Monday, July 13, 2009

Viralheat Redux: Real-Time Social Media Monitoring for Everyone

About a year ago I had the opportunity to look at Viralheat, a media monitoring service that at the time was focused on real-time analysis of trends in online video services such as Hulu. Viralheat was good stuff and ahead of its time in many ways, though positioned as a high-end service aimed at a fairly narrow audience. It was interesting, then, to see recently the evolution of Viralheat into a more broadly based real-time trend monitoring service that covers a wide array of social media outlets and regularly updated Web sites and that can be yours to use for as little as $10 a month.

Viralheat allows you to choose key words and phrases and to track key statistics on how frequently they are popping up as fresh mentions in today's real-time publishing environments. You can get summary stats for cross-site mentions or drill down into trends found in specific online services. Viralheat's graphs are highly reminiscent of those found in Google Analytics - a possible exit strategy in the making? - and the interface as a whole has matured into a very well-designed tool that groups information into very easy-to-digest summary of key metions of terms. I like especially the three-tab summaries that form the body of Viralheat's content, which aggregate mentions in separate tabs for messages, websites and videos. This really helps you to get a sense of these three very distinct types of influence and to be able to use Viralheat as a high-power aggregation service that can trump many other online aggregation tools for ease of monitoring.

While many of the summary statistics are basically just tallies and percentages, one key tool in Viralheat is a color-coded summary of positive, neutral and negative sentiment discovered for a chosen term. In a screen grab provided by Viralheat this statistic revealed that although the new Bing search engine from Microsoft had strong mentions in social media, videos and Web sites over a recent week, more than 86 percent of these mentions were rated with neutral sentiment - in other words, most people weren't waxing strongly about the new service but were instead just spreading the word about it. This type of take can help to separate perceived buzz from mere volume quite rapidly.

Taken in sum with the other statistics Viralheat is offering a strong basic workbench of media analytics that almost anyone can afford to use to understand how their products, services and brands are resonating moment-by-moment through the countless number of online media outlets that are the front lines to true market influence. It was only a year or so ago that such types of services were used mostly by major ad agencies, corporations and PR firms to track the performance of trends in online media services. Now, thanks to highly scalable cloud computing services, good and essential monitoring can be used by any size organization to understand trends over an even wider range of services than those used by traditional monitoring services.

Most importantly, by covering the waterfront of the most popular message-oriented online social media services, Viralheat can tap into trends in the highly distributed world of social media publishing in which many trends take form and influence opinions well before they are packaged in traditional media outlets. If you've been thinking that you need to be able to monitor social media more effectively for your organization but you don't know where to begin, you list of excuses has become much shorter.
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