Why, What and How to Monitor

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FIR On Strategy with Andrea VascellariThis is part of a series of posts that explores the “Adaptive Digital Strategy Framework” , an operative guide that I created to plan, execute and manage online strategy programs more effectively and efficiently. Each of post of this series comes with an audio podcast in which you will find the audio version of the post with additional audio commentary about the discussed topics. The name of the podcast is “FIR On Strategy with Andrea Vascellari”.

It all starts with monitoring and listening, I’m sure you heard that before. But what should we monitor exactly? Why it’s so important and how can we do it? Let’s start our journey by looking at something that I often see overlooked by organizations.

Internal vs External Monitoring

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say “monitoring”? The natural answer for most people is “social buzz”, “ competitors” or other external factors. Internal factors are not something we instinctively think of but they are as important as the external ones. What I’ve noticed is that organizations put a lot of emphasis on analyzing external threats and opportunities but they often fail to pay the same level of attention to internal strengths and weaknesses. In this and in upcoming posts we will explore both internal and external monitoring. We will also understand how to translate these insights into valuable assets that can help us craft a more solid strategic communication plans.

External monitoring

Why it’s important?

It’s vital to identify the relevant discussions that your target audience is having about you or the industry in which you compete and to define the most appropriate channels for communication with particular stakeholders.

What to monitor?

Here’s something to start with…

  1. Your organization/company name
  2. Brand and product names
  3. Names of key people in your organization
  4. Competitor names
  5. Competitor brand and product names
  6. Names of key people in competitor organization
  7. Your most recent marketing, advertising and pr campaigns
  8. Your tagline
  9. Industry keywords
  10. Accurate and topic-specific keyword queries

I’m sure you got the idea. Feel free to keep adding more to the list based on the industry and sector (private/public) you work in.

How to monitor?

There’s a countless number of monitoring tools out there but, at least in my opinion, not enough clarity about how to use them. Here’s the monitoring methodology I use:

1) Be specific: Start by being as specific as possible because trying to monitor “everything” will just end up having a negative impact on quality of your monitoring. Narrow it down just to what’s necessary.

Example: If you start by monitoring “Google related searches” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a look at the bottom of the page after you perform a search on Google) you will understand soon that you can’t monitor them all. So try to focus even more and reduce the number of keywords/searches identifying which are the most frequently used (Google Trends is a great, and free, tool that can help you do exactly this).

2) Categorize: When you monitor a lot of data it’s important to make it easy to digest and analyze. Dividing what you are monitoring in sub categories will help you a lot.

Example: If you are monitoring your competitors and you throw them all in one unique category, it’s going to be difficult for you to understand which alert is more or less relevant. Creating sub-categories i.e. top 5 or top 10 competitors, emerging competitors, etc. will help you evaluate and give the right priority to the various alerts that are coming in to your monitoring dashboard/tools.

3) Select the right tools: These are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing the right tool/s.

  • Check your budget: Are you just looking at free tools or you have a budget? How much can you invest?
  • Project’s life: Are you looking for an ongoing monitoring solution or you just need something for a single campaign?
  • Mobility: Do you need to access your monitored data from a desktop or you need to have mobile access, too? Does the tool offer you this option?
  • Access: How many people will need to use the monitoring tool? Do they use it at the same time? Does the tool offer multiple accounts? Can you give different level of access to team members based on what they need to monitor?

4) Frequency: I strongly recommend to have an ongoing monitoring of external factors – Yes, weekends included. You never know when something will generate a crisis, like you don’t know what real-time or news-jacking marketing opportunities may arise. The ears and eyes of an organization must be open 24/7.

Ok, now you can go ahead and decide which tool/s better meet your needs. You still don’t know where to start from? Have a look at this great list of tools that Pam Dyer has put together, I’m sure it will help.

Internal monitoring

Why it’s important?

It helps determine whether the organization’s staff is prepared adequately to function properly at any given point in time. Keep in mind that here we are not talking about monitoring the performance against the defined KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) – we will talk more about this in upcoming posts when we will explore the KPI/measurement framework.

What to monitor?

You aim at creating a good, or a better, digital strategy plan right? So focus on digital, you are a digital strategist. You will have to work with other managers, of course, but you don’t have to look at every other department of the organization. Sure you have to work in synergy with them, but your area of expertise and your responsibility is “digital”, and that’s why you are going to focus on it.

You have to ensure that the staff has the digital knowledge and a reasonable level of confidence to conduct successfully all the operations necessary to achieve the goals.

Start by understanding:

  1. How familiar is your team/s with social media (If tomorrow we will decide to call it something different than “social media” – yesterday it was web 2.0, today is social media, tomorrow will be “something else” – just check how familiar your team is with these new channels and communication technologies).
  2. How well do they understand social media interactions and its implementation in business.
  3. What is the level of expertise in creating high quality content for online communication on a regular basis.
  4. If they have the skills to develop online multimedia content (i.e. videos, audio, etc.).
  5. How well do they understand the more technical DNA of online communications (i.e. SEO – Search Engine Optimization, etc.).
  6. What is their overall expertise in Internet marketing and online PR.
  7. How creative they are.
  8. How busy is their working schedule and what’s their level of motivation.
  9. What is their attitude towards change.
  10. How fast they can learn new skills and new concepts.

…and then, like for the external monitoring, feel free to keep adding more to the list.

How to monitor?

1) Run internal audits: Over the years I tested a large number of solutions for internal monitoring. From basic sampling techniques to more advanced sentiment analysis. I came to the conclusion that automation and algorithms have not displaced (yet) the quality and accuracy of human analysis. This is why audits are my tool of choice for internal monitoring. Sure, it takes time to analyze the data but the results you get are very helpful to define more accurate internal objectives, to plan the necessary trainings to bring the staff up to speed and to understand what needs to be done to keep everybody motivated to operate effectively.

2) Frequency: Don’t forget to keep monitoring with a certain frequency. It could be monthly, quarterly, annually or after trainings. The frequency can change depending on your industry and on the typology of projects you work on. The important thing is that you don’t check these factors once and then you leave them behind. Monitor, observe and analyze any change which may occur over time, I’ve seen too many projects failing because it wasn’t paid enough attention to internal dynamics or to how prepared and motivated the staff was to deliver the expected results.

Your thoughts?

What do you think? Is there something missing or something that you would like to add? How do you monitor? Do you have a different perspective? Let me know in the comments.

Andrea @vascellari
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