Listening Posts: The Six Free Listening Tools You Cannot Do Without

listening-with-headphonesSo many more organizations and people are engaged in social media today than they were a year ago. What that means is that so many more people are talking about your company, your competitors, your employees and your brands today than they were a year ago. At least, that’s the potential. According to Forrester Research, the number of US regular social network users has doubled since 2007. So, are you monitoring the conversation? Have you set up your listening posts? Simply put, email alerts (daily, or in real time) are the best way to make sure you are not missing out on any online mentions relevant to you or your company, positive or negative.

I’ve compiled what I believe is the “do not miss,” list of (free) email listening tools your organization should use. There are a lot of great paid listening systems out there, but this list is about free tools and ones that send email alerts. If you use them, you will catch 95% of the online mentions relevant to you and your company. And, to back it up, I use these personally.

My question to you is: what are the other essential free listening alerts out there? I’d love to know about them.

In no particular order, here are the six free listening tools you cannot do without:

1. Google Alerts

Be sure and sign up for the comprehensive alert. Since Google is now indexing most social media updates (Facebook, Twitter, comments, etc), this is the one “must have” alert. Sign up for as many as 10 at a time, for free. Once these alerts are verified, you can sign up for 10 more. Don’t forget to sign up for video alerts (video comments, tags, etc) separately.

2. Backtype Alerts

Backtype has two functions: it compiles all of your blog comments into one space. I heard someone describe it as “backtype keeps track of all my comments, like crumbs left in the blogosphere.” However, you can set up email alerts as well for any phrase, word, name, etc. I recently found out that there was a discussion going on in the comments of someone else’s blog about one of my blog posts – I was happy to know about it so that I could join in the conversation. Don’t miss out on the mentions of your company in someone else’s blog comments!

3. Socialmention Alerts

Similar to Google Alerts, this is a comprehensive search and alert listening system. The best part is, it’s free and sent to you by email!

4. Boardtracker Alerts

Ever wonder what people are saying about your brands in the message boards? All public message boards are open for search, but Boardtracker seems to pick up the ones that everyone else forgets. Don’t forget this one and miss out on the discussion about your brand features, organization’s last fundraiser, and more.

5. TweetBeep Alerts

TweetBeep is a Google Alert – but for twitter. It searches the site for mentions of the specific keywords or phrases that you input. You are allowed up to 10 free alerts, and they are sent as an email to you either hourly, daily, or as they occur. If you are not always on twitter, or checking in to the search feature of Twitter, this is a great alert system.

6. Filtrbox Alerts

I find Filtrbox to be one of the more interesting alerts out there. Though the company says that it offers real time social media monitoring on twitter and other platforms, I primarily receive Twitter alerts from them, and frankly think it misses a lot of Twitter mentions, too. However, one a few critical occasions, they have delivered email alerts to me when all my other listening posts were silent. For that, I am loyal to Filtrbox as an alert when every other alert fails.

OK, I lied: the following is not an email alert, but it does come to your online RSS reader. It’s so important I thought I should share this:

Create RSS Feeds on Delicous and Flickr

This may not be obvious, but many times people will tag a social news site or photo site with your name, the name of your company, your organization, your brand, etc. For example, there are many Flickr photos that people have uploaded of their activities on charity walks to raise funds, and tagged with the name of the charity. However, did those same people also upload the photos to that charity’s photo group? Just to be sure, create an RSS feed of any tag name that you want to keep track of and send all those mentions to your RSS reader.

If you want to create a feed of a tag just search for the tag, and look for the RSS orange icon somewhere on that page. See my Delicious screen shot (below) with a search for the tag “livestrong” and the RSS feed at the bottom left of the screen.


Delicious tag “livestrong”

Do you use any of the six tools for listening mentioned here? How would you rate them? Are there any other ones that you cannot do without?

Debra Askanase has 20 years of experience working in nonprofit organizations, from Community Organizer to Executive Director. She is the founder and lead consultant at Community Organizer 2.0, a social media strategy firm for non-profit organizations and businesses. She blogs about the intersection of social media, nonprofits, and technology at and regularly provides advice to our eJewish Philanthropy community.