Organizations need to be fully aware about their reputation and their campaigns’ online presence in order to design and create both persuasive messaging and a strategic online outreach plan. With there being hundreds of online outlets to monitor, the only way to amass and sort through the sea of information provided is through online tools that do the work for you. This paper will discuss two of these tools – Addictomatic and SocialMention — and how they work, their strengths and weaknesses, and the strategies to use the tool for advocacy purposes.
Addictomatic is an online monitoring tool that aggregates various sources of news and information into one online dashboard. The system is pretty simple and the interface easy to understand, even for those unaccustomed to doing online research or outreach. Once on the homepage, a campaigner can enter their campaign’s name or topic into the search box. Afterward, Addictomatic begins to crawl through various online portals for any mentions of that search term. For instance, if one was to enter “gay marriage” into the search box and click on “create,” Addictomatic will bring up all tweets on Twitter, videos on YouTube, blogs created on WordPress, and many other selections that have “gay marriage” somewhere in their description or post. Once finished, Addictomatic aggregates how much or how little coverage there is on “gay marriage” in the online arena by parsing it out in different buckets for every social media, news or search outlet.
There are many strengths to Addictomatic as an online monitoring tool when used for a campaign’s communication strategy. The first is the ease of use. As mentioned, the only action a user must do to begin the process is enter in the topic they wish to aggregate, click “create,” and Addictomatic does the rest. This is incredibly important for budding organizations that are not familiar with monitoring campaigns and the ways to find information. This feeds into the second strength, which is Addictomatic’s inherent ability to save any campaign the time of having to scour the Internet for mentions of their campaign, one site at a time.
Also, Addictomatic allows its users to customize the landing page in various ways. The first way is by choosing the areas of the Internet a campaign wishes to monitor by selecting the “Available Sources” tab at the top of the screen and selecting those outlets that campaign cares most about. As mentioned previously, this includes the most used social media tools – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – to blog platforms like WordPress and even search engines like Bing.com. Addictomatic even allows campaigns to view results from social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Digg. Once a campaign chooses the outlets they wish to monitor, that campaign can then order the way Addictomatic displays the results by dragging and dropping the results boxes in the user’s preferred order.
However, while it is a powerful tool to monitor the online landscape, Addictomatic does leave some room for improvement. For one, when a user clicks on “more results” under a particular result – say, Twitter – Addictomatic directs the user out of its website to Twitter to see more results instead of keeping it within the same interface. This can become cumbersome to switch between browser windows versus keeping the user within the same tool. Instead, Addictomatic should show the results within the same site, providing a “Return to Results” link back to the original dashboard. Addictomatic also does not let one save their results; it only allows you to bookmark them in your social media accounts. This can be a tedious process if one wishes to track how the mentions have changed over time. Therefore, a suggestion for the tool would be for them to allow users to create an account which would save their search terms and setting. This would also allow a campaign to see how the results have changed over the course of their search and if there are more mentions.
SocialMention, like Addictomatic, is also an aggregator of content as it relates to a particular topic or issue. As described on the website, “It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc.” Just like Addictomatic, a campaign can enter a search term – the name of their organization or the issue they advocate for – and SocialMention will bring up the results. The tool also allows you to choose the outlets you wish to search in on its homepage, or search through all of them if the campaign wishes to do so. This flexibility is great if an issue advocacy campaign has been targeting a particular social media outlet over others.
However, unlike Addictomatic, SocialMention takes monitoring online outlets to another level by providing important metrics a campaign to use to its benefit, namely: (1) Strength – the likelihood that the search term has been mentioned in social media; (2) Sentiment – the ration of positive to negative comments about that particular search term; (3) Passion – how often advocates would be discussing a issue or campaign; and (4) Reach – measure of range of influence, or how often a campaign is mentioned in the online arena. These metrics help an issue advocacy group know on a basic level how it needs to position itself and a quick snapshot on what it needs to work on regarding these particular metrics.
SocialMention also has other beneficial features, too. One, the tool helps an organization know how many mentions about their campaign are positive, neutral, or negative, and then aggregate results based on those parameters. This is good to find out not only what has been said about your organization or issue, but also who online are the most vocal about your issue. This allows advocacy organizations to engage with these individuals – regardless of stance – and invite those individuals in a meaningful dialog and taking the communication to a 3-dimensional level. Secondly, SocialMention aggregates the top users of the term or campaign name, including the most-used hashtags in Twitter. This is extremely important for an organization as they can incorporate these terms/hashtags into their online political strategy and target their messages accordingly. SocialMention also allows users to download statistics – sentiment, top keywords, top users, and top hashtags – for campaigns to have on hand for when developing their next social media outreach plan. And, third, SocialMention allows you to create daily alerts on your search terms, emailing you the results and allowing you to more easily track your influence online.
SocialMention does have a few drawbacks in its implementation. While the monitoring tool does allow its user to organize the feed based on type of media by choosing that media in the top navigation, it does not allow the user to be more granular and choose a specific outlet within that media. For instance, if you choose “microblogs,” SocialMention shows the aggregate of mentions within Facebook and Twitter. However, an issue advocacy group cannot segment the results down to just one or the either. This can make the interface difficult to use when trying to target specific social media.
Another drawback is in how SocialMention defines, “positive,” “negative,” and “neutral” mentions of particular key words, making that functionality less-than perfect. While it does offer help canister some mentions appropriately, most end up falling in the “neutral” category, meaning an organization still must sift through those results with a keen eye when looking to create conversations online.