Why you must keep track of your online profile

Price: $500 (10,000 results), $1,000 (25,000 results), $1,500 (50,000 results) + $100 per user, per month.
Supplier: www.radian6.com

Two separate 'social media gurus' have recommended Radian6 to us. Getting hands-on with it is initially daunting; the highly polished interface makes it seem more complicated than it is.

Radian 1

Thankfully, no-one's allowed to even use it without a thorough demo, and there are video tutorials to further explain it all.

The heart of the tool is in its configurability. It allows you to set up keyword profiles, choosing languages, media types, regions and sources, and output the resulting data in a variety of colourful and useful ways. It also includes team management tools, so someone like Stephen Fry can identify problem content and assign it to someone else.

While this power is wonderful, it's not so necessary for smaller users, especially as the base price is so high and it takes so much time to configure and maintain. If you're a media personality, the power and flexibility of this are great – but it's not really useful for most individuals' purposes.

Verdict: 4/5

Google Alerts
Price: Free
Supplier: www.google.com/alerts

Google Alerts Egosurfing starts when you first type your name into a Google box and hit [Enter]. Google Alerts is just an automated version of that, and deceptively simple with it. You put your keyword in, and hit [Enter].

Google alerts 1

It then starts delivering digests of all the mentions of your keyword across the web. If you want to configure it further, you can specify the type of content you're tracking (blogs, video, groups and so on), the frequency of the emails you receive and how many results you get (a measly maximum of 50).

It's hard to detect a difference between the results this finds and those of Radian6, but it's the output tools that Radian6 throws up and the way it rates content for you that give it such a large edge (forgetting, for the moment, its huge cost).

Alerts has been mashed up to create AlertRank, a separate rating tool that sorts alerts before they hit your inbox, but it doesn't match the flexibility of the bigger products.

Google Alerts is free and comprehensive, but if you want more results or filtered results, look elsewhere.

Verdict: 3/5

Trackur Free
Price: Free (one search), $18 (five searches), $88 (25 searches), $197 (250 searches), $297 (unlimited searches).
Supplier: www.trackur.com

Claiming a 60-second set-up time, Trackur performs a similar search to Google Alerts from a keyword or search string. However, it's slightly more powerful, allowing non-exact matches, mandatory includes and excludes, domain exceptions and unlimited results (which can be seen as a graph).

Trackur 1

Once you've run a search, you can export it to CSV, grab it as an RSS feed or get it through email. It also includes sentiment tracking, colour-coding the results by traffic lights so you can easily see which are positive and negative.

Sadly though, despite several searches for very famous names, we never saw any sentiment other than neutral. Trakur also limits you to one saved search per account.

If you want more, you must subscribe (or create duplicate accounts) which isn't particularly desirable, but not initially expensive either at $18 for five – though the costs can rise quickly if you get into setting up corporate accounts.

Verdict: 3/5

Social Mention
Price: Free
Supplier: www.socialmention.com

Like Trackur, Social Mention aggregates user-generated content. It also has the same ability to customise your search: you can select the type of content, the date and so on. It does everything Trackur does, and it's free for any number of searches.

Social mention 1

Its sentiment tracking actually works and is useful, though you can't click through to see it. Social Mention breaks down the top keywords, users, hashtags, postrank and sources for each search and provides you with CSV data for all of them, as well as letting you sign up to alerts that are at least as good as Google Alerts. It even gives you some handy stats about how you're reaching out to your audience.

Finally, Social Mention produces more results than Trackur does (though not as many as Google or Radian6), can be integrated with your search bar and, though it doesn't let you save searches, allows you to export as many RSS feeds or email alerts as you like.

Combined with the fact that it's free, Social Mention is an easy winner here.

Verdict: 5/5