Free social media Listening tools

The great promise of the Internet is that we can instantly access encyclopedic experiences, opinions, insights, lessons, and data sets — the sum total of human wisdom in two clicks.

Imagine if we could hear from and have direct knowledge from our customers and prospects on topics that matter to them. Better yet — imagine if you could get to this mother lode anonymously, without having to actually see or engage these people, hear them whine, or see their bad haircuts and off-beat fashion choices. How great would that be?

The idea that "everything is a conversation" was first articulated in the Now, years later, a bevy of free tools exist that instantly plumb social networks by scraping their feeds to reveal the authentic ongoing conversation and lay bare the themes that characterize consumers’ popular, political, or personal agendas, which incubate cultural phenomena, influence popular tastes, or drive brand marketing.

The promise is simple — type in the topic. These tools reveal tweets, posts, comments, and blog entries in seconds. Some offer insight into timing, influence, virility, and trending topics.

You still have to dig into the details to get context and to understand trends over time, but these quick snapshots can be useful for optimizing social engagement, monitoring the competition and/or developing resonant content.

Test drive these 20 free tools to see what I mean…
and Tweriod.

And while none of them is foolproof, using several to address real-time intelligence gathering or to monitor the same topics in the social sphere can yield impressive insight and potential competitive advantage.

As a dedicated student of social media, I can vouch for the wisdom, opinions, and accurate information that emerge from social communities. And who knows? Just maybe, free tools like these will help us get a little closer to accessing the complete font of human wisdom.

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Popular Q&A

Will Facebook replace [Insert social media tool here]?

I’ve just joined Facebook. I like it. I’ve made all the same friends that I have on other social networking sites like Ning and tools like Twitter. But there’s a big difference – Facebook has broader penetration, beyond the technorati (with a small t). Certainly in terms of monthly traffic it outshines most social media tools. Now that Facebook is allowing all-comers, I’m wondering how it will impact the use of those other services.

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