Social Media Monitoring Tools: Buying Guide

As your IT organization evaluates social media monitoring solutions for Data Loss Prevention, here are five questions you should consider.
Posted November 23, 2011

Jeff Vance

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A buying guide about social media tools for an IT audience? What gives? After all, these tools will be handled mainly by the marketing department, right? Not necessarily.

According to Sarah Carter, vice president of marketing at Actiance, a social media compliance and security technology company, social media tools are currently being managed by revenue generators. “So the concept that the management of it sits in IT doesn’t play that well with a lot of organizations. How many firms have the management of their marketing automation system or CRM in IT? Not many right?”

Why, then, should IT care about social media?

First, even if IT doesn’t own tools as it does with CRM suites, it certainly help maintain them. The IT department can help patch them, secure them, retrieve lost data, manage user privilege and so on. IT doesn’t need to “own” something in order to have a crucial role in the success of that tool.

Next, think about the many intersections between social media and areas that are currently under IT control. Are you worried about data loss and IP theft? If so, you’d better figure out how to integrate social media monitoring in with your DLP (Data Loss Prevention) efforts.

If you’re in a heavily regulated industry, you may well be blocking social media now, just saying “No” to everything, which probably won’t be sustainable for long. After all, even if you are blocking social media, most of your employees have high-powered smartphones pre-loaded with plenty of social media apps. There is little you can do to control or manage these devices, since companies own fewer and fewer of them. Your best bet, then, is training and monitoring.

Meanwhile, as your heavily regulated organization tentatively wades into social media, how will you maintain compliance? How much archiving is necessary? What sorts of alarms should be in place? Who should be alerted when an alarm is triggered?

I would also argue that IT should have a seat at the table as companies scrutinize various social media monitoring tools. You’ll be in a better position to identify problem areas that the marketing team wouldn’t even think about. You’ll be able to identify possible security risks, the potential for integration with other key systems, problems with user interfaces, the pros and cons of open versus closed platforms, etc.

OK, enough with the discussion of IT’s role in social media. This is a buying guide, after all, so back to it. As your organization evaluates social media monitoring solutions, here are five questions you should consider:

1. How much are you willing to spend?

If your organization is small, you may do just fine relying on free and “freemium” services. Free tools like Google alerts, TweetDeck and Hootsuite will give you good insight on where your organization is being mentioned, what people are saying about you and who is following you. To dig deeper into Facebook, which has absolutely horrible search functionality, Bing Social should do the trick.

Many large PR and marketing organizations turn to upmarket suites like Radian6, which offers a million and one features and advanced collaboration and workflow capabilities that the “freemium” tools don’t . . . well, at least not all in one place.

Your organization will need to decide whether or not it needs the features offered from the big social media monitoring and analytics suites. If you need to collaborate, to allow multiple team members to share accounts and to dig deeply into competitive metrics, chances are that at the very least you’ll need to pay to turn on some of the advanced features of “freemium” tools.

For smaller organizations, many will get along just fine with the free tools. Another solid free option is available for organizations that already have a account: the free app for monitoring Twitter and Facebook.

David Ciccarelli, co-founder and CEO of, a marketplace for voice talent, says that his organization has added over 10,000 new sales leads with this tool, which it also uses to monitor thousands of conversations relevant to their industry.

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Tags: security, social networking, social media, data loss prevention, monitoring, DLP

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