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 Cluetrain Manifesto. 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 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.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.