20 free tools to evaluate social media

With all the resources this story provides, you’ll want to bookmark it. We promise.

These tools are not for measurement, but instead evaluation. They will give you some form of meaningful data to use in reports—plus they don’t cost anything.

This is by no means an extensive list. Others exist, but even a few of them together will provide you with meaningful intelligence.

Here they are:

1. Alexa.com

Gives you stats on websites, including global rank, country rank, number of sites linking in, and good basic audience data, including demographics.

2. Amplicate

Like a lot of services, Amplicate operates a “fermium” model. A quick search, which will give you a “hate” vs. “love” snapshot for a brand, is free. Pay $19 and you get a year’s worth of data. And for $199 you can download various industry reports.

Amplicate also has a blog with useful information. For example, apparently half of online chatter about Foursquare in 2011 was negative.

3. Board Reader

Board Reader will search for mentions across forums (including sites like Quora) and will also churn out a chart based on mentions over time.

4. Blogscope

Along with companies like Radian6 and Lithium, the Canadian research firm Sysomos is one of the giants in professional sentiment analysis. Sysomos originated from the University of Toronto research and some of that is still live on Blogscope.

We’ve had periodic problems connecting to the site, but when it’s live, the site is good for a free service. The charts it produces aren’t pretty, but they are useful.

5. Facebook Insights

This should be standard for anyone who works in social media. Free to access for any page admin, Facebook Insights provides an in-depth picture of fans’ interactions with your page.

It enables you to post content at the most optimum time and identify the content your fans engage with most. It also gives a pretty accurate demographic breakdown. Knowing where your fans come from and what they do on your page when they get there allows you to tailor your strategy more effectively.

6. Follower Wonk

Follower Wonk makes sense of a person’s Twitter feed. It is useful in giving the equivalent of the Facebook “friends of friends” metric. You can dissect a Twitter feed to see what type of users they reach in terms of followers and influence.

You start with 150 credits, with every search costing 30 to 40 credits (the idea being that after that you pay).

7. Feed Compare

If a blog runs its RSS feeds through the Google-owned Feedburner—which many do—you can then run them through Feed Compare to look at subscriber numbers, which is arguably a more useful metric than visitors as this measures engaged users who subscribe to a blog.

8. Google Insights

One that is easily overlooked is Google’s Insights tool. This is not only useful in tracking brands, but also sector specific areas and how they work across different regions.

(For example, cheese vs milk vs butter in the UK.)

9. How Sociable

As with many of these services, How Sociable wants you to subscribe (starting at $19 a month). But a free search will give you a range of influence metrics across different social networks—useful if you track over time, or are doing a quick competitive search.

10. Ice Rocket trends

In addition to running a blog and news search engine, Ice Rocket has a trends tool. That allows you to compare a number of search terms, giving you a basic graph of how they compare in share of voice.

11. Klout / Peerindex / Kred

These are the three main sentiment-scoring systems. Klout is trying to establish itself as the industry standard, while Kred is the newest entrant and one that shows a lot of promise.

Services like Klout do have flaws—which I’ve explored more—but Klout and Peerindex are useful for the ability to create lists that can be public or private. Essentially you can set up a league table of brands across a certain industry sector and track their scores over time.

12. Mention Map

A great visual tool, Mention Map tells you the people a Twitter user speaks to the most. Good for tracking the influencers of influencers.

13. Social Mention

This is an excellent free social search engine with basic analytics, including sentiment and top keywords. I recommend it.

14. Statbrain

Often you will want to estimate the traffic of a site where you’ve been featured. Statbrain will give you an approximation of how many weekly visitors any site gets.

15. Statigram

With Instagram becoming a top-tier social network, there will be a greater need to analyze the site’s activity. Statigram, a free service with a number of different elements, allows you to view Instagram images via your browser, and set up a custom URL to direct people to (for example, http://statigr.am/bmibaby).

You can manage your followers and collect useful data, including information about the type of engagement your posts receive, your most committed followers, and the times of day to post.

16. Timely

When’s the best time to tweet to hit the optimum number of followers? Timely gives you the answer. A more sophisticated service that also looks at Facebook and provides data on influencers is Crowd Booster, which comes in at $20 a month for 10 accounts.

17. Twitter Counter

Another free service with premium features, Twitter Counter tracks your Twitter follower count over time. Prices start at $15 a month for data on retweets and mentions.

18. Tweetreach

As the name says, Tweetreach will tell you the number of people who, in theory, saw your tweet. It also provides the most influential Twitter members for a given term. The first 50 results are free, making it useful to get a real-time snapshot of activity. If you want a more in-depth report, that will cost you $20.

19. Trendistic

Trendistic tracks Twitter trends over time. You can also embed a code to have a chart change dynamically on your site.

20. Visual.ly

Visual.ly is a kind of do-it-yourself infographics service. In Visual.ly labs, there is a tool to compare your Twitter profile against someone else’s, but this can just as easily be used for brands.

Finally, it important to remember that consistency and tracking is important—you will only get the best out of them if you use them regularly. For example, Klout, gives you the ability to benchmark yourself against your peers and track progress on a weekly basis to see if you are improving.

As a result, choose a handful of the above tools and stick with them.

Dirk Singer is head of Rabbit, a social media agency in London. A version of this story first appeared on the blog Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics.


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