One of the most valuable pieces of the social media is the ability to listen to what people are saying – about your industry, company, brand or products. Of course, there are companies who provide listening services but usually at premium prices that only huge brands can afford (Netbase, Radian6, Lithium, Visible Technologies, etc.)  Worth mentioning is another option: affordable, local social media analytics platform Looxii, which offers tailored solutions for small to medium businesses.

If you want to start out with zero cost (who doesn’t?), Social Media Examiner published a great resource article today, called How to Build a Free Social Media Monitoring Dashboard. They provide some great tips and tricks on how to cobble together a fairly robust method using free, easy-to-access online tools and resources … most of which you’ve heard of or are using already. Take a gander. If it inspires you to get started or make changes to what you’re already doing, I’d love to hear your feedback.