I’ve been using and recommending the following tools for what seems like years now.

Social Mention (still one of the most powerful free tracking tools out there)
Addictomatic (brilliant for at-a-glance most recent mentions of a term)
Twitter Search (preferably via a client such as Tweetdeck)
Spezify (a visual representation of a term’s social media presence)
Google Blog Search (when did you last use Technorati, sadly?)
How Sociable (another great at-a-glance tool for an overview of brand presence across a selection of social services, just take those numbers as indicators)
and Nielsen Blog Pulse (use in conjunction with Google Blog Search and Google Insights, for a fuller picture as it doesn’t track everything)

All are incredibly useful in their own way, and worth trialling before forking out on an expensive monitoring system which is sold as a cure-all but may not do everything you need.

Whilst in combination this set of tools offer a huge amount of information there are gaps. The emphasis for many of these tools is the major networks, missing services such as review sites, social news/bookmarking tools and forums where so much activity takes place. So I thought it was time to see what else might be out there of note:

Board Tracker
As it says on the tin, this tool looks at forums, discussions and message boards. Definitely a missing link. Searches are free. For a payment of $39 a month (free 30 day trial) you can set up to ten alerts, track replies, make alert comparisons.

Board Reader
Like BoardTracker this service searches across forums, message and discussion boards, results can be sorted by relevancy or recency, trends are graphed.

Monitor This
This service searches across 26 social sites including the likes of Identica and Delicious (but note: not Twitter) and allows you to then create an RSS, OPML or Atom feed on the results for on going tracking/monitoring purposes.

Back Type
Enter a URL, track weekly engagement, conversations and comments. Compare with another site, find conversations you may not realise have been happening. In addition the service has a set of widgets, plugins and an API.

Spy
Similar to Addictomatic this service tracks the latest conversations for an entered term across Twitter, Flickr, FriendFeed, Blog Comments (via Back Type) and Yahoo News. Less useful than some of the other tools mentioned here.

Omgili

Graph, measure and compare terms for up to a month’s time frame to understand their ‘buzz’. Graphs can be embedded into your own website.