[Source: This article was published in searchengineland.com By Awario - Uploaded by the Association Member: Robert Hensonw]

Boom! Someone just posted a tweet praising your product. On the other side of the world, an article featuring your company among the most promising startups of 2019 was published. Elsewhere, a Reddit user started a thread complaining about your customer care. A thousand miles away, a competitor posted an announcement about a new product they are building. 

What if you (and everyone on your team, from Social Media to PR to Product to Marketing) could have access to that data in real time?

That’s exactly where social listening steps in.

What is social media listening?

Social listening is the process of tracking mentions of certain words, phrases, or even complex queries across social media and the web, followed by an analysis of the data.

A typical word to track would be a brand name, but the possibilities of social media monitoring go way beyond that: you can monitor mentions of your competitors, industry, campaign hashtags, and even search for people who’re looking for office space in Seattle if that’s what you’re after.

Despite its name, social listening isn’t just about social media: many listening tools also monitor news websites, blogs, forums, and the rest of the web.

But that’s not the only reason why the concept can be confusing. Social listening goes by many different names: buzz analysis, social media measurement, brand monitoring, social media intelligence… and, last but not least, social media monitoring. And while these terms don’t exactly mean the same thing, you’ll often see them used interchangeably today.

The benefits of social listening

The exciting thing about social media listening is that it gives you access to invaluable insights on your customers, market, and competition: think of it as getting answers to questions that matter to your business, but without having to ask the actual questions.

There’s an infinite number of ways you can use this social media data; here’re just a few obvious ones.

1. Reputation management.

A sentiment graph showcasing a reputation crisis. Screenshot from Awario.

This is one of the most common reasons companies use social listening. Businesses monitor mentions of their brand and products to track brand health and react to changes in the volume of mentions and sentiment early to prevent reputation crises.

2. Competitor analysis.

Social media share of voice for the airlines. Screenshot from the Aviation Industry 2019 report.

Social media monitoring tools empower you with an ability to track what’s being said about your competition on social networks, in the media, on forums and discussion boards, etc. 

This kind of intelligence is useful at every step of competitor analysis: from measuring Share of Voice and brand health metrics to benchmark them against your own, to learning what your rivals’ customers love and hate about their products (so you can improve yours), to discovering the influencers and publishers they partner with… The list goes on. For more ways to use social media monitoring for competitive intelligence, this thorough guide to competitor analysis comes heavily recommended.

3. Product feedback.

The topic cloud for Slack after its logo redesign. Screenshot from Awario.

By tracking what your clients are saying about your product online and monitoring key topics and sentiment, you can learn how they react to product changes, what they love about your product, and what they believe is missing from it. 

As a side perk, this kind of consumer intelligence will also let you learn more about your audience. By understanding their needs better and learning to speak their language, you’ll be able to improve your ad and website copy and enhance your messaging so that it resonates with your customers.

4. Customer service.

Recent tweets mentioning British Airways. Screenshot from Awario.

Let’s talk numbers.

Fewer than 30% of social media mentions of brands include their handle — that means that by not using a social listening tool you’re ignoring 70% of the conversations about your business. Given that 60% of consumers expect brands to respond within an hour and 68% of customers leave a company because of its unhelpful (or non-existent) customer service, not reacting to those conversations can cost your business actual money.

5. Lead generation.

Social media leads for smartwatch manufacturers. Screenshot from Awario.

While lead generation isn’t the primary use case for most social listening apps, some offer social selling add-ons that let you find potential customers on social media. For the nerdy, Boolean search is an extremely flexible way to search for prospects: it’s an advanced way to search for mentions that uses Boolean logic to let you create complex queries for any use case. Say, if you’re a NYC-based insurance company, you may want to set up Boolean alerts to look for people who’re about to move to New York so that you can reach out before they’re actually thinking about insurance. Neat, huh? 

6. PR.

Most influential news articles about KLM. Screenshot from Awario.

Social listening can help PR teams in more than one way. First, it lets you monitor when press releases and articles mentioning your company get published. Second, PR professionals can track mentions of competitors and industry keywords across the online media to find new platforms to get coverage on and journalists to partner with.

7. Influencer marketing.

Top influencers for Mixpanel. Screenshot from Awario.

Most social media monitoring tools will show you the impact, or reach, of your brand mentions. From there, you can find who your most influential brand advocates are. If you’re looking to find new influencers to partner with, all you need to do is create a social listening alert for your industry and see who the most influential people in your niche are. Lastly, make sure to take note of your competitors’ influencers — they will likely turn out to be a good fit for your brand as well.

8. Research.

Analytics for mentions of Brexit over the last month. Screenshot from Awario.

Social listening isn’t just for brands — it also lets you monitor what people are saying about any phenomenon online. Whether you’re a journalist writing an article on Brexit, a charity looking to evaluate the volume of conversations around a social cause, or an entrepreneur looking to start a business and doing market research, social listening software can help.

 

3 best social media listening tools

Now that we’re clear on the benefits of social media monitoring, let’s see what the best apps for social listening are. Here are our top 3 picks for every budget and company size.

1. Awario

Awario is a powerful social listening and analytics tool. With real-time search, a Boolean search mode, and extensive analytics, it’s one of the most popular choices for companies of any size.

Awario offers the best value for your buck. With it, you’ll get over 1,000 mentions for $1 — an amazing offer compared to similar tools. 

Key features: Boolean search, Sentiment Analysis, Topic clouds, real-time search.

Supported platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, news and blogs, the web.

Free trial: Try Awario free for 7 days by signing up here.

Pricing: Pricing starts at $29/mo for the Starter plan with 3 topics to monitor and 30,000 mentions/mo. The Pro plan ($89/mo) includes 15 topics and 150,000 mentions. Enterprise is $299/mo and comes with 50 topics and 500,000 mentions. If you choose to go with an annual option, you’ll get 2 months for free. 

2. Tweetdeck

TweetDeck is a handy (and free) tool to manage your brand’s presence on Twitter. It lets you schedule tweets, manage several Twitter accounts, reply to DMs, and monitor mentions of anything across the platform — all in a very user-friendly, customizable dashboard. 

For social media monitoring, TweetDeck offers several powerful ways to search for mentions on Twitter with a variety of filters for you to use. You can then engage with the tweets without leaving the app. 

TweetDeck is mostly used for immediate engagement — the tool doesn’t offer any kind of analytics.

Key features: User-friendly layout, ability to schedule tweets, powerful search filters.

Supported platforms: Twitter.

Free trial: N/A

Pricing: Free.

3. Brandwatch

Brandwatch is an extremely robust social media intelligence tool. It doesn’t just let you monitor brand mentions on social: the tool comes with image recognition, API access, and customizable dashboards that cover just about any social listening metric you can think of. 

Brandwatch’s other product, Vizia, offers a way to visualize your social listening data and even combine it with insights from a number of other sources, including Google Analytics.

Key features: Powerful analytics, exportable visualizations, image recognition.

Supported platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Sina Weibo, VK, QQ, news and blogs, the web.

Free trial: No.

Pricing: Brandwatch is an Enterprise-level tool. Their most affordable Pro plan is offered at $800/month with 10,000 monthly mentions. Custom plans are available upon request.

Before you go

Social media is an invaluable source of insights and trends in consumer behavior but remember: social listening doesn’t end with the insights. It’s a continuous learning process — the end goal of which should be serving the customer better.

Categorized in Social

[Source: This article was published in gritdaily.com By Faisal Quyyumi - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jason bourne]

recent study conducted by Yext and Forbes shows consumers only believe 50 percent of their search results when looking up information about brands.

Yext is a New York City technology company focusing on online brand management and Forbes, of course, is a business magazine. Over 500 consumers in the United States were surveyed for the study.

FINDINGS

57 percent of those in the study avoid search engines and prefer to visit the brand’s official website because they believe it is more accurate.

50 percent of those surveyed use third-party sites and applications to learn more about brands. 48 percent believe a brand’s website is their most reliable source.

20 percent of “current and new customers trust social media sites to deliver brand information,” according to Search Engine Journal. 28 percent of buyers avoid buying from a certain brand after they have received inaccurate information.

WHY DON’T THEY BUY?

A few reasons why consumers do not buy from a brand is due to unsatisfactory customer service, excessive requests for information and if a company’s website is not easy to navigate.

Mar Ferrentino, Chief Strategy Officer of Yext said: “Our research shows that regardless of where they search for information, people expect the answers they find to be consistent and accurate – and they hold brands responsible to ensure this is the case.”

The study says customers look at a brand’s website and search engine results for information. This information includes customer service numbers, hours, events, and a brand’s products.

A BETTER WAY TO MARKET ONLINE

The three best practices that brands can use for a customer to have a seamless experience is to maintain, guarantee and monitor.

The company should maintain present-day information and complete accuracy on its website along with an easy-to-use search function. The study also tells brands “guarantee searches return high-quality results by ensuring that tools like Google My Business and other directories have updated and correct information”. Lastly, a brand needs to be active and respond to questions and posts online on social media, corporate websites and review sites.

Companies are doing their best to keep up with consumer expectations for an authentic experience.

Many people use third-party sites such as Google, Bing or Yelp because they are able to compare and categorize numerous products at once.

CONSUMERS HESITATE

New users and consumers are often hesitant and require time to build trust with a company, whereas current customers have confidence in the brand and help by writing positive reviews. 45 percent of customers “say they are usually looking for customer reviews of brands of products when they visit a third-party site” (Forbes).

Reviews determine whether consumers will avoid buying a product or if they want to continue interacting with the vendor.

True Value Company, an American wholesaler, is changing their marketing strategy to adapt to a more Internet-based audience. “We’ve made significant technology investments – including re-platforming our website – to back that up and support our brick and mortar stores for the online/offline world in which consumers live,” said David Elliot, the senior vice-president of marketing.

Despite branding on social media becoming more popular, it does not fall in the top 50 percent of most-trusted sources for brand information.

A 2008 study done by Forrester Research, an American based market research company, shows how much consumers trust different information sources. The sources range from personal emails to Yellow Pages to message board posts.

The most trusted is emails “from people you know” at 77 percent; followed by consumer product ratings/reviews at 60 percent and portal/search engines at 50 percent. The least trusted information source is a company blog at only 16 percent.

Corporate blogs are the least dependable information source to consumers as these should be the most reliable way for companies to express and share information with their audience.

The study shows the significance of a brand’s online marketing strategy. It is vital for companies to make sure their website looks like a trustworthy source.

Companies don’t need to stop blogging — but instead, have to do it in a trustworthy and engaging manner.

Want to read the full report? Click here.

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was published in thegroundtruthproject.org By Josh Coe - Uploaded by the Association Member: James Gill] 

Last week ProPublica uncovered a secret Facebook group for Customs and Border Patrol agents in which a culture of xenophobia and sexism seems to have thrived. The story was supported by several screenshots of offensive posts by “apparently legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor based in El Paso, Texas, and an agent in Eagle Pass, Texas,” the report’s author A.C. Thompson wrote.

This is only the most recent example of the stories that can be found by digging into Facebook. Although Instagram is the new social media darling, Facebook, which also owns Instagram, still has twice the number of users and remains a popular place for conversations and interactions around specific topics. 

Although many groups are private and you might need an invitation or a source inside them to gain access, the world’s largest social network is a trove of publicly accessible information for reporters, you just need to know where to look. 

I reached out to Brooke Williams, an award-winning investigative reporter and Associate Professor of the Practice of Computational Journalism at Boston University and Henk van Ess, lead investigator for Bellingcat.com, whose fact-checking work using social media has earned a large online following, to talk about how they use Facebook to dig for sources and information for their investigations. Their answers were edited for length and clarity. 

1. Use visible community groups like a phonebook

 While it remains unclear how Thompson gained access to the Border Patrol group, Williams says you can start by looking at those groups that are public and the people that care about the issues you’re reporting. 

“I have quite a bit of success with finding sources in the community,” says Williams, “people on the ground who care about local issues, in particular, tend to form Facebook groups.” 

Williams uses Facebook groups as a phonebook of sorts when looking for sources.  For example, if a helicopter crashes in a neighborhood, she suggests searching for that specific neighborhood on Facebook, using specific keywords like the name of local streets or the particular district to find eyewitnesses. Her neighborhood in the Boston area, she recalls, has its own community page.

 Williams also recommends searching through Google Groups, where organizations often leave “breadcrumbs” in their message boards.

 “It’s not all of them,” she notes about these groups, “but it’s the ones that have their privacy settings that way.”

 After speaking with Williams, I spent a few hours poking around in Google Groups and discovered a surprising amount of local and regional organizations neglected their privacy settings. When looking through these group messages, I had a lot of success using keyword searches like “meeting minutes” or “schedule,” through which documents and contact information of “potential sources” were available. While you can’t necessarily see who the messages are being sent to, the sender’s email is often visible.

This is just one example of a group with available contacts

1 Search 22Southwest Baltimore22 Redacted

2 Search Meeting Minutes Redacted

3 Redacted 22Meeting Minutes22 Results

4 Meeting Minutes

2. Filter Facebook with free search tools created by journalists for journalists

Despite privacy settings, there’s plenty of low-hanging and fruitful information on social media sites from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, as a 2013 investigation by New Orleans-based journalism organization The Lens shows. The nonprofit’s reporters used the “family members” section of a Charter School CEO’s Facebook page to expose her nepotistic hiring of six relatives.

 “But if you know how to filter stuff… you can do way more,” van Ess says.

  In 2017, van Ess helped dispel a hoax story about a rocket launcher found on the side of a road in Egypt using a combination of social media sleuthing, Google Earth and a free tool that creates panoramas from video to determine when the video clip of the launcher was originally shot. More recently, he used similar methods as well as Google Chrome plug-ins for Instagram and the help of more than 60 Twitter users to track down the Netherlands’ most wanted criminal

He says journalists often overlook Facebook as a resource because “99 percent” of the stuff on Facebook is “photos of cats, dogs, food or memes,” but there’s useful information if you can sort through the deluge of personal posts. That’s why he created online search tools graph.tips and whopostedwhat.com so that investigators like himself had a “quick method to filter social media.”

For those early-career journalists who’ve turned around quick breaking news blips or crime blotters for a paper’s city desk, might be familiar with the twitter tool TweetDeck (if not, get on it!), Who posted what? offers reporters a way to similarly search keywords and find the accounts posting about a topic or event. 

Here’s how it works: you can type in a keyword and choose a date range in the “Timerange” section to find all recent postings about that keyword. Clicking on a Facebook profile of interest, you can then copy and paste that Facebook account’s URL address into a search box on whopostedwhat.com to generate a “UID” number. This UID can then be used in the “Posts directly from/Posts associated with” section to search for instances when that profile mentioned that keyword. 

These tools are not foolproof. Often times, searches will yield nothing. Currently, some of its functions (like searching a specific day, month or year) don’t seem to work (more on that in the next section), but the payoff can be big.  

“It enables you essentially to directly search somebody’s timeline rather than scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and having it load,” says Williams of graph.tips, which she employs in her own investigations. “You can’t control the timeline, but you can see connections between people which is applicable, I found, in countries other than the States.”

 While she declined to provide specific examples of how she uses graph.tips—she is using van Ess’s tools in a current investigation—she offered generalized scenarios in which it could come in handy. 

For instance, journalists can search “restaurants visited by” and type in the name of two politicians. “Or you could, like, put in ‘photos tagged with’ and name a politician or a lobbyist,” she says. She says location tagging is especially popular with people outside the US. 

Facebook’s taken a lot of heat recently about privacy issues, so many OSINT tools have ceased to work, or, like graph.tips, have had to adapt. 

 3. Keep abreast of the changes to the platforms 

The trouble with these tools is their dependence on the social platform’s whim–or “ukase” as van Ess likes to call it. 

For example, on June 7, Facebook reduced the functionality of Graph Search, rendering van Ess’s graph.tips more difficult to use.

According to van Ess, Facebook blocked his attempts to fix graph.tips five times and it took another five days before he figured out a method to get around the new restrictions by problem-solving with the help of Twitter fans. The result is graph.tips/facebook.html, which he says takes longer than the original graph.tips, but allows you to search Facebook much in the same way as the original. 

Even though the site maintains the guarantee that it’s “completely free and open, as knowledge should be,” van Ess now requires first-time users to ask him directly to use the tool, in order to filter through the flood of requests he claims he has received. 

I have not yet been given access to the new graph.tips and can’t confirm his claims, but van Ess welcomes investigators interested in helping to improve its functionality. Much like his investigations, he crowdsources improvements to his search tools. Graph.tips users constantly iron out issues with the reworked tool on GitHub, which can be used like a subreddit for software developers.  

Ongoing user feedback, as well as instructions on how to use van Ess’s new Facebook tool, can be found here. A similar tool updated as recently as July 3 and created by the Czech OSINT company Intel X is available here, though information regarding this newer company is sparse. By contrast, all van Ess’s tools are supported by donations. 

The OSINT community has its own subreddit, where members share the latest tools of their trade. 

4. Use other social media tools to corroborate your findings

When it comes to social media investigations, van Ess says you need to combine tools with “strategy.” In other words, learn the language of the search tool–he shared this helpful blog post listing all of the advanced search operator codes a journalist would need while using Twitter’s advanced search feature.

Williams also had a Twitter recommendation: TwXplorer. Created by the Knight Lab this helpful tool allows reporters to filter Twitter for the 500 most recent uses of a word or phrase in 12 languages. The application will then list all the handles tweeting about that phrase as well as the most popular related hashtags.

Bonus: More search tools 

If you want even more open-source tools honed for journalistic purposes, Mike Reilley of The Society of Professional Journalists published this exhaustive and continuously updated list of online applications last month. Be warned though: not all of them are free to use.

Categorized in Investigative Research

 [Source: This article was published in cnbc.com By Karen Gilchrist - Uploaded by the Association Member: Edna Thomas]

What are the most useful skills to have in today’s shifting work environment?

It’s a question that’s on the minds of employers and employees alike, but LinkedIn claims to have the answer.

In a new “Future of Skills” report, the professional networking site has drawn on data from a regional subset of its more than 600 million members to identify what it sees as the “rising skills” of the workforce.

Focusing specifically on the Asia Pacific region, the report highlights 10 skills that have experienced “exponential growth” over the past 5 years. That refers to both a surge in listings of those skills on members’ profiles and also an increase in demand from employers.

Typically, demand for those “rising skills” was three times higher than for other areas of expertise in the past 12 months, LinkedIn said. That’s a figure the company expects will rise further over the coming years, it added.

“These skills may be nascent now but will potentially see wide-scale adoption in the future,” the report noted.

Indeed, 42 percent of the core skills required for common occupations are expected to change by 2020, according to 2018 research from the World Economic Forum cited by the report.

Here are LinkedIn’s 10 rising skills in Asia Pacific and the jobs to which they are best applied:

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that uses machines to perform human-like tasks. As companies become more dependent on data, AI is playing an increasing role in their decision-making processes. Airbnb, for example, now uses visual recognition and machine learning to understand what photos are most attractive to potential guests.

Occupational applications:

  • Business analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Software engineer

Blockchain

Blockchain refers to a decentralized public ledger which stores a growing list of records, known as blocks. Blockchain has risen to prominence over recent years as the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, but it’s applications are wide-reaching. Today, the technology is used in sectors such as the law, security and even education.

Occupational applications:

  • Blockchain developer
  • Chief technology officer
  • Consultant

Compliance

In an increasingly globalized world, businesses need to make sure they comply with the various regulatory and legal frameworks of each of the countries in which they operate. That has spawned a growing demand for compliance experts.

Occupational applications:

  • Chief data officer
  • Compliance officer
  • Risk management officer

Continuous integration

In software engineering, continuous integration refers to the regular merging of all developers’ work onto one shared platform. The aim of the role is to help detect problems early on in the development process.

Occupational applications:

  • DevOps engineer
  • Full-stack engineer
  • Software engineer
Continuous integration
A young female Asian employee writes notes on a glass window in the meeting room.
Kelvin Murray | Taxi | Getty Images

Frontend web development

Frontend web development is the process of converting data into the graphical interface, or web pages, seen by internet users. In today’s increasingly digital world, that process is required by businesses across most industries. However, LinkedIn highlighted opportunities in Asia Pacific’s retail sector, where e-commerce sales are expected to reach $3.5 trillion by 2021.

Occupational applications:

  • Frontend developer
  • Full-stack engineer
  • Web developer

Gesture recognition technology

Gesture recognition technology aims to close the gap between humans and devices by teaching computers to read human movements. The global gesture recognition market is expected to be worth $30.6 billion by 2025, and the banking, higher education and advertising sectors are jumping aboard.

Occupational applications:

  • Mobile engineer
  • Researcher
  • Software engineer

Human-centered design

The human-centered design aims to put user experience at the forefront of all design decisions. It is an approach for which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was famed, and one that will be increasingly in demand in the Asia Pacific as product development ramps up, according to LinkedIn.

Occupational applications:

  • Graphics designer
  • Product designer
  • User experience designer
Human centered design
skynesher | E+ | Getty Images

Robotic process automation (RPA)

Robotic process automation is an emerging form of business process automation. Using robotics or artificial intelligence, the process aims to automate high volume, repetitive tasks. Examples of its use are in banking and telecoms, where transactions and customer complaint procedures can be automated.

Occupational applications:

  • Business analyst
  • Consultant
  • Robotics engineer

Social media marketing

Social media marketing is the use of social media to promote product and services. With social media adoption continuing to grow rapidly in Asia Pacific, businesses are increasingly using it to reach new and existing customers. Indeed, 74 percent say they believe social media marketing contributes to their bottom lines.

Occupational applications:

  • Digital marketing specialist
  • Marketing manager
  • Social media marketing manager

Workflow automation

Workflow automation is the process of automating manual processes based on pre-defined business rules. By automating repetitive, low skilled processes, businesses say they can free up employees’ time for more creative and higher skilled tasks.

Occupational applications:

  • Consultant
  • Project manager
  • Software engineer

Categorized in Online Research

[Source: This article was published in searchenginejournal.com By Matt Southern - Uploaded by the Association Member: Bridget Miller]

LinkedIn has released a list of professional skills that companies need most in 2019.

There are 50,000 professional skills in the world, according to LinkedIn data.

The company has combed through its data to determine the hard skills and soft skills that are most valuable this year.

“These are the skills your boss and your boss’s boss find most valuable, but have a hard time finding – and the skills that’ll most help you better serve your clients and customers.”

Those who are looking to improve their skill set this year could consider this data a starting point.

Most In-Demand Soft Skills

According to LinkedIn data, 57% of senior leaders today say soft skills are more important than hard skills.

Here’s what they need most and why:

  1. Creativity: Organizations most need creative employees who can conceive the solutions of tomorrow.
  2. Persuasion: The key to having a great product is persuading people to buy into it.
  3. Collaboration: As projects grow increasingly more complex, effective collaboration is becoming more important.
  4. Adaptability: An adaptable mind is an essential tool for navigating today’s ever-changing world.
  5. Time Management: Mastering time management today will serve you the rest of your career.

Most In-Demand Hard Skills

To no surprise, many of the most valuable hard skills are those that can be utilized in today’s increasingly digital world.

Here’s are the top 5 skills companies need most and why:

  1. Cloud Computing: Companies are desperately searching for engineers who have the skills to accommodate a shift toward the cloud.
  2. Artificial Intelligence: Data suggests that the age of AI has arrived.
  3. Analytical Reasoning: Companies are hungry for professionals who can make smart decisions based on vast arrays of data.
  4. People Management: Companies are shifting toward having leaders who can coach and empower others.
  5. UX Design: This is is the key to making a digital world work for humans.

Here are the rest of the most in-demand hard skills in order:

  • Mobile Application Development
  • Video Production
  • Sales Leadership
  • Translation
  • Audio Production
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Scientific Computing
  • Game Development
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Animation
  • Business Analysis
  • Journalism
  • Digital Marketing
  • Industrial Design
  • Competitive Strategies
  • Customer Service Systems
  • Software Testing
  • Data Science
  • Computer Graphics
  • Corporate Communications

LinkedIn measured demand by identifying the skills listed on the LinkedIn profiles of people who are getting hired at the highest rates. Only cities with 100,000 LinkedIn members were included.

Categorized in Social

 [Source: This article was Published in searchengineland.com - Uploaded by the Association Member: Patrick Moore]

Social media provides an enormous pool of insights into your market and competitors. These social listening tools bring those insights right to the surface.

People have always talked about brands and products. They’ve praised and complained about companies in the dining rooms, by the water cooler, over the phone. With the rise of social media, this previously intangible word-of-mouth has finally become measurable — and thus amplifiable — for businesses. Social media listening, the process of using a tool to monitor online mentions of a brand (or anything else), gives companies access to that data.

For this post, we’ve put together a list of 7 most robust social media monitoring tools to bring you real-time insights on your customers, market, and competition.

1. Awario

Awario is a relative newcomer to the social media monitoring and analytics scene. Its ambition is to make social media insights affordable for any brand, be it a startup, an international company, or a digital agency. With pricing plans starting at $29/mo, Awario offers Enterprise capabilities (from Boolean search to Sentiment Analysis to Share of Voice) included in every plan.

You can use Awario to monitor mentions of your brand, competitors, industry, or set up queries for the less obvious use cases. For instance, the app lets you identify guest blogging opportunities, discover content ideas, and find industry influencers to partner with. That’s where the tool’s flexible Boolean search mode comes in handy: it lets you create complex queries that will satisfy even the nerdiest of marketers.

On top of social media, Awario covers news, blogs, and the entire web to give you a holistic picture of your brand’s online presence.

Supported platforms

Twitter,  Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, news, blogs, the web.

Customer rating

  4.5/5 (Capterra).

Reviewers mention Awario’s affordability, Boolean search, influencer marketing capabilities, and excellent customer support as the main pros.

Pricing

There’s a free trial that lets you test Awario out before settling on one of its paid plans.

awario pricing 2

2. Brandwatch

Brandwatch is a suite of 3 tools for marketing and PR teams. Its Audiences product lets you find groups of people based on your targeting rules, such as demographic criteria and interests. It lets you better understand your customers by analyzing their social media posts and pinpointing what sets them apart from the general public.

Vizia is a visualization tool that lets you build custom dashboards based on Brandwatch data. Vizia also works with third-party tools, such as BuzzSumo and Google Analytics, to give you a comprehensive way to measure your marketing efforts.

The company’s social media monitoring tool is called Analytics. It comes equipped with image recognition, API access, and analytical dashboards that can be downloaded as PowerPoint presentations in a click.

Supported platforms

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Sina Weibo, VK, QQ, blogs, news, the web.

Customer rating

   4/5 (Capterra).

The tool’s users love its media coverage and customizable dashboards. The biggest con is its cost.

Pricing

Brandwatch offers 3 plans to choose from. There’s no free trial, but you can contact the team for a demo of the product.

brandwatch pricing

3. Hootsuite

If you aren’t looking for an in-depth social media monitoring tool, but would rather opt for something that offers publishing, collaboration, and monitoring features, Hootsuite is an excellent choice.

While the app itself doesn’t monitor sources beyond social media, it offers many useful integrations with tools like Brandwatch and Reputology for your reputation management needs. Some of those are free, while some need to be purchased as add-ons.

Supported platforms

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. More sources available via integrations.

Customer rating

  4.5/5 (Capterra).

Users love Hootsuite’s user-friendly layout and the fact that it supports all major social networks for scheduling.

Pricing

Hootsuite has a free trial that lets you play around with the tool before you jump on one of its three paid plans.

hootsuite pricing

4. Meltwater

Meltwater is an Enterprise media intelligence tool. While not a dedicated social listening solution (Meltwater also offers PR and social media management capabilities), it includes robust tools for monitoring mentions of your keywords across the Internet.

Meltwater’s strength is the analytics the software provides: it lets you create custom dashboards with metrics that matter to you, from audience demographics to the reach of the social media chatter around your brand.

Supported platforms

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, news, the web, broadcast.

Customer rating

 3.5/5 (Capterra).

The biggest pros mentioned by users are Meltwater’s coverage and powerful reports, with the main downside being its cost.

Pricing

Meltwater’s social media monitoring package is priced at $15,000/year. For more information, you’ll need to talk to the company’s sales team.

5. Talkwalker

Talkwalker is a perfect social media listening tool for big brands and agencies. Apart from providing you with the latest mentions of your brand and competitors, Talkwalker offers powerful analytics that let you spot trends in the buzz around your keywords. It goes beyond basic reporting by analyzing your audience’s demographics, occupation, and interests. It also builds powerful word clouds that let you identify hashtags that are most commonly used together with your keyword.

On top of tracking conversations across social media channels and the web, Talkwalker monitors print and TV mentions. Image recognition is also available in the Enterprise plan.

Supported platforms

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, blogs, news, the web, print, TV.

Customer rating

 4.5/5 (Capterra).

Customers mention Talkwalker’s ease of use, extensive coverage, and real-time alerts as the main pros.

Pricing

Talkwalker offers three subscription plans on their website.

talkwalker pricing

6. Tweetdeck

TweetDeck, owned by Twitter, is an all-in-one dashboard for your Twitter activity. It lets you schedule tweets, interact with your feed, manage your inbox, and track mentions of your company (or anything else) on the network.

While the tool’s social listening capabilities are limited to one social network, its search options are pretty impressive for a free app. You can add keywords in flexible formats, exclude certain terms, and filter results by country, language, or date. You can set up as many searches as you need and reply to tweets right from the dashboard by connecting your Twitter account to the app.

Supported platforms

Twitter.

Customer rating

 4.5/5 (Capterra).

Customers love TweetDeck’s column layout, multi-account support, and scheduling options.

Pricing

Tweetdeck is absolutely free.

7. Agorapulse

Agorapulse is another two-in-one social media tool: while the app primarily focuses on social media management, it also offers listening capabilities for selected social networks. Though Agorapulse doesn’t include web monitoring, it’s a great option if you’re looking for a scheduling app that will also notify you of social brand mentions.

On top of publishing and social media monitoring, Agorapulse lets you find influencers and streamline outreach and communication with the help of its inbuilt CRM.

Supported platforms

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube.

Customer rating

  4.5/5 (Capterra).

Users love the fact that Agorapulse combines social media management with social listening, the tool’s ease of use, and its excellent customer service.

Pricing

Agorapulse offers a free trial. After you try the tool, you can pick one of the four available subscription plans.

agorapulse pricing

Conclusion

Social media has become the place where consumers talk about everything — and that includes your brand. As more companies turn to social media monitoring for insights, social media monitoring tools are catching up and becoming more elaborate and affordable. However, don’t forget that the insights the tools provide aren’t everything — it’s the decisions you make and the actions you take based on those insights that will make your brand stand out.

 

 [This article is originally published in buffer.com written by Kevan Lee - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jeremy Frink] 

Update – we launched Pablo a new tool to create beautiful images for your social media posts in under 30 seconds

You can use Pablo right from the get-go, no need to login or create an account. Just quickly create amazing images super fast.

pablo

You can try out the first version of Pablo right now – no login required. Just head tohttp://bufferapp.com/pablo and give it a try!

We’d love to hear your thoughts about Pablo on Twitter, just hit us up @buffer and hope it makes creating images for your social media posts much easier for you.

Create an image with Pablo

Ok, back to the blogpost! 

Through experimentation and iteration, we’ve found that including images when sharing to social media increases engagement across the board—more clicks, reshares, replies, and favorites. In one experiment, retweets alone more than doubled for updates with images compared to those without.

Using images in social media posts is well worth trying with your profiles.

As a small business owner or a one-person marketing team, is this something you can pull off by yourself?

At Buffer, we create all the images for our blogposts and social media sharing without any outside design help. We rely on a handful of amazing tools and resources to get the job done, and I’ll be happy to share with you the ones we use and the extras that we’ve found helpful or interesting.

Got a favorite image creation tool? Please do share in the comments!

image tool

How to Create Images for Social Media – Tools

1. Canva – A start-to-finish design program perfect for non-designers

canva

Probably our most-used image tool at Buffer, Canva makes image creation super easy (especially for non-designers) with their premade templates, custom image sizes for every social media channel, drag-and-drop interface, cool fonts, and more. Most every original image you see shared from our social accounts was made in Canva.

Tip: If you know the exact dimensions of the image you want, create a custom size before clicking into any of the premade templates.

custom dimensions

Additional start-to-finish image tools:

2. Skitch – Screen capture and annotation

Skitch screenshot

Our go-to screenshot tool, Skitch pops up with a quick keyboard shortcut (Cmd+Shift+5 on Macs), then you can click and drag over the area you want to snip. We keep coming back to this tool because of the awesome and easy annotation features. You can circle things, point to things, blur things, and add text with just a couple quick clicks. A product of Evernote, Skitch lets you save and store all screengrabs into an Evernote folder of your choosing.

Tip: Use the blur feature anytime you’re sharing an image with your email address or personal details.

blurred skitch

Additional screen capture tools:

3. CloudApp – Fast and easy screencast GIFs

CloudApp

We use this tool a ton for our internal image sharing at Buffer. CloudApp lets you store images online and link to them quickly and easily for fast sharing. Their new Mac app—a free download—comes with even more advanced features like screengrabs and GIF creation. With the app open, you can press Cmd+Shift+6 to make a GIF video of anything you do on your screen.

Tip: Once the image creation is finished, CloudApp can automatically put the image URL onto your clipboard. Ask CloudApp for the download URL, and you can quickly paste and download whenever the image is ready.

gif notification

Additional screen capture GIF makers:

4. PowerPoint – Easy image software (meant for something else)

Presentation software might not be the first thing that comes to mind for image creation, yet there are a large number of amateur designers who get great use out of creating images via the templates and tools baked right into PowerPoint.

Think of slides as images. And then consider how easy it is to edit slides in PowerPoint. You can set photos as slide backgrounds, add text and colors, and place icons and graphics. When you save the slide in PowerPoint, choose to save as an image, and you’ll be set.

Tip: HubSpot offers some excellent starting templates for building infographics with PowerPoint. Here’s an example of what’s possible:

hubspot infographic

Additional full-featured image-editing software tools:

5. Easel.ly– Drag-and-drop infographic creation

Easelly

Easel.ly’s interactive layouts allow you to embed charts, photos, and more. You can get started with a prebuilt template (and then customize yourself) or you can go truly bare bones and build the entire infographic however you see fit. Easel.ly comes with a huge number of icons, shapes, and objects that you can drag-and-drop into your editor.

Additional infographic tools:

  • Infogr.am – Embed video, maps, charts, and more into your infographic
  • Visual.ly – Connect with professional designers to help with your project
  • Piktochart – Create custom infographics from scratch, or use a pre-made template

7. Placeit – Integrate your website or app inside cool stock photos

placeit - bufferblog

For creating beautiful images that feature your home page, blog, app, or service, Placeit provides some neat integrations with your web address and their photography and video. Choose a background from Place it's library, then upload a screenshot or give Placeit a URL to grab in order to insert your site into the image.

Placeit does the rest. You can download or embed your new creation anywhere.

Tip: The Interactive Video option at Placeit will embed your full website into the window, and users can scroll through the site just as if they were visiting the page in their browser.

8. Social Image Resizer Tool – Ideal image sizes for every social channel

image resize

There are a huge number of different sizes and aspect ratios that work best on different social networks. Twitter photos are best at a 2:1 ratio. Facebook prefers images to be more square. Pinterest and Google+ love vertical images.

You can keep this all sorted with a tool like Social Image Resizer. Upload your desired image, then choose from a huge drop-down list of options and places where you might like to use the image. You can move and scale the selected area to grab the optimal look for your image.

Here are the social networks that the tool supports:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

Tip: You can click and drag to create a custom image size as well. Image Resizer informs you of the new dimensions as you move and resize the borders.

Additional options for creating ideal images for different social networks:

9. Smush.it – Image optimization for file size and quick loading

smushit

We use a lot of large images on our blogposts and social media at Buffer. We could stand to benefit from a tool like Smush.it.

Choose a file, upload it to Smush.it, and the tool compresses the image into a more optimal file size. These optimized images load faster on the page and make for a quicker upload when sharing to social media.

Tip: Smush.it also comes in a handy WordPress plugin to compress and optimize every image you publish to your blog.

Additional options for optimization and compression tools

10. Recite – Create images from quotes

Some of our most shared a title="Introducing Daly by Buffer: Content That’s Easy to Find, Easy to Share—Wherever You Are" hr">co"tent suggestions and most popular social updates are quotes. You can take quotes to the next level by creating images from them. At Recite, simply enter your quote into the editor on the homepage, and choose a layout from the long list of templates.

The end result can be something like this:

recite-16833--608253535-3ia32

Additional tools to create images from text:

11. Page2Images – Full-page website grabber

If you’ve ever seen a web design that really grabbed you (and you happen to have a web design board on Pinterest or you share this kind of thing with your followers all the time), it’d sure be great to be able to grab the whole thing in one complete shot.

Enter Page2Images, a handy tool that takes a full-screen picture of a webpage and lets you easily download or add to Pinterest. There are a pair of bookmarklets that you can install by clicking and dragging the links to your bookmarks bar—one bookmarklet adds straight to Pinterest, and the other grabs the page as an image to download.

page2image

12. Photovisi – Collage maker

Image collages are big business for Instagram, and they’ve found their way to Twitter and Facebook, too. The latter two social networks have collage tools built in. If you’d like a little more control over the way your collages are handled, a tool like Photovisi would work wonders.

There’re many different templates to choose from, and you can customize not only the photos you use, but also any text, backgrounds, or graphics you wish to add to the collage.

collage options photovisi

Additional options for collage-making:

13. Over – Text onto photos

We’ve touched on how to turn text into images. How about sprucing up an image with text over the top?

The Over app for iOS and Android lets you choose any image on your device and customize with text, fonts, colors, and type sizes of your choosing. Here’s an example from the Over Instagram feed:

Over example

Additional options for adding text to images:

14. Infogr.am – Charts and graphs

Infogram chart and graph

When you write data-dense blogposts or research-backed articles, you might find yourself wishing to share data as an image. One of the best tools I’ve found for this is Infogr.am, which helps create infographics along with boasting a pretty robust charts and graphs editor.

You can choose the type of graph you wish to use and then edit the table cells and values directly from within Infogr.am.

Additional options for creating charts and graphs:

  • Google Drive
  • Excel

15. Aviary – Editing on-the-go from a mobile app

aviary screenshot

Aviary used to be a popular desktop image app, and not it’s been rolled into the suite of Adobe products and is available for other apps to use (for instance, MailChimp uses image editing by Aviary).

There’s still a handy mobile app for iOS and Android to help with image editing on-the-go.

In addition to the typical filters and effects you’d expect to find on a mobile image app, Aviary offers stickers and frames, drawing tools, memes, and crop, rotate, and straighten tools.

Additional options for designing images on mobile:

How to Create Images for Social Media – Resources

16. Iconfinder – Free, searchable icons

Discover the perfect icon for adding to your social media images. Search by keyword, then refine by format, style, size, and more. Apart from the premium icons, there is a huge selection of free-with-attribution icons to use.

iconfinder

17. Blurgrounds – Simple, beautiful blurred backgrounds

An offering from Inspiration Hunt, this set of 120 blurred backgrounds—free to download and use—comes in a huge range of colors and styles.

preview4

18. Noun Project – Huge library of icons in a minimal, glyph style

If you’ve read much of the 99U blog (one of our favorites!), you’ve likely noticed their cool icons that make for the cover image on their posts. Each one is made with Noun Project icons! The Noun Project library contains an incredible number of visual images that represent tons of words in the English language. With most available as a free download, the Noun Project makes attribution very clear and easy.

noun-project

19. Subtle Patterns – Patterned backgrounds for free download

These pattern backgrounds are intended for websites, but I like to grab them for quick-and-easy image backgrounds, too. Find a favorite and screengrab the tiled background preview from the site. Then upload and add to your image editor.

Subtle_Patterns

20. Pattern Library – Fun, free backgrounds

Like Subtle Patterns, the Pattern Library is also website-first. You can do the same trick here with the backgrounds you enjoy. Screengrab and use in the images you create. The Pattern Library offers full-tiled background previews to make screen grabbing easy.

patternlibrary

21. Colourlovers – Color palette and pattern inspiration

One of the top web resources for colors, you can find any shade, tint, or hue here. And the community has placed these awesome colors into palettes and patterns.

colour-lovers

22. Omnicore’s Social Media Cheat Sheet – Guide to optimal image sizes

A quick reference for the right sizes to use in any social media post, the Omnicore guide covers all the vital details—updates, headers, avatars, etc.—and the Omnicore team refreshes the graphic constantly to stay current on the latest changes.

social media image size facebook

23. Pictaculous – Create a palette from any image

Let’s say you know the image you want to include in your graphic, and you’d also love some hints on which colors to use for frames, backgrounds, text, and icons. Upload the picture to Pictaculous, and you’ll get your answer. The tool studies your image and returns suggested palettes you can pick from.

pictaculous

Bonus: Stock photos – 53+ free image sources 

You may find yourself needing some free imagery to use as well. We came up with an extensive list—more than 50 options—of free image sources where you can find professional images for free. A few of my favorites:

How we made the main image for this blogpost

Would it be helpful to see an example of all this together?

The main image for this post (see above or below) is one that I built from scratch using a handful of tools listed here in the post.

Image Tools

Here’s a quick rundown of how I made it:

1. Open a new design in Canva

I chose the Twitter Post template, which is 1,024 pixels wide and 512 pixels tall. This is the ideal 2:1 aspect ratio for Twitter images to show up in the feed without a crop. The size also works well for Facebook posts, so long as you mind the the left and right margins of your image, which may be cut off when Facebook resizes things.

canva new design

If you make this type of image a lot, you can make a copy of an old image and then work from that specific template inside Canva.

2. Search Icon Finder for an icon that best represents the post.

I love using flat icons for these, so I start with a keyword search in Icon Finder and then refine the search by flat styles. Download the highest resolution version of the icon you choose, in .png format. Add attribution to your post at this time, too.

iconfinder image icon

3. Drag the downloaded icon into Canva and place into your design.

Uploading in Canva is as simple as dragging from your desktop or folder and dropping into the Canva editor. Once the icon is uploaded, you can click on it from the left menu, and it will be placed automatically into your design. Resize and center at the top of the image.

4. Click into the Grids options, and select the full-image photo.

Adding this to your design will automatically make this design element expand to the full size of your design.

search grids canva

5. Find a blurred background to download and add to your design.

I often aim to find one that matches the colors of the icon in some way. I’ll download the image, then upload into Canva. To add it as a background to your design, you can drag and drop onto the full-image template you added in the last step. Canva will recognize automatically that you’re trying to add a background.

6. Move the background to the back.

This is all about layers. By moving your background to the back, your icon will be on top and viewable.

back canva

7. Add text and customize.

From the left menu, select two text boxes. One will be the main heading, the other will be the subhead. I like to vary fonts with a sans serif (no extra stems on letters) and a serif (stems). In the graphic here, I’ve used Roboto bold as the heading font and Satisfy as the subhead font.

To make a font bold or centered, you can click on the down arrow in the font dialog box to find the advanced options.

font settings

8. Download

Last step! When you’re finished, click the Download or Link button, and you’ll get a dialog box for downloading as an image (yes!) or a pdf (great for slideshares and presentations and ebooks). You can also share the link with a friend for collaboration or edits.

publish image canva

Your turn

I’ve been inspired to learn a lot about design and visuals on the Buffer blog, and I’ve got quite a ways to go! I’m so grateful for a large number of amazing design tools out there for creating images for social media.

Which are your favorite design tools for creating social media images?

I’d love to hear which ones you use! For even more time savings on social media, give Buffer a try for free! (You’ll save up to a hour a day and drive more traffic, too!)

 

[This article is originally published in bloggingwizard.com By David Hartshorne - Uploaded by the Association Member: Joshua Simon]  - 

Are you looking for an all-in-one solution to manage your social media presence?

Perhaps you need a smarter way to manage multiple profiles and networks? Or maybe you need to improve team collaboration?

Whatever your situation, managing social media requires the right strategy and the right tools.

And while there are thousands of social media tools, not all of them can be classed as management tools. For instance, Buffer is great for scheduling, but it doesn’t manage network engagement.

This post focuses on social media management tools that include these three key elements:

  • Engagement – A single dashboard where you can monitor all your social network messages and engage with your audience
  • Scheduling – A system of scheduling and recycling your content to each social network
  • Reporting – A method of analyzing and reporting how your content performs on each network

These tools offer other features as well, like running social contests, but that’s not in our scope. However, we have included information on the pricing structure and the number of networks covered by each platform.

Let’s get started.

1. Sendible

sendible Social Media Management Tools BW

Sendible makes it easy to engage with your audience, monitor your brand and track results from one dashboard.

Note

This is the best all-round social media management tool we’ve tried – it’s currently what we use here at Blogging Wizard.

Engagement

The Priority Inbox brings all your social messages from multiple networks and profiles into a single stream. From there you can identify important messages and take action. Only the unanswered messages remain in the inbox.

Scheduling

Sendible lets you schedule your content either individually or in bulk. Everything is stored in the interactive calendar, so if anything needs adjusting you can drag-and-drop the content accordingly. Once you discover your best-performing content, you can recycle it with repeating schedules.

Sendible also takes care of content curation. The content recommendation engine analyzes posts already shared on social media and suggests the best content most likely to generate high follower engagement.

There’s also an RSS Auto Posting feature so you can publish relevant quality content to social networks at regular intervals throughout the day from your blog and other favorites.

Reporting

Sendible has a range of pre-designed templates to help you create in-depth social media reports for your clients and team members. The ready-to-go social media reports provide an instant snapshot of your social activity. Alternatively, you can create your own report by choosing from over 250 modules. Once your reports are looking good, you can arrange to send them via email on a regular basis.

Networks

With Sendible you can connect to most social networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and more. On the advanced plan, you can even publish directly to WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr.

Pricing

Sendible offers a range of subscription plans based on the number of users and services that you want. They also offer a fully-customizable, white-label solution for larger teams and agencies. If you’re not sure what you’ll need, you can start with a 30-day free trial and then upgrade or downgrade as required.

  • Prices start from $29/month or $288/year (basic plan offers scheduling with re-queue functionality and a complete social inbox)

Get a 30-day free trial of Sendible Read Review

2. AgoraPulse

Agorapulse Social Media Management Tools BW

AgoraPulse is an easy and affordable social media management tool for teams and agencies.

Engagement

The social inbox is set up just like your email inbox so you can see what’s been reviewed and what needs your attention. AgoraPulse combines all your content in one place for all your profiles so you can reply, review, assign or tag. Check them off one-by-one, and your inbox will be clear.

You can take things one step further by setting up automated moderation rules to capture spam and assign questions to the right colleague.

Scheduling

AgoraPulse lets you schedule your content in advance with a pre-selected the date and time. Or you can program your posts to run once every hour/day/week/month. You can also take advantage of the queue function to share your evergreen content again and again.

Reporting

The detailed performance reports in AgoraPulse can save you loads of time compared to checking each social media account.

You can measure reach, engagement, response rate, conversation rate, community growth, and customer service. Plus you have the option to select your reporting date range; for example, last 30 days, last week, etc.

You can view your reports on-screen or download them to PowerPoint. And if you have clients you can add custom branding with the white-label option.

Networks

AgoraPulse works with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Pricing

AgoraPulse has a range of subscription plans for individuals and teams. Each plan can be customized by adding additional users or profiles rather than forcing you to pay for users and features you don’t need.

  • Prices start from $49/month or $468/year

Get a 14-day free trial of AgoraPulse

3. eClincher

eClincher Homepage Banner Social Media Management Tools BW

eClincher lets you manage multiple social media accounts, pages, and groups with one intuitive tool. It’s perfect for social media managers, businesses, marketing professionals, teams, and agencies.

Engagement

The Unified Social Inbox from eClincher collects all your social media messages and notifications in one place, so you can respond, thank, follow, or engage with your audience.

As soon as you log into eClincher, you’ll see how many pending notifications you have. Once you’ve answered a message, it disappears from your list so you can focus on the remaining messages.

If you prefer to monitor your social media activities in real-time, then the Live Social Feeds is for you. Inside you can see each of your connected social media profiles, pages, and groups. And from there you can like, comment, and reply, in one place rather than visiting each native platform.

Scheduling

eClincher gives you the ability to plan and schedule your posts, tweets, and pins to multiple social media accounts, profiles, groups, and pages. You can view the schedule as a smart calendar or standard list format.

If your scheduled post includes a URL, then eClincher automatically shortens it using the Google (goo.gl) shortener. There’s also a built-in image editor and integration with Canva to ensure your social imagery is eye-catching.

The Auto Post feature from eClincher lets you recycle your content via three types of queue:

  • Recycle Queue – Recycle your evergreen content
  • One-time Queue – Publish your posts once
  • End-date Queue – Recycle your queue content until a specified end date (great for campaigns).

As Neal Schaefer says:

It’s a killer feature for companies who have lots of evergreen content and want to share it on a periodic basis across a wide variety of social networks.

Reporting

eClincher combines the power of Google Analytics with its Social Analytics module in one dashboard so you can see how your social media activities impact your website traffic.

You can view and analyze the real-time performance of posts on your Facebook pages, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Plus you can analyze follower trends and brand mentions.

The customizable dashboard lets you drag-and-drop the reports and graphs so you can see the most important data. You also have the option to generate PDF reports from the dashboard. And agencies can take advantage of the white-label option to add company logos.

Networks

eClincher connects to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Blogger.

Pricing

eClincher has a broad range of subscription plans for individuals, teams, and agencies. There’s a 20% discount if you choose to pay yearly, and you can start with a 14-day free trial.

  • Prices start from $49/month

Get a 14-day free trial of eClincher

4. Hootsuite

Hootsuite Social Media Management Tools

The Hootsuite platform offers you the tools to manage all your social profiles from a single dashboard and automatically find and schedule effective social content.

Engagement

Hootsuite uses multiple Streams rather than an ‘inbox’ to manage engagement. You can set up streams for each social network to monitor its content. And you can use tabs to organize your streams into groups. In effect, you create your own dashboard. If you’re working in teams, you can assign posts to the right person, department, or region.

Scheduling

With Hootsuite’s Auto Scheduling you can maintain a 24/7 presence on social media. Once you have a content schedule, it’s easy to add new posts to fill the gaps. For instance, you can use the Hootlet extension to schedule posts as you surf the net. Or you can upload your content in bulk via a CSV file.

However you choose to add your content, you can always see your schedule at a glance either in a list or a calendar with daily, weekly or monthly views.

Reporting

Hootsuite comes with a default report showing your key metrics on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can take this to the next level by building customized dashboards or using templates to check on engagement.

Hootsuite lets you export your reports in a variety of formats including Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, and CSV. And for those of you managing teams, you can track their response and resolution performance on Facebook and Twitter.

Networks

Hootsuite connects with over 35 popular social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.

Pricing

Hootsuite has a range of subscription plans designed around the number of users and social profiles you want to connect. They also have a Limited Free Plan that’s designed for one user and includes Message Scheduling for three social profiles.

  • Prices start from $29/month or $228/year

Get Hootsuite

5. Sprout Social

sprout social Social Media Management Tools

Sprout Social is a leading social media management platform that provides engagement, publishing, analytics, and collaboration tools for teams of all sizes.

Engagement

Sprout Social has a Single Stream Inbox where you can manage all your messages in one place. You can manually mark completed messages and hide them from the inbox so that you remain focused on the current workload.

For teams, there’s the option to add custom tags to categorize messages, filter the inbox and share the workload. You can also see live activity updates in the inbox when a teammate is viewing or replying to a message, so there’s no chance of duplicating tasks.

Scheduling

Sprout Social allows you to schedule, queue and publish messages to each social network from their web app, browser extension, and mobile apps. Sprout’s ViralPost tool determines the best times to post your messages so you can maximize engagement.

The user-based publishing permissions let you set up team members to draft and submit messages, and then have team leaders or managers approve them. Using the shared content calendar you can view and manage social posts across multiple profiles, networks, and campaigns.

Reporting

Sprout Social provides an in-depth suite of analytics and reporting tools.

Their integrated network analytics allow you to view network, profile and message-level insights for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Sprout Social also tracks your team performance so you can measure overall and individual members’ responsiveness and engagement.

Distributing information to clients or management is straightforward with the presentation-ready reports that can be custom-branded and exported in CSV or PDF format.

Networks

Sprout Social integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Pricing

Sprout Social has four monthly subscription plans. Each plan rises in price according to the number of features. And on top of that, you pay for how many users you need. For example, if you required 4 users on the $99 Premium Plan it would cost $396 per month.

All plans include a 30-day free trial, and there’s a 10% discount if you prefer to pay annually.

  • Prices start from $59 per user/month or $637 per user/year

Get a 30-day free trial of Sprout Social

6. MavSocial

mavsocial Social Media Management Tools

MavSocial is a Social Media Management platform with a focus on visuals.

Engagement

MavSocial lets you engage with your audience across all your social networks from one convenient inbox. From its Social Inbox you can:

  • Track and monitor social conversations, messages, and notifications
  • Allocate team members to individual messages
  • View follower replies and comments by network or profile
  • Search, sort, and tag interactions
  • Post a reply, like, or retweet directly

Visuals are an important part of social media engagement. The MavSocial Digital Library lets you upload and manage your photos and videos, plus anything you purchase from their Stock Images Store.

There’s even a built-in photo editing tool where you can add filters and text overlays before posting your content.

Scheduling

With MavSocial you schedule your content through campaigns. You can create campaigns across one or many networks and view your schedule in the calendar. From there you can drag-and-drop content to change the publishing dates and times if needed.

You can reschedule your content by creating cyclical campaigns. For example, you could have campaigns for blog posts, quotes, promotions, and events. Either add your content once and let it repeat cyclically or create variations by modifying it.

MavSocial includes an RSS reader, so you can pull in your content as well as other favorite industry content, giving you ideas of what to schedule. And if you find something while browsing the net you can use the handy Chrome extension to add that into the calendar, too.

Reporting

MavSocial’s built-in social analytics lets you track the performance of your social content. The Reporting Dashboard displays visual data for engagement statistics, detailed follower insights, your top-performing posts, plus the best times for posting.

You have the option to export the graphical reports via PDF or download the data in CSV format. You can run the reports based on time, campaign, network, or individual post, so you know what’s working.

Networks

MavSocial supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr.

Pricing

MavSocial has several pricing plans starting with a free limited plan. The premium plan prices for professionals and agencies use features plus the number of social profiles and users, with the option to buy additional users if required.

  • Prices start from $19 per month

Get a 14-day free trial of MavSocial

7. TweetDeck

tweetdeck Social Media Management Tools

TweetDeck is a favorite Twitter management tool that was acquired by Twitter in 2011. It offers a more convenient Twitter experience by letting you view multiple accounts in one interface.

Engagement

Twitter describes TweetDeck as “the most powerful Twitter tool for real-time tracking, organizing, and engagement.”

It makes it easier to engage with your audience by using a series of customizable columns rather than a single Twitter timeline.

You can add columns that show all your mentions, direct messages, lists, trends, favorites, search results, or hashtags. Each column can be filtered to include or exclude words or tweets from users.

Scheduling

TweetDeck allows users to tweet messages immediately or schedule them for later delivery. If you manage multiple accounts through TweetDeck, you have the option to schedule Tweets for each of them.

You can make changes to a scheduled Tweet before it’s published, and you can also add images and GIFs to your message.

Reporting

TweetDeck doesn’t have any analytics and reporting, although Twitter is proposing to add that feature to a future premium version:

The premium tool set will provide valuable viewing, posting and signalling tools like alerts, trends and activity analysis, advanced analytics, and composing and posting tools all in one customizable dashboard.

Meanwhile, you can use the built-in Twitter analytics to track your performance.

The Home tab provides an overview of your activity featuring your Top Tweet, Top Mention, and your Top Follower.

On the Tweets tab, you can find metrics for every single one of your Tweets. You can see the number of Impressions, Engagements, and Engagement rate for each tweet.

The Audiences tab lets you track your follower growth over time and learn more about your their interests and demographics.

Networks

TweetDeck only supports Twitter.

Pricing

TweetDeck is a free tool and is available as a web app, Chrome extension or Mac app.

Get TweetDeck

8. Tailwind

tailwindapp Social Media Management Tools

Tailwind is a social media marketing toolkit for Pinterest and Instagram. It’s perfect for bloggers, small businesses, agencies, and large enterprises.

Engagement

Engagement on Pinterest is slightly different compared to Twitter and Facebook. People don’t comment as much, and Repins are more of an engagement signal.

To boost Pinterest engagement, Tailwind introduced its Tribes feature. (Note: It’s still in beta.)

Tribe lets you meet and grow with other marketers in your niche. You add your own content to a Tribe, and your tribe mates view, schedule, and share your content with their own audience. And as it’s a Tribe, you share the other content too. It’s a win-win.

Here’s what Social Media Manager, Andrea Jones, told me:

For Tailwind, I’ve found using tribes has slightly increased my repins. Overall, comments and replies are on a rapid decline on Pinterest. Community engagement on that platform mostly relies on repins.

Scheduling

Tailwind is packed with powerful features and shortcuts to help you schedule pins and posts each day.

Tailwind’s Smart Queue helps you pin and post at the best times, so your audience gets content when they’re looking for it. To start with, Tailwind recommends the best time when it knows people are active. But over time it evaluates the optimal time based on your history and audience engagement.

You can populate your schedule days or weeks in advance, by adding content in bulk from your desktop or mobile device. Tailwind also tracks your best performing content so you can reuse it again.

Reporting

Tailwind lets you track key performance indicators to evaluate if your marketing strategy is working. For Pinterest, you can measure followers, engagement trends, and virality by pin, board or category. (For Instagram, you can find influential followers and connect with them to broaden your reach.)

Tailwind also keeps you informed of progress with customizable reports and notifications via email.

Networks

Tailwind works for Pinterest and Instagram.

Pricing

Tailwind is priced per account, so if you want to use it for both Pinterest and Instagram, then you’d need two accounts. You can get a 33% discount plus unlimited scheduling if you purchase the annual plan. But there’s a free trial of 100 pins on Pinterest and 30 posts on Instagram to get you started.

  • Prices from $15/month per account or $119/year per account

Get Tailwind

Read our full review of Tailwind.

Conclusion

Each of the social media management tools reviewed here has its pros and cons. And there’s one thing for sure: what suits one person, won’t suit another.

Some people like the idea of an inbox to monitor and manage conversations, while others prefer multiple streams.

Some tools are better suited for teams and agencies, while others are ideal for solopreneurs and small businesses.

It’s important you choose the right tool for your situation and budget. And in some cases, that might mean not using any of these tools at all, even if it’s free. I’ve tried Hootsuite and TweetDeck previously and found myself overwhelmed by the amount of data on the screen.

A tool needs to help you, not hinder you.

Right now, I’m happy to use the native apps for Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, plus Tailwind for Pinterest.

Which social media management tool is the best fit for you?

To help narrow down your selection here are some different scenarios.

If you’re just getting started and want a free tool:

TweetDeck is a great option if you need a tool solely for use with Twitter, especially if you’re monitoring more than one account.

Alternatively, Hootsuite and MavSocial both have free plans with a decent amount of features.

If you have clients or need to manage a large number of social accounts:

SendibleeClincher, and MavSocial seem to work out the most cost-effective with large numbers of social accounts.

If you need robust team collaboration features that won’t break the bank:

Sendible and AgoraPulse both provide great team collaboration features. And they’re both cost-effective. Sendible feels more refined and easier to use in some areas, but AgoraPulse has the added benefit of Facebook apps for running social media contests.

Sprout Social has excellent team collaboration features, but costs can spiral out of control because their plans are priced per user. For example, on the $99/month plan, you’ll pay just under $400/month for 4 users.

If you’re a serious blogger/marketer and need a good all-around social media management tool that is cost-effective:

SendibleeClincher, and MavSocial all fit the bill.

Sendible has all the important features (even on their most basic plan) and feels very refined.

MavSocial is big on visuals and has plenty of features.

eClincher stands out when it comes to overall features and includes both the social media inbox, as well as streams. That said, it feels a little clunky.

If you need an effective tool to manage your Pinterest/Instagram accounts:

A lot of tools on this list support Instagram scheduling, but when it comes to Pinterest, the best tool is; Tailwind. Especially since they released their ‘Tribes’ feature which can help you get more visibility for your pins.

[This article is originally published in newyorker.com written By Ned Beauman - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jennifer Levin]

An open-source investigation is a tool anybody can use; as it spreads, it will inevitably mingle with the sort of delirium and propaganda that Eliot Higgins has always meant it to cut through.

On a recent afternoon in central London, twelve people sat in a hotel conference room trying to figure out the exact latitude and longitude at which the actress Sharon Stone once posed for a photo in front of the Taj Mahal. Among them were two reporters, a human-rights lawyer, and researchers and analysts in the fields of international conflict, forensic science, online extremism, and computer security. They had each paid around twenty-four hundred dollars to join a five-day workshop led by Eliot Higgins, the founder of the open-source investigation Web site Bellingcat. Higgins had chosen this Sharon Stone photo because the photographer was standing on a raised terrace, which makes the angles confusing, and used a lens that makes Stone appear closer to the Taj than she actually was. The participants, working on laptops, compared the trees and paths visible in the photo to their correlates on Google Earth.

Stone’s location on that day—the northwest corner of the Great Gate—may not have been of grave historical importance, but the participants were employing the same techniques that have underlaid Bellingcat’s news-making investigations into subjects such as the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, over Ukraine, and the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Army. When Higgins was profiled in The New Yorker, in 2013, he was still alone blogger calling himself Brown Moses, and the field of open-source investigation—the microscopic examination of publicly available material such as satellite images, social-media posts, YouTube videos, and online databases to uncover the truth about disputed events—was in its infancy. Today, it is firmly established. Last year, the International Criminal Court issued, for the first time, an arrest warrant based solely on video evidence from social media, and the recent report on gas attacks in Syria by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons leans heavily on images from Google Earth that are annotated in a Bellingcat style. Meanwhile, open-source investigation reached a new audience this spring when the research agency Forensic Architecture, which has often collaborated with Bellingcat, was the subject of a show at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. (It has since been shortlisted for the Turner Prize.)

Higgins, who lives in Leicester with his wife and two young children, is now fielding ever more interest from journalists, N.G.O.s, corporations, universities, and government agencies, eager for his expertise. One of the participants in the London workshop I attended, Christoph Reuter, is the Beirut-based Middle East correspondent for Der Spiegel, and has worked as a reporter for three decades; when I asked him about Higgins, he made a gesture of worshipfully bowing down. Higgins started Bellingcat with a Kickstarter campaign, in 2014, but today almost half of its funding comes from these paid workshops, which he has been running since last spring, with the first in the U.S.—in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco—planned for later this year. Higgins is also developing a partnership with the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and hopes to hire enough staff to expand Bellingcat’s coverage into Latin America.

Higgins’s work is animated by his leftist, anti-authoritarian politics. One of the workshop attendees, a Middle East analyst named Robert, didn’t want his full name used in this article because certain factions in the region may see any association with Bellingcat as suspicious. But an open-source investigation is a tool anybody can use; as it spreads, it will inevitably mingle with the sort of delirium and propaganda that Higgins has always meant it to cut through. Crowdsourced Reddit investigations into Pizzagate or QAnon often appear, at first glance, not so different from a Bellingcat report, full of marked-up screenshots from Google Maps or Facebook. Even on the mainstream-liberal side, a new conspiracy culture sees anti-Trump Twitter celebrating any amateur detective who can find a suspicious detail about Jared Kushner in a PDF.

At the same time, the Russian government, which has derided Bellingcat’s open-source investigations in the past, now issues satellite images of bombings in Syria, inviting members of the public to look closely and see for themselves; RT, the state-sponsored Russian news channel, has launched its own “digital verification” blog, seemingly modeled on Bellingcat. In ramping up both reporting and training, expanding Bellingcat into some combination of news magazine and academy, Higgins is working to, in his words, “formalize and structure a lot of the work we’ve been doing” at a moment when the methods he helped pioneer are more than ever threatened by distortion and misuse.

I asked Higgins whether he excludes anyone from these workshops. “We’re going to start explicitly saying that people from intelligence agencies aren’t allowed to apply,” he said. “They’re asking more and more. But we don’t really want to be training them, and it’s awkward for everybody in the room if there’s an M.I.5 person there.” I asked how he’d feel if a citizen journalist signed up with the intention of demonstrating that, say, many of the refugee children who apply for asylum in the U.S. are actually grizzled adult criminals. He said he’d let that person join. “If they want to use these techniques to do that reporting, and it’s an honest investigation, then the answers should be honest either way. They should find out they can’t prove their ideas. And maybe they’ll learn that their ideas aren’t as solid as they thought.” Ultimately, Higgins respects good detective work, no matter where it comes from. At one point in the workshop, he showed the group a video about 4chan users taking only thirty-seven hours to find and steal a flag emblazoned with “he will not divide us,” which Shia LaBeouf had erected in front of an Internet-connected camera in a secret location as a political art project. “4chan is terrible,” Higgins said. “But sometimes they do really amazing open-source investigations just to annoy people.”

After Sharon Stone, there were several more geolocation exercises, concluding, on Day Two, with a joint effort to piece together several dozen photos of the M2 Hospital, in Aleppo, after it was bombed by pro-government forces. The challenge was to use tiny details to figure out exactly how they connected together in three-dimensional space: to determine, for instance, whether two photos that showed very similar-looking chain-link barriers were actually of the same chain-link barrier from different angles. “Most of my pictures are of rubble, which is super-helpful,” Diane Cooke, a Ph.D. student at King’s College London’s Centre for Science and Security Studies, said.

Higgins mentioned that he had left out all the gory photos, but nevertheless this exercise was a war crime turned into a jigsaw puzzle. Earlier, he had paused a video projection on a frame of a nerve-gassed Syrian child’s constricted pupil, which stared down at us for an uncomfortably long time. “I am careful about that,” he told me when I asked him about his approach to such horrors. The example which most frequently upsets people, he said, is a Bellingcat investigation into a mass execution by the Libyan National Army, in 2017: fifteen dark blots are visible against the sand on a satellite image taken later the same day. “It’s horrible, but it’s such a good example,” Higgins said. “And if you’re geolocating bloodstains, you’ve got to show the bloodstains.”

Afterward, it was time for lunch outside in the sun. Robert, the Middle East analyst, complained that he had “geolocation vision”: after a few hours of these exercises, it is impossible to look around without noting the minute textures of the built environment, the cracks in the sidewalk and the soot on the walls.

Days Four and Five of a Bellingcat workshop give the participants a chance to practice the skills they’ve just learned by launching their own investigations. Earlier this year, when Christiaan Triebert, a Bellingcat investigator, was mugged by two men on mopeds while he was in London to teach a Bellingcat workshop, he recruited his workshop participants to help him investigate the city’s moped gangs. (“My adrenaline turned into that energy—like, ‘This is pretty interesting!’ ” he recalled. “We were basically analyzing the Instagram profiles, mapping out the networks, who is friends with whom and where are they operating.”) Triebert has also run workshops in several countries where reporters are under threat of death. In Iraq, for instance, he trained reporters from al-Ghad, a radio station broadcasting into isis-occupied Mosul. “Some of their friends and colleagues got slaughtered by isis militants, and there was the video of it—they were drowned in a cage in a swimming pool. They said, “We really want to know where this happened, so if Mosul ever gets recaptured we can visit, but also just to see where they murdered our friends.” We started mapping out Mosul swimming pools, and within an hour they found it.

In the London workshop, the participants split up into three teams: one was trying to geolocate a video showing a bombing by U.S. forces somewhere in Damascus; another was analyzing the connection between water shortages in Iraq and the filling of the Ilisu dam, in Turkey; a third was investigating the leaders of a recent rally in London protesting the jailing of the far-right activist Tommy Robinson. Space took on the atmosphere of a newsroom. By the afternoon, the Damascus team had divided its labor: Higgins and Reuter were pursuing a single electricity pylon in the background of the murky green night-vision footage, which they thought would be enough to geolocate the bombing; Marwan El Khoury, a forensic-science Ph.D. candidate at the University of Leicester, was trying to pick out Polaris from the constellations briefly visible in the sky, in the hopes of determining the orientation of the camera; and Beini Ye, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, was combing through relevant news reports. “Nobody has ever been able to geolocate this video, so it’s a matter of pride,” Higgins said.

On the last day, pizza was ordered so the three teams could work through lunch. At the deadline of 2 p.m., Robert, representing the Ilisu team, got up first. “We haven’t found anything spectacularly new,” he said, “but we’ve discovered that a claim by the Iraqi Water Ministry might be more or less correct. That sounds really boring, but I think it’s important.”

The Tommy Robinson team was next. It had found out that “Danny Tommo,” one of the pseudonymous organizers of the pro-Tommy Robinson protest, was already known to the police under his real name. To some laughter, they displayed a headline from a Portsmouth newspaper reading “Bungling armed kidnappers jailed for ‘stupid’ attempt.”

Five minutes before the deadline, there had been a burst of excitement from the Damascus team: Higgins had remembered that a Russian news service had put GoPro cameras on the front of tanks when embedded with Syrian armed forces in 2015. In one YouTube video, the tank jolted from the recoil after firing its gun, and for a moment it was possible to see a pylon on the horizon—which was helpful, Higgins explained, but not quite enough. Still, that didn’t mean the crucial pylon would never be found: some photos from Bellingcat investigations have taken as long as two years to be geolocated. “It’s good that it was really hard,” Higgins told me later. “You have to rewire how people think about images. So they become really aware of how the world is constructed.”

Categorized in Investigative Research

[This article is originally published in bizjournals.com written by RSM US LLP - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Issac Avila]

Persons engaged in fraud and illegal activity have long used several methods to hide ill-gotten assets. Today, forensic investigators have powerful new technological tools to track and uncover these assets. Some specialized techniques may require digital forensic specialists; however, more basic options are also effective.

Whether the suspected fraudster is a business partner, an employee or some other related party, the process for uncovering hidden accounts tends to follow a similar path.

Let’s look at basic techniques first.

The first step is to build a financial profile for the person or entity in question. This process involves gathering and reviewing documents and records such as tax returns, bank statements, mobile payment account history, investment account statements, credit card statements, life insurance policies, paycheck stubs, real and personal property records, lien records and any other financial-related statements for the period of time during which questionable activity is suspected.

As these documents are being compiled, build a master list comprised of all accounts identified, including owner’s names, authorized users, associated addresses or other account profile information. It is also advisable to identify potential email addresses, social media accounts, and other web-based account information.

When analyzing these documents, keep the following tips in mind:

  • For financial accounts identified, get the electronic statements directly from the source when possible. This helps ensure the integrity of the information. Also, if possible, obtain the information in electronic format so it can be ingested into various search and analysis tools.
  • Tax returns provide information concerning wages, business income, and investment income. They can identify the existence of both real and personal property and the possibility of foreign accounts or trusts. As tax returns reveal sources of income, tie them to specific accounts. For example, if the interest income is listed on the return, but no account is identified, investigate to find an institution, account number, and the related statements.
  • If a business is uncovered, in addition to identifying all financial accounts related to that business, try to obtain the articles of organization and/or other ownership information for that business. This can help identify, among many things, parties involved in illegal activity and other businesses a suspect is associated with, and it can even help identify any hidden assets.
  • Investment accounts have long been a popular vehicle to transfer and/or launder illegal funds through the purchase and subsequent sale of financial products and commodities. 
  • Reviewing pay stubs from the relevant period cannot only identify multiple bank accounts, but it can also help identify and/or support any unusual spending behavior and other financial activity.
  • Mobile payments through providers such as PayPal and Venmo have become increasingly popular and provide another avenue to divert funds and hide assets. The transaction history for these accounts should be obtained not only for this reason but in addition, it provides a paper trail of both the origin and recipient of funds that could uncover hidden accounts or parties associated with fraud or illegal activity.
  • Depending on the jurisdiction (state, county, city) real property records including deeds, liens and other documents identifying ownership of assets are publicly available information. These records can be used to identify any assets not previously reported without the request of a subpoena.
  • If a recent credit report can be obtained, it can be a useful document to help identify a large portion of these items in a consolidated format.

With all information gathered, the next step is a funds-tracing exercise to analyze deposits to, and withdrawals from, each of the identified accounts. Funds tracing may reveal even more accounts for which statements should be obtained and funds traced. Update the account master list to reflect any new accounts discovered and to record all deposits, withdrawals and other activity for each account.

When conducting a funds tracing, remember the following:

  • Develop a thorough list of the suspect’s family members and acquaintances, including names, aliases, and addresses, and match those names against account statements and transactions to determine if any related parties received funds. Close attention should be paid to any financial transactions with the suspect’s parents, children, siblings, romantic partners and any of their respective businesses.
  • Any unusual transfers or expenditures deserve special attention, as well as recurring deposits from a bank or brokerage in any amount. This could uncover dividend-paying stocks or interest-paying bonds.
  • A review of canceled checks will not only tell to whom the checks were paid, but also to what account number and institution the check was deposited, which can lead to new hidden accounts. Again, pay special attention to checks to family members and acquaintances or for unusual activities or amounts.
  • An analysis of ATM withdrawals or credit card cash advances, including aggregate amounts and the locations made, may indicate areas where the suspect is spending a large amount of time and possibly working to hide assets in secret accounts. Ask for explanations for any large cash withdrawals, whether through an ATM or in person.

Digital forensic analysis is another powerful tool for tracking down hidden assets. Whether it’s a work computer, personal computer, tablet or smart phone, any activity performed on the device can leave a trail of evidence. More sophisticated suspects may use encryption, wiping programs and private or remote web-browsing sessions to hide this evidence, but such steps on their own can help indicate fraud.

Digital forensic efforts to uncover hidden accounts focus on a variety of areas, including:

  • Email contents— Investigators can conduct keyword searches using names of suspected co-conspirators, romantic partners, family members, business dealings, business names, known code words or any other word or words that might be of interest to the investigator. They can also search for key information, such as new account setup forms, details or confirmations related to wire transfers, mobile payments, details of new business ventures or other case-specific information.
  • Accounting or budgeting software programs—A suspect who is a business owner or key accounting employee may be keeping multiple sets of books. Even if deleted, these may be recovered via digital forensic analysis and lead to unknown accounts.
  • Spreadsheets and other files—Suspects often keep track of account numbers and other information in spreadsheets or other files. 
  • Browsing history—Most internet browsers log information pertaining to website visits, as well as other internet activities, such as the completion of web-based forms and temporary internet files. A digital forensic specialist may uncover visits to bank or brokerage websites that may lead to unidentified accounts. Internet activity can also show information relating to online purchasing and payment activity, which could be useful in identifying expenditures and other potential assets.
  • Metadata analysis—Artifacts contained within documents (Word, Excel, PDFs), such as created and modified times, username and company name, can also help uncover fraud.
  • Registry analysis—Certain artifacts stored in the registry, such as USB connection information, network, and login information also can help in an investigation.
  • Mobile devices—Forensic specialists can analyze call logs, SMS messaging, and in some cases, email and email attachments. In addition, users tend to use these devices to access and monitor various assets such as financial accounts, online payment, etc.
  • Online social media activity, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites—An analysis of a suspect’s public profile and activity may uncover a hidden business or other interests, which may lead to other unknown accounts. In addition, people frequently post information and pictures of new assets (i.e., cars, boats, etc.) on social media sites. This can lead investigators to potential assets and also help with documenting large expenditures.

By forensically preserving the electronic evidence (computer hard drive, mobile device, etc.) a number of potential data sources might become available. Included in this forensically preserved data might be previously deleted files, multiple versions or iterations of files, indications of files and programs being accessed. All of these items could provide leads for additional sources of information or indications of the user accessing or deleting data.

While this is not exhaustive, it does provide a useful overview for tracking down hidden accounts. Keep in mind that accounts are not the only places where fraudulent gains can be hidden.

However, a thorough search for, and careful analysis of, hidden accounts should be a central part of any fraud investigation.

For more information about fraud investigations, contact Brad Koranda at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 612-376-9387.

RSM’s purpose is to deliver the power of being understood to our clients, colleagues, and communities through world-class audit, tax and consulting services focused on middle market businesses. For more information, visit rsmus.com.

As a partner with RSM's Forensic and Valuation Services group, Brad Koranda provides strategic advisory and financial services to companies across a broad scope of industries, including business and professional services, real estate, manufacturing, distribution, technology, insurance, investment management, life sciences, health care, and financial services sectors.
Categorized in Investigative Research
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