Tuning in to Twitter

Companies are using social media sites to listen in on every mention of their brands

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Hotels and airlines were among the first industries to recognize the value of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, monitoring them to respond to angry customers. Increasingly, companies are taking the tactic to a new level, trying to listen in on every mention of their brands—tracking as many as 150 million sources—for a real-time gauge of what people think of their offerings, competitors and industry trends.

This month, Nielsen and the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. launched a tracking service in Canada called NM Incite. (In a recent analysis of the film industry, for instance, it identified the Toronto International Film Festival as the most talked about this summer, with 14,000 social media mentions compared to 9,000 for the rival Venice festival). ComScore recently introduced a rival service called Social Analytix. A lot is at stake for firms in this domain. According to eMarketer, ad spending on social media is growing 20 per cent year over year, and is expected to hit US$1.7 billion this year.