A 10 step guide to create search queries for media monitoring
Social media and the web offer companies a wealth of freely accessible data that is extremely useful with regard to reputation management and customer engagement. With monitoring tools, companies gain insights on a wide number of interesting questions, given that search queries are set up correctly and their potential is used to the fullest extent. In this blog we will walk you through the steps of creating search queries and explain the most common operators so that you will find exactly what you are looking for.
Why are search queries essential for media monitoring?
Search queries build the base of every monitoring tool. They make sure that you will find exactly what you are looking for in a big pile of social media and online data.
“There is so much data online and it is not all relevant for your brand or monitoring goals – search queries help you filter out the “noise” and help you find all relevant media mentions. It helps you to focus.” Judith van Tuijl, Media Analyst at OBI4wan.
With the right search queries that combine specific keywords with operators, you can for example monitor your competitors, stay up to date regarding trends on the market, know what is going on within your target audience, find sales opportunities and proactively engage with your customers on social media. Depending on what you want to know or find out about your brand, customers or competitors, you need to set up different search queries in which you connect specific terms or keywords with operators like “AND” and “OR”.
“The search operators are necessary to make your search as specific as possible. These queries can vary quite a lot in complexity. Some queries are very simple and others are up to 1000 characters long” says Judith.
What are the most common operators you will use in search queries?
To get started with media monitoring and set up your first search queries you need to get familiar with search operators. Below we have listed the most common operators for you.
The 10 steps to create search queries
Once you are familiar with the search operators you can take the next step and create your search queries. The question “What do I want to find out” is taking the lead in the process. As a customer service department you want to have an overview of social media mentions and posts related to your products and services so that you can react quickly when needed. You might also want to discover sales opportunities to proactively promote your brand and engage with your target audience. As a corporate communication or PR professional you are probably more interested in the overall reputation of your organisation and the effects of your campaigns.
1. Determine what you want to know
Your goal determines your search queries. Apart from brand queries that collect mentions and posts regarding brands and products, many companies are interested in broader topics as well.
“Think about what your corporate themes are and what your company wants to stand for and then connect it with relevant keywords that you want to track. A brainstorming session with PR, corporate communication and marketing about your themes and goals is extremely useful for this process.”, says Judith.
2. Do research
Possibly you already have a good picture in mind about what you want to monitor, but in order to make your search as complete as possible also check what is being said online and what kind of terms are used in relation to your brand or important themes. You can find info on websites, news platforms, google news, press releases and social media.
It is likely that you discover new relevant topics that you haven’t thought about before.
3. Distinguish between brand related and topic related searches
Brand related searches help you keep track of mentions of your company, brands, products and services whereas topic related searches helps you keep up to date with important trends on the market or in society. Customer service professionals usually focus more on the brand as a whole and how they can respond directly to media interactions, whereas communication professionals usually focus more on corporate themes and reputation by adding topics
4. Brand related: Find the different ways of writing a brand name
Many brands have very specific names, so you don’t need to include a lot of additional keywords in you search query. However, if the name is ambiguous or also used in another context, such as Apple, it is important to add additional sector specific key words to the brand query: Example > (apple AND any: iphone iphones phone phones laptop laptops technology tech). Otherwise you end up with a lot of noise in the results.
5. Topic related: Scan news and articles on the topic
Once you know which topics and themes are interesting for you to monitor, find all relevant articles about a topic from the last few months and include keywords that you often see reappearing in your query. For instance, if sustainability is an important topic for your brand, then scan all articles you can find about it and look for relevant keywords. Also check what your competitors are doing and add keywords from their initiatives as well.
6. Make your search query specific
In order to make sure that your search query returns all relevant posts and mentions on a topic, use operators such as AND or OR. Example: (phone AND any: sustainability sustainable “energy from the sun” “good for environment”)
7. Include all synonyms
As you can see at step 6, I added multiple ways to write ‘sustainable’. This is the seventh step: write all options of one word (sustainable/sustainability) but also look up synonyms and include these.
8. Target your search query to specific countries and/or languages
If you are only interested in data from one specific country, add a language and country code. For instance, if you are going to focus on the Netherlands then add > lang:NL OR country:NLD NOT (country:BEL OR country:FRA OR country:DEU). Note: this doesn’t work for social media, as they often do not include a language or country code.
9. Make use of the date operator
If you want to analyse the results of one particular press release, event or campaign, the date operator comes in handy. By including a date range at the end of your query, you are able to narrow down your search to only find data about that specific press release, event or campaign. For instance, when a campaign is sent out the first of the month, add a date to include only data from the first till the 7th of the month, in which the message was relevant: date:01/10/2019..07/10/2019
10. The most important step: Test your query!
When you check the results of your query, you will often discover mentions and posts that are not relevant for you. So you need to always test your queries and eliminate ‘noise’.
“Noise can be, for instance, words, authors or specific news sites that are not relevant for you. You can easily filter them out by adding “NOT” in your query. An example is, again, the apple-query. Here, an AND-operator helps you to focus and a NOT-operator helps you to exclude noise. Example > (apple AND any: iphone iphones phone phones laptop laptops technology tech) NOT any: food foods eat eating eats.”, says Judith.
Tips & tricks
Especially at the beginning, when you just get started with search queries you might get overwhelmed by the complexity of the task.
Judith tells from experience:“If you forget one tiny thing in your query, it could be that your whole query doesn’t work. That can be frustrating, but you learn over time to pay more attention to the brackets and colons and other signs that you need to add”.
Also keep in mind that a lot of search queries, especially the topic related ones need to be updated regularly.
“Always keep yourself up to date by following news and events, so you discover new relevant keywords that you can add to your queries.”
When you are creating a new search query, don’t overdo your research for keywords.
“At some point, you should tell yourself that you found everything that there is to know at this point. You can always find more and add new keywords later on, but your query doesn’t need to be perfect at once”, Judith.