Identifying Opportunities & Issues: Keys to Monitoring Traditional & Social Media

Communications professionals have been monitoring mentions of their brand in traditional media outlets since before the advent of the first press release. Monitoring social media is relatively new, but becoming more important year over year as people are spending a lot of time on social and are often active on more than one platform. According to PEW Research Center’s Social Media Update 2014, “Multi-platform use is on the rise: 52% of online adults now use two or more social media sites, a significant increase from 2013, when it stood at 42% of internet users.”1

Monitoring Social Media Is a Must

The significance of this is the potential that your brand may be mentioned positively or negatively on a number of social net - works, every day. The more these networks grow, the greater the potential for mentions.

In “Three Technology Revolutions,” Pew also states that a major impact of the rise of social “was that the traditional boundaries between private and public, between home and work, between being a consumer of information and producer of it were blurred.”2

Anyone Can Be an Influencer

The increasing use of social media, the imper - ative to monitor social conversations and the blurring of boundaries is no surprise to communicators: they are acutely aware that traditional media is no longer the only source of earned media.

Once upon a time, earned media was a mention of your brand by a journalist. Move forward on the communications timeline into the digital age and you had to consider mentions by bloggers or people who are subject experts, whether by academic dedication or by experience. Move forward a bit more along that timeline to today and you also have to consider social media.

We need to think of all mentions—in traditional, online and social channels—as earned media.

And there also lies a challenge. Blogs and social channels have provided a great opportunity for brands to disseminate their message, and at the same time have created a new challenge in controlling that message. Monitoring brand mentions on social is absolutely essential in a world with a 24-hour news cycle and PR disasters that go viral before management can get ahead of the message.

Traditional Is Not Dead

Traditional media, however, is by no means any less important in this equation. It remains a leader on the earned media value scoreboard. Communicators still dream of a feature story in The Wall Street Journal.A positive mention preferred, of course.

So in planning earned media monitoring, we have to consider both social and traditional media. And, we have to consider that monitoring isn’t just about knowing what’s being said about you. It’s also about leveraging opportunities.

Opportunities and Challenges

  • Solving problems: Every individual customer complaint is a data point that can help identify trends or pain points in the target audience. Beyond being able to address issues quickly, which you should (hopefully before they get out of hand), trends in the data can suggest ideas for new content, thought leadership, products and services. These in turn can have a huge impact on the bottom line.

  • Competitive intelligence: Watching your competitors’ behaviors on social can give you clues that reveal a great deal about their upcoming offerings and strategy. Finding out what people are saying about the competition also helps a company position itself in the market.

  • Prospecting: Numbers don’t lie. Nearly three quarters of online adults are active on Facebook and although the numbers for LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram are smaller they are no less significant and have continued to grow year-over-year.3 According to a report from the CMO Council, 38% of consumers say they will consult social media in making their next car purchase, highlighting the growing influence of social media.4

The Right Mix for Media Monitoring

A communications strategy that monitors both traditional and social media channels is the most effective. Here are some tips to guide you:

  • Find your key influencers: To get premium placement in a major publication or for a valuable social mention, you need to develop strong relationships with reporters and other online influencers in your industry. Social media can be a great tool to facilitate those conversations. When you are ready with a message you need to communicate, those influencers will be listening—and can influ - ence other influencers.

  • Allocate budget to your social media and monitoring efforts: Although many like to think that social media is free, harnessing the power of social takes resources. You need talented managers and you need good tools like monitoring software to achieve significant results.

  • Apply lessons from social media to monitoring traditional media: Traditional media can sometimes be a little more challenging to monitor than social media because of the myriad of formats online publications might take, but the same principles can be applied. A tool that looks at data across the web, no matter where a mention happens can make a communications professional’s job much easier.

  • Don’t judge an influencer by the numbers: Get used to the fact that influencers don’t always have a million followers. Depending on your industry, you might find that someone who can have significant influence for your brand doesn’t spend a lot of time on social. Or you might find that a significant influencer has a moderate number of followers but their audience is very influential. An influencer with ten followers who are actively talking about topics pertaining to your business is infinitely more valuable than a reality TV star with a million random followers.

  • There’s no short-cut for good research: To know the audience you are trying to reach is to research that audience carefully. The same goes for reaching the few who will have strong influence over that audience. It’s not enough to simply search a database for everyone who is tagged as interested in your industry, you have to go a little deeper and use the information available to really hone a well targeted list of influencers. Then begins the satisfying job of getting to know those influ - encers both online, and if possible, in person using the information you’ve gathered.

The trick to successful monitoring across channels is finding the right mix of people, tools and best practices. When you’ve refined your monitoring program, you can move from listening for brand mentions, to identifying opportunities to build your business.

Trends found in media monitoring data can suggest ideas for new content, thought leadership, products and services. These in turn can have a huge impact on the bottom line.


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1. Pew Research Center, “Social Media Update 2014,”

2. Pew Research Center, “Three Technology Revolutions,”

3. Pew Research Center, “Social Media Update 2014,”

4. CMO Council, “Turning Social Feeds Into Business Leads,” medium=email&utm_source=general&utm_campaign=social-feeds-business-leads