company and products. (One reasonable response to this question is: "Don't pay any attention, just do good things." However, let's suppose I want to watch at least somewhat, but get maximal usefulness per minute.)
We've used HubSpot's Website Grader to judge our website, have Google Analytics to measure incoming traffic. In the wider world, we've gotten tweeted and retweeted, bookmarked on delicious, mentioned on makeuseof.com.
I've seen several tools that allow you to watch the wider world (Google alerts, socialmention, logicbowl, tweetmeme, netvibes, ..).
Which tools have people found a good use of their time and why?
I have spent too much time looking around and trying to figure out what I should be monitoring and what actions I should take.
In particular, do any
I can use Google Reader for some of this (RSS feeds with read/unread), and could possibly use email for some of it, but I'm looking for something built for me.
Note: I still can't create tags, so please tag this question. Note: Dharmesh mentions price range. I am looking for freemium: try us for a bit, then maybe pay.
Social Mention RSS feeds piped into GoogleReader equpped with the PostRank RSS firefox extension is a great free tool.
Social Mention does a good job at aggregating results from many different social sites. They offer the results of the query as RSS so you can subscribe to it in Google Reader to avoid having to go back to their site for updates. Finally, PostRank gives a 0 to 10 score based on social engagement around a news item, depending on the number of times it was tweeted, number of blog comments, number of Diggs, etc.
I wrote a post about this technique a little while ago here : http://philgo20.com/2009/06/googlereader-socialmention-postrank-orm-for-free/ Have fun
The problem here is that it is very hard to automate authentic interaction and not always wise to do. Passively watching opinion is something more easily automated though. Positive buzz, as you have found, is fairly simple to watch for. You seem to be doing a fairly good job of it.
My approach has always come from my Reputation Management background. So I want to see three things.
Now social media is simply a case of crating some form of summary often from feed. With Facebook and Twitter these two are big enough to require direct attention. Fortunately with Twitter you can get some great services that will reduce you twitter mentions to an RSS feed or email report. If you named your Facebook page in the same way that people name your brand then you can pop on each evening and see the day's mentions.
New links and review and the negatives are found in a few ways the easiest of which is Google Alerts. I set most up to daily but you can set it to as and when it happens. So I get an email each day of new items Google found mentioning my brand(s) this is good for finding newly happy reviews and mentions (and the odd false positive competing for my most important keyword).
For negatives I set up an alert for "BRAND X Sucks" & "BRAND X scam" & "BRAND X fail" & "BRAND X"+"bad" - depending on the target market there might be other negative words to look for. This brings the negatives to my attention right away even though they might show up in the BRAND X mentions email.
We are particularly looking for that sign that something has gone hugely wrong - the hate site. Like nodaddy to godaddy's poor PR choices or any one of the BRAND-X-Scam dot coms. I hope you honestly never have to face one of those.
Who you reply to is another big question (and a good one) there is no perfect programmatical way of assessing the content of content but if you have a good coder you might be able to asses the pagerank, follow count, influence, social capital of the person saying what they say.
Interacting with the public is really good for brand building and I would want to reply to or honourably mention as many people as did likewise for me.My approach might be to go to the twitter summery just before each coffee/lunch break/pause/pre-meeting/home-time/etc and simply re-tweet the nicest 5 or six new mentions. Maybe mix it up with a few @USERNAME You're welcome. I'm glad you liked it.
A lot depends on your price range.
On the higher end, there are tools like Radian6 that enterprises use to track and manage their social media. Not sure if it does everything you need, but likely worth a look.
HubSpot is working on a free tool which will do some tracking and organizing of this.The product should be ready for public consumption in early January. But, it's not going to be near as sophisticated as what you're describing.