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Online Tools Finally Coming of Age

Online Tools Finally Coming of Age

See a need, fill a need: It’s a philosophy that is one of the primary themes of Robots (and what inspired Rodney).

You could also say it’s the driving force in a free market, and why many businesses are started.

While social media is still in its infancy — it’ll have a long life, so many years is still an “infancy” — many who’ve been involved have several years experience. Some of us, even have a couple!

However, while the social media populous has been and continues to grow, the tools available to public relations professionals have been lacking, compared to what we’re used to offline. Offline, there’s media tracking services like Luce (okay, BurrellsLuce) and Bacon’s (okay, Cision), as well as newer online and less costly services like Factiva (via the WSJ) and If you’re tasked with keeping track of clients’/your employer’s media coverage, it’s great knowing you have other professionals and reliable services to work with.

But, online? It was much more manual and, from my experience, included doubt because social media was so new, and there. seemed. to. be. so. many. blogs! Early search engines like GlobeofBlogs, Technorati, BlogPulse and Google Blog Search while free, were very manual and still left a bit of doubt.

However, 2007 saw and early 2008 has seen the birth of many new social media tools. Tools that actually have functionality and make our jobs easier. Still, there’s spam and junk blogs to filter out, but the functionality of these tools versus what’s mentioned above is like day and night.

Here’s a rundown of the tools I’m familiar with — please offer your comments and positive/negative feedback if you’ve tried them, or add your own cool tools. (When possible, I’ve included what I know about each of the services — but by no means are my comments below a thorough commentary of all tools noted. For your own use, please review/evaluate these services yourself.)

Comprehensive tools

Techrigy’s Social Media Manager:
Covers blogs, as well as a discussion boards/forums, social bookmarking sites, Flickr, YouTube and other, Twitter, etc. Offers a lot of functionality and flexibility. Note: I had an extensive evaluation of SM2 last fall and into early 2008 before we committed to a contract with Techrigy. I’m very satisfied with SM2, and company has been extremely responsive to suggestions and on-going communication.

Similar to Social Media Manager in its range of social media covered. It’s been in the news every so often with contracts with some notable agencies. Note: I had demo of Radian6 early this year, and liked what I saw. In many ways, Radian6 and Social Media Manager are comparable — though each have their “differentiators.” There were a few key differences as to why we chose SM2.

Visible Technologies’ TruCast:
I’ve not had a demo of TruCast, but from its site and from some communication with a sales person, it seems to offer capabilities comparable to the above: a “comprehensive solution for social media analysis and participation. Our enterprise level solution enables clients to complete the conversation by allowing them to track, analyze, and participate in blogs, forums, social networks and online communities.”

Blog-Focused Tools

CyberAlert’s BlogSquirrel: CyberAlert is one of the oldest online news monitoring tools I know of. It’s been a year since I had a trial, and I’m sure much as changed, so I won’t offer any personal commentary. Here is what CyberAlert says about its BlogSquirrel service: It claims to be “today’s most thorough, practical and cost-efficient blog searching and monitoring service to ‘clip’ blogs.”

CustomScoop’s BuzzPerception: According to CustomScoop (host of Media Bullseye), it combines monitoring and analysis: “Comprehensive blog monitoring and analysis to help clients better understand and manage their brand perception online.”


As a smart man once twittered — “forum mining is a tough nut to crack; it’s the deep, unsexy social web stuff that’s oft influential AND overlooked…” — discussion forums and boards are more important than blogs in social media monitoring in many ways. You can obtain so much feedback and trend information on companies, issues and industries by monitoring and participating. And, unlike blogs, you have only a few places to look.

Awhile ago, I had a post about a number of vertical forums and boards. Now, without time-consuming, in-depth searching, you can use board-focused search engines to find, review and monitor them.

“BoardReader was developed to address the shortcomings of current search engine technology to accurately find and display information contained on the Web’s forums and message boards.” (Personal/Local note: It was developed by some U of Michigan people! Go Blue!)

Twing (courtesy of the aforementioned “smart man,” aka Mike Manuel):
“Our intent is to enable you to quickly find highly relevant communities and discussions pertaining to your interests, as well as keep you informed on the latest trends influencing communities.”

“Omgili is a specialized search engine that focuses on ‘many to many’ user generated content platforms, such as, Forums, Discussion groups, Mailing lists, answer boards and others.”

Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter what tools we use — clients/employer just want quality, cost-effective results. However, it sure is nice when the marketplace sees enough demand to develop tools to make our respective jobs easier and more effective.

See a need, fill a need.

This article originally appeared on Mike’s Points, reprinted with permission.

Mike Driehorst is messaging strategist and leads social media activities for Hanson Inc., an interactive communications and video production firm in Ohio. Hanson’s focus is on developing and implementing the strategy to cost effectively drive positive online, on-screen and on-site experiences for clients’ customers, prospects, partners and other stakeholders. Mike blogs about PR, marketing, journalism and related topics at

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