External Monitoring

Lol, at the title: “external monitoring.” It feels like a business school way of saying stalking.

Okay, okay, enough of that (although I may have my next blog idea). First, I want to start by explaining the framing. External monitoring is what often happens when a team sits down to think about their competition. That is what’s normal and what’s taught in business/marketing classes. However, sometimes, that scope is too limiting:

  • Your competition might not yet/no longer exist.
  • Sometimes you need to look outside of industry examples to identify trends and new ideas.
  • Consider the focus of your work . . . maybe it makes more sense to do a comparator analysis.

When doing external monitoring, consider whether you should be looking at the competition or if a view of the overall landscape provides better insight for your purposes. A comparator matrix is very similar to a competitor. Still, it will be up to your team to determine what attributes are most valuable for comparison and then identify those organizations for analysis. Both are useful; it’s just important to be thoughtful about why you are conducting this analysis and how to best achieve your goals.

Random protip – build a list of key terms early. Play with those words to see what comes up and what exclusionary terms you may need to add. This list will change over time – but keep your list of phrases handy and archive iterations as necessary. Going back to see the evolution of terms can be very illuminating.

Now let’s look at a selection of tools/resources.

News – Google News/Alerts – Free

Relatively simple and easy to set alerts up and do a quick headline scroll with Google. However, neither tool is likely to deliver the precision you may need.

There are filters that can be applied to a Google News search that are helpful, and I recommend it for a simple headline search. But using this to create a detailed competitor/comparator analysis would take an extraordinary amount of time and may still leave behind valuable information in the search.

These tools are best used for one-off searches, not detail work.

Social Media – Different Platforms

I don’t want to go too deep into the tools but instead focus on techniques on platforms that can provide insights. Don’t just scroll through content and hashtags.

Twitter – Check out and build lists. Instead of following every account on the platform, Twitter allows you to create lists and curate a feed of accounts of your choosing. If you have a company account, check and see if/what lists the account is on, as well as your competitors and comparators.

Instagram (and Facebook) – Both have done a reasonably good job removing some search features (for obvious reasons), but one thing to keep in mind is that you can see the pictures accounts are tagged in. Go through those tags. Are most tags coming from people or other organizations? Is there a hashtag that trends on Insta, particularly for this topic? Can you see if there are partnerships with other organizations?

Outside of using clever onsite tricks, there are paid options that are extremely thorough (shoutout Talkwalker), and also free tools, or tools that are free for a limited scope. (Examples: Hootsuite, Nexalogy, Tweepsmap). Use some tool. The social media sites have too much data to distill down manually.

All of the above – Monitoring Software – Costly

This is where those keywords I mentioned will come in handy. And depending on your choice of software – they may need to be translated into Boolean.

Monitoring services are the best way to get a roundup of articles. Depending on your service, broadcast clips may also be available. I would encourage users to look beyond the metrics of impressions and circulation numbers. Expand and consider reach (from publication type to region), shares and syndication of articles, and where these mentions are coming from (pitching, paid media, etc.).

For monitoring to be helpful, keywords, metrics, filters, etc. need to be checked and updated regularly. How regularly depends on your industry and need. Still, suppose you only update once or twice a year. In that case, you’re probably missing much information and not being as
effective as possible.

If you’re interested in understanding external monitoring better and have a need for help getting it done, reach out, and let’s chat.