La da da da… hey hey hey… goodbye.

Social media monitoring. There are so many people who say they do it and there are many vendors that say they offer it. The secret? Many of them don’t.

As I put my thoughts together, Jay-Z’s “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” was speaking to me. The fact is, I know some of these people. Or they know me. Saying what I am about to say isn’t politically correct. This might offend my political connects.

I received an email from someone at a “social media monitoring” company with some pretty big organizations listed among their clients. It doesn’t matter who they are because they aren’t the only one. But, the emails we exchanged help illustrate the problem.

They wanted me to write a 10-20 page ebook on “how to engage online communities” for $2,000. I asked them what they meant by online communities. Was it actual, structured online communities? Or was it Twitter, Facebook, etc.? Some mix?

The answer? While they understand that my “specialty” is online forums, the ebook needs to “focus” on “Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.” That’s what a short ebook about “online communities” needs to focus on. Now, in my sleep, I could have written them some throwaway Twitter ebook, cashed the check and gone on my way. But, I just can’t do that. The best way to explain is to share the message I sent.

Hello [name],

Thank you for your message.

It isn’t so much that forums are my specialty as it is that if you don’t understand forums, your understanding of “social media” will always be limited. Forums and structured online communities are where the deepest engagement in the social web takes place. There are a lot of mediocre social media people out there and, often times, the difference between mediocrity and something greater is understanding more than just Facebook, Twitter, etc. If you are monitoring social media and aren’t monitoring forums and online communities, you aren’t really monitoring social media – just a few selected platforms. You are missing a great deal of the conversation. I notice that you have [big banking company] among your clients. Have you told them about this?

Honestly, if I write something for you, it won’t be something gimmicky that lasts for a few retweets. I’ve been in this space for 12 years and I’ll be here for a lot longer. I want to write things with staying power. What I would be comfortable with is writing how to build community on the social web, talking about the principles for engaging on spaces you don’t control (like independent online communities) and spaces you have limited control over (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) and the importance of having a homebase that you do control. To do so, I’d want complete, unquestioned editorial freedom. That is what Skimlinks gave me when they sponsored “Monetizing Online Forums.” They paid me, I wrote and they had to publish what I wrote, without edits. If the company who pays me to write can influence my writing, that impacts my integrity and credibility, which is bad for everyone.

Assuming that you are still interested, could you send me some links to previous ebooks that you have released in this fashion? I’d like to take a look at them.

I appreciate your time and interest.



The response? No examples. Suffice to say, they were no longer interested in me writing for them. Which is cool. Understandable even. What I wrote wasn’t politically correct. It’s like Kanye West interjects on “D.O.A,” as Jay is tearing through people: “that’s too far!” It’s too far, it’s too much. It makes people uncomfortable.

People don’t want to hear that their “social media monitoring” isn’t monitoring social media. If it is only monitoring public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and similar platforms, it’s not monitoring social media. It’s monitoring a handful of select platforms and probably missing a majority of the conversation. Comprehensive social media monitoring means all of those platforms and it means structured, hosted online communities. Before anyone says “oh, but we have Google Alerts,” I mean online communities prioritized on an equal level to Twitter and Facebook. They are no less important. They are all “social media.” If you want to know when your brand is mentioned on Twitter, you should want to know when it is mentioned on an online community.

The data shows how important this is. For example, if you count a huge bank among your clients, and 90% of conversations about banks occur in forums and online communities, doesn’t it border on dereliction of duty not to make that a priority? Don’t you have a responsibility to make sure their focus is not on what you think is hot or cool, but where the conversation actually takes place? The “focus” on Twitter, Facebook, etc. is out of hand. This isn’t some pro-community thing, this is pro-social media as a whole.

Don’t make the mistake of segmenting the importance of social media platforms by what you hear is cool, what you think is cool or what is easy and hard. That’s not how the conversations take place. People can be funny when they see I’ve written books on “forums” and how they separate that from the “relevant” platforms (in their mind) and decide what I may or may not understand. When you understand forums and online communities, Twitter is easy. I don’t need to talk about Twitter to demonstrate this. I don’t stay on Twitter all day talking about how I’m on Twitter all day. That sounds silly to me. Diversify. If you’re legitimate, this is how you prove it to me.

If you aren’t monitoring independent online communities with the same vigor that you monitor Twitter, I don’t want to hear that you “monitor social media.” I have to kill that to keep it one hundred.

This isn’t going to be a popular post. This is practically assault with a deadly weapon. But, I want people to feel threatened. They’re tweeting too much. Echoing too much amongst themselves about how much they get social media. This is the death of their social media comfort zone.

Moment of silence.