4 Free Social Media Listening Tools Every Small Business Should Be Using


I think most business owners have grasped the importance of having some presence on social media; but now the question becomes what to do with it. It’s great that you’re there; but if you aren’t putting it to productive use, you’re really just making noise. An often-overlooked, yet important use of social media is listening. These mediums can be great ways to get real, unfiltered feedback from real, unfiltered people — but you have to know how to look. Here are 4 free social media listening tools that I use every day.

Google Alerts

This one’s pretty simple; but it is effective. Setting up a Google Alert for yourself, or your brand, will let you be notified whenever Google indexes something within your parameters. Basically put, if someone is talking about you on their website, this is a good way to find out about it. This won’t catch things on social media and some lesser-known blog sites, though, so you’ll still want to use other tools to monitor those spaces.

Related: [eBook] Twitter- Attracting Customers

Setting up an alert is easy. Go to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter your search term. If you select the “as-it-happens” option, you will be notified via email as soon as Google indexes the result.


Most people know that Hootsuite is a tool that will allow you to manage multiple social media accounts from one interface. But did you know you can also use this tool for brand and keyword monitoring? It’s easy to create custom search columns that monitor Twitter in real time. You may ask why you would need to do this (I just set up Google Alerts for my brand!), but people won’t always Tweet at you or use your provided hashtag. Plus, a lot of the time it just makes sense to monitor certain terms and use it to be proactive. For instance, if you are a restaurant owner and see someone asking for a dinner recommendation, tweet to them with your location and a coupon code.

Social Mention

Social Mention is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content from across the universe into a single stream of content. That’s a fancy way to say that Social Mention lets you type in a keyword and see what people are saying about it. This service measures 4 key statistics: strength (the likelihood that your brand is being discussed online), passion (the likelihood that people who are talking about your brand online are doing so repeatedly), sentiment (the ratio of mentions that are generally positive compared to those that are generally negative), and reach (the number of people talking about your brand divided by the total number of brand mentions). It also lists the posts for you in chronological order. This tool is more specific to brand monitoring, but gives you a quick snap shot of the public perception of your brand.


BuzzSumo is a content aggregrator that scours the web for articles, videos, etc. While this site is similar to Social Mention, I use it for 2 different things. I use Social Mention to identify how people are talking about our brands. I use this site to see what content is being shared the most around a certain topic, and (and this is the really cool part) who is sharing it. BuzzSumo is a great starting point for blog creation — you can research topics to see what is being written about in your space and how it is being received. This can give you invaluable information that can help you craft your post in a way that will make it more likely to be shared. Also, if you plan to run an influencer campaign, this can be a great tool. You can look at content and see who is sharing it and sort those sharers by things like sharer type (i.e. company, journalist, influencers, bloggers, etc.) number of followers, average reply ratio, average number of retweets, etc. Use this tool to find influencers and identify potential partners.

Make It a Habit

It’s important that you get into the habit of doing this daily. If you do, it won’t take more than a few minutes to do a quick scan of anything new that is being said about you or any change in brand perception online. Aside from these services, I’ll also perform searches for our brand and related topics on Google and Bing about 3 times per day (one in the morning, one after lunch, and one at the end of the day). Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra motivated (which is every day if my boss happens to be reading this) I’ll do one extra search on my phone before I go to bed at night.

Related: 8 Free Tools for the Bootstrapping Small Business

What Should You Search For?

What good am I if I tell you about all these cool tools, but don’t tell you how to use them? Here are some tips to make the most of these tools:

  • Obviously, include your brand name. I mean… for Pete’s sake!
  • Include variations of your brand name. For instance, include portions of your name (if it makes sense — we don’t have a Google alert set up for the word “go”, but you get the point), or, if you have a name with a funky spelling, include common misspellings.
  • Search for slogans or key messages your business uses.
  • Include searches for key words or other items relevant to your business (for instance, I have alerts set up for small business and startup).

What Do You Do When You Find Something?

Intelligence means nothing if you don’t act on it. You can be the smartest person in the world; but if you Christmas Tree your SATs… well, you get the point. The same is true for social listening. When you see something that is appropriate, don’t be afraid to jump into the conversation. This is marketing at it’s most intimate. If someone asks a question that you can answer- answer it. If you can use this as a touch point to get someone back to your website, even better. Here’s an exchange from earlier this month. I found this person’s tweet through Hootsuite with a preset search for the term “startup.”

This was a positive exchange; but one of the other benefits of social listening is the ability to get out in front of the negatives before they snowball into something that will run you over. If you do see a negative comment, don’t ignore it (someone I know once told me that bad news does not get better with age)- address it. Respond to that person and look to address his or her issue. Send a link to the right page, direct that individual to the proper department in your organization, or just say thanks for their feedback and use it as constructive criticism. People will appreciate the fact that you are paying attention in a world of brands that don’t.

What would you add to this list?

[latest_posts header=”More on Marketing” limit=”” category=”8″]

Harry Kierbow

Harry Kierbow

Harry Kierbow is the Director of Social Media for Commissions Inc (CINC), a real estate technology and marketing company. He's played professionally on Facebook (and other social networks) for more than 7 years now, managing campaigns for brands (both big and small) and individuals (also both big and small). Universally regarded as the greatest ice hockey goalie to ever come from Griffin, GA (by his mom at least), you can find Harry between the pipes on the ice rinks of Georgia (yes, there is more than one) or playing with his 2 kids when he's not perfecting social media ads or binging true crime documentaries on Netflix. Connect with Harry on LinkedIn @HarryKierbow.