Free vs. Subscription Media Monitoring Services

Although free media monitoring tools are available, subscription services are more time-efficient and cost-effective for most businesses.

Social media listening is critical for managing online reputation. Businesses must know who’s talking about them and what they’re saying and respond quickly to comments.

Many software tools monitor company and brand mentions for news or social media. Some tools are free; others require a subscription, usually with monthly billing.

Digital and social media marketing strategist Simon “Young” Tam examined free social media listening tools that can help most any small business. The tools are not comprehensive, he stresses, noting that he also runs daily searches on different search engines.

Google News Alerts. A good entry-level tool, Google News Alerts can report via email when you or your company is mentioned on the web. Yahoo and MSN offer similar, but less comprehensive news searches. The free news searching services don’t cover social media or most blogs. Moreover, an English-language Google News search does not deliver complete results for other countries. Worldwide organizations need to conduct separate searches for each country and for different languages — a time consuming process, especially if you wish to store the results.

Hootsuite and TweetDeck. Both offer tools to help manage social media accounts. They can scan Twitter in real time, enabling you to immediately spot important discussions about you even if Tweets don’t use your hashtag.

Icerocket. Icerocket, easy to use in addition to being free, specializes in blog searches and can also monitor Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Social Mention. Social Mention gathers data from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms, and offers some basic analytics.

Topsy. Similar to Icerocket and Social Mention, the service focuses on social media, especially multimedia and blogs. Malachy Brown, news editor at Storyful, a social news wire for journalists, cites some other software tools to monitor social media comments.

Gamfeed. Gamfeed, an Instagram service, is good for searching images by date, time or near particular locations. Instagram content is often geo-located, helping verification. Plus, Instagram as close to real-time as you can get without live broadcasting because users typically post immediately, unlike YouTube users who tend to upload from home.

Facebook. Facebook Graph Search can be used to find experts on particular subjects, as well as someone “on the ground” near a breaking story.

Topsy. You can use Topsy to search Twitter by time and place and set alerts for particular topics. It’s great for searching back in time and finding the people who first started conversing about a topic.

Smaller, local companies can often get by with these free social media monitoring tools; companies of any size need the advantages of subscription tools. While free tools don’t require any cash payment, they do require considerable staff time to conduct searches, collect and store the clips, and sort and analyze data. Inevitably, staff tends to let the searching chore slip. If news and social media are not monitored daily, like housework, the work piles up to burdensome levels and may never be done.

Subscription tools like CyberAlert Media Monitoring save staff time by automating the search function across all media. They also integrate clip storage and management tools and advanced measurement tools for PR and marketing, providing greater insight into media results. Searching and managing the online database of clips provided by subscription services is much more time-efficient and less irritating than attempting to manage print-based clips or separate database files.

Bottom Line: Media monitoring is a “must have” for most all organizations. Although free tools are available to help businesses monitor news and social media, they are insufficient for all but the smallest businesses. Instead, a paid monitoring service is a more time-efficient and cost-effective solution.

Originally published at on November 17, 2014.

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