Like it or not, people are talking about you online. They’re talking about your brand, your products, industry and competition. Do you know what they are saying? If not, why not? Can you afford not to listen?
There is a relatively new industry burgeoning on the Internet. It’s called Online Reputation Management. This is the practice of monitoring the conversation going on about you or your brand via the various forms of social media, such as blogs, instant messaging, social networks, forums, ranking and review sites, or anywhere people have the opportunity to express their opinion.
According to Wikipedia, a complete reputation management strategy involves three components:
- Maximizing the appearances of positive online references for a person or company.
- Building an online identity in the event the web presence is minimal or nonexistent.
- Solving online reputation problems.
Monitoring the conversation that’s taking place is a fundamental part of this discipline. There are primarily two ways to do this: Outsource the task to a company that specializes in this type of work, or resort to good old “do it yourself.”
Outsourced Reputation Monitoring
A number of companies have been established whose business model is built around reputation management – Umbria and Nielsen Buzzmetrics being two of the major players. Unless you’re a Fortune 1,000 company, you probably can’t afford them, as usage and consulting fees can be extremely high. That leaves the “do it yourself” option.
The Do It Yourself Approach
The task of reputation monitoring is not difficult but can be time-consuming. It’s all tied to RSS feed consumption. Here is how I do it.
Utilizing Google Reader I subscribe to Google News using my name, company name, industry name and even some of our competitor’s names as keywords. I also subscribe to Yahoo! News using the same keywords. To ensure I’m following what’s being said in the blogosphere, I subscribe to Technorati, also with the same keywords. There are other sources and plenty of them, but those are the basic three I would consider critical. Google Reader then becomes my digital bloodhound tracking down the conversation that’s going on relative to my three areas of concern. They are:
- Share of voice – How much or how little is being said about me or my company.
- Tone of voice – Whether the conversation is largely positive or negative.
- Trends over time – Watching to see whether the share or tone of voice changes over the course of monthly, quarterly or yearly increments.
This does take some time and effort, but there is still another way.
Andy Beal, an online marketing expert, founder of the popular Marketing Pilgrim blog and author of a new book on the subject of reputation monitoring, has created a software application that will do all this for you. It’s called Trackur. It is an affordable, easy-to-manage system for online reputation monitoring.
Using Trackur, you can set up searches and automatically monitor the web for keywords that are important to you. It also gives you the ability to define the type of content you want it to monitor so that, if tracking video or images isn’t of importance, the software can be set to track text only. All searches can be saved and even subscribed to via RSS.
The point is, whether you choose to outsource the work of reputation monitoring, do it yourself or use a tool like Trackur, you should just do it. In the age of the participatory web, knowing what’s being said about you or your company is very important. The reputation of your brand depends on it.