It's no secret that there are a massive number of paid social media monitoring services out there. They offer great social media analytics tracking, reputation management, the ability to view top influencers, and countless metrics and data sets.
But many small businesses, startups and nonprofits don't have the luxury of a large social media marketing budget.
Reputation management is critical at all levels, and allows you to understand who is talking about your brand and where that chatter is talking place. At the least, you should use Google Alerts to monitor the brand's mentions across the Web. Moving past that, there are a few options in between Google Alerts and paid services.
Here are six, completely free social media monitoring tools that allow brands of any size and budget to better plan, track and analyze their social media channels.
Addict-o-matic provides a snapshot of a brand's impact across the social Web. While it's far from comprehensive, it provides initial insights of who is mentioning your brand on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and up to 25 other news sites and search engines. It then processes and aggregates all that information, and displays it as a single Web page.
2. Social Mention
Social Mention takes Google Alerts to the next level. The site monitors your brand's mentions from across the social Web, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. You can get the data through its website, an RSS feed, or have it sent directly to your email.
3. Ice Rocket
Ice Rocket allows brands to track mentions and targeted keywords through blogs, images, the Web, social media sites and relevant news. It also has a feature to create graphs of trending topics/keywords for a visual representation. Additional services include a blog tracker and RSS feed builders.
Topsy in its most basic form is a real-time social search engine. It breaks down search into four areas: Web, photos, tweets and experts. This can come in handy when you want to see how far your reach and audience extends. There is also a trending feature, which analyzes the current trending topics.
Unlike the other four services, Backtweets is exclusively for Twitter. Simply put, it measures the reach of a single Twitter message. It's a way to analyze which influencers mention and retweet your tweet.
There is also a pro version, which provides comprehensive Twitter graphs, reach statistics, Google Analytics integration, and influencer lists.
Wordle creates word clouds that visualize any website, blog and Twitter stream. The biggest words are the most prominent words on the blog. There are various uses for Wordle, including visually comparing your blog to a competitor's.
Jessica Malnik is a PR/marketing coordinator, social media specialist, videographer and avid blogger. She writes on her personal blog and contributes to Social Fresh, where a version of this article originally ran.