Social listening tools you should be using

You may be familiar with the YouTube genre of “babies experiencing things for the first time”: lemons, fireworks, snow, their own shadow, etc. If not, you can imagine these new experiences are fascinating (and extremely fun) to watch.

My favorite sub-genre among these is “baby’s first steps” videos. Children formerly content to crawl view the world while walking for the first time. Yes, it’s something we’ve all encountered, but that doesn’t make it any less miraculous. And this joy of self-discovery, coupled with the frightened realization that EVERYTHING has now changed forever, is so completely amazing to watch. When I open a browser each morning to visit pages in my daily read or to skim social media, I sometimes feel like one of these young explorers, a literal toddler, hobbling out hopeful and a little overwhelmed at the volume of possibility that lies ahead.

Thankfully for content marketers and makers like myself, there is a wealth of great tools out there to help discern the digital wheat from the binary chaff. Here are some of my favorites, but please feel free to leave a comment if I’ve missed one of yours.


This little beauty lets you search hashtags, accounts, keywords, mentions, and users for a robust and attractive set of reports. It breaks the data out by frequency and audience, AND by using Klout Scores, it can determine the most influential users talking about a certain topic. To really get at the goods and save search terms you’ll have to pay for the service, but in a pinch, the free results are still enough to get you salivating.

When you grow tired of tagging #winning or #botd with each post and want to see what else is out there, this simple tool offers a visual matrix of hashtags connected to your search term. In table view, you can look at a tag’s popularity, its correlation to your search term, and how it has performed over the past week or month. If you want to see what’s under the hood (hint: attractive reports, influencer identification tools, and more), there’s a cost, but to flesh out an Instagram post or kill some characters on a tweet, the free version is wildly handy. Added bonus: their new University program offers articles on marketing and making the most of those hashtags.


Do you need to find some quality sharables around a certain topic? Buzzsumo can help you unearth top stories connected to your industry or analyze the success of a given content piece. Search by keyword or URL to see how media has performed, who has shared it, and on which platforms it has best performed. It’s essentially a barometer for “virality”, or “viralometer”, if you will. Access the top tier of results for free or drop some coin for their full-suite of features.


Digital proof that you can call a thing whatever you want on the Internet and people will still take you seriously, this Twitter monitoring and analytics tool is actually quite useful. A search of a brand name, hashtag, or URL will generate tweets around the topic, tweets specifically from influencers, influencers connected to the search, or top re-tweeted photos and links. The keyword tool at the top also serves as a should you find yourself pressed for time.

Talkwalker Alerts

This alternative to Google Alerts or Mention helps you keep an eye on your name and who’s using it. Set up alerts for your brand (or your competitors) and receive a daily notification of what the Internet has been saying behind your back. The results are not unlike what a general Google search for your name could yield, so often there are inexact matches included (mine yields a lot of other “Echelons” and other “Design” news in addition to “Echelon Design” hits).


Great for events or tracking specific campaigns, this versatile little alternative to Hootsuite is a beautifully designed stream-based platform. TweetDeck’s columns can help you view real-time mentions, activity, likes, messages, trends, search terms, and more. Additionally, you can publish and schedule tweets here as well. Yes, we’re just talking Twitter, but for all the data you’re getting, it’s hard to be upset.

My mother was fond of saying, “Evolution gave you two ears and one mouth so you’d listen twice as often as talk.” Though she falls short on 95% of all other things social media, here she was spot-on. As you brave that wide world of content out there, be the brand that thinks before talking, not the other way around.

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