2. Audience profiles
Direct audiences -- the people your marketing is actually reaching -- include visitors to your website, readers of the company blog and social media connections. Some direct audiences come with an ID that can link to an existing profile, either within the same system (like a Facebook friend) or by matching to external data (such as a LinkedIn profile). In other cases, audience members remain anonymous, but it's still possible to gather data such as location or company (based on IP address), interest (based on search terms) or approximate demographics (based on the referring website).
Marketers may give a higher priority to talking than listening, but the good ones do both. In the social media world, monitoring involves scanning blogs, public forums and discussion groups for mentions of the company, its products and competitors. The simplest forms of monitoring count these mentions, which can be useful to measure mindshare versus that of competitors, track public attention during a crisis, and read the awareness generated by an outbound campaign.
4. Content analysis
More advanced monitoring goes beyond counting to evaluate the content of social messages. This can identify topics and report on positive or negative attitudes. Content analysis is sometimes done manually, but this gets expensive when message volumes are large. Automated content analysis relies on semantic techniques to make sense of natural language. These systems already do a good job with some tasks, such as extracting keywords to identify topics and products mentioned. More subtle interpretations, such as understanding positive or negative sentiments, are still problematic.