Social media has the amazing ability to connect us with people and conversations we might otherwise have never known existed.

It’s pretty incredible what we can learn from social media. But with all the content out there—an absolute deluge of thoughts and ideas—how do we find what is most relevant to us?

Continuous social media monitoring is critical for organizations to stay on top of the conversations surrounding their brand.

It also helps those managing brands to engage the right audiences and influencers to tell their story. But where does one begin monitoring? Let’s start with the basics, the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of social media monitoring.

Finding the right influencers and audience to track appears a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be that painful. Brainstorm some issues important to your brand, and search for related keywords and topics to see what people are talking about. Monitoring key conversations will inform on who the influencers are in your industry, and can help you target your content and engage the right audiences.

Determining what is worthwhile to monitor and what types of searches to run will be the biggest benefit in getting good results. Monitoring things like:

  • Your company or brand’s name and variations of it (even potential misspellings), as well as names of your products
  • Your slogan
  • Key words and phrases to describe your industry
  • Your competitors
  • Frequently used industry hashtags

Keep an eye on these topics to see how they change. You could discover more conversations with key words or hashtags that offer additional insight and can help you inspire future communications strategies.

Well… as often as your schedule allows, of course! One of the most groundbreaking aspects of social media is how quickly things can update and change. You never know when trending topics will change, or where the conversations will lead. Keeping regular tabs on the landscape will allow you to change direction when you need to and stay relevant to your audience.

There are a lot of social networks out there, and it seems that new ones emerge all the time. It’s important to tap into the ones you feel are most relevant to your audience. Know your target demographic and research the networks members of that community use the most.

The benefits of monitoring are numerous. You have the chance to know in real-time what people are saying about your brand. This can help with crisis communications, can allow you to offer quick customer service, and can just help bring more credibility to your brand as you reach more audiences.

There are a number of monitoring tools that allow you to watch several social networks and conversations at a time, saving you the hassle of pulling this data manually and logging into several networks and websites separately. There are free tools and paid tools. The important thing is to figure out what data you need, and then do your research to determine which tool is best for you and your team.