Friday, July 31, 2009

Managing Your Reputation Online - Part Three: Monitoring What is Out There


In Part One of this series, I introduced the risks. In Part Two, I outlined a checklist of preventive measures. Now, let’s look at some practical ways to monitor your business reputation in the blogosphere and other virtual spaces.

Keep your eyes open


Reputation (and brand) management is ultimately a legal issue, so some general legal principles seem appropriate here. One that American law students learn early in law school is that “equity favors the vigilant, not those who sleep on their rights.” Another legal concept is the “Limitations Period” (in Louisiana, “Prescription Period”) codified in statutes.

Where the statutes of limitation are specific laws enacted in the various states and by Congress and give set time limits to file a lawsuit or criminal charge after a violation of some other statute, principles of equity are typically less rigid and applied in the spirit of reasonableness. Both have the goal and effect of placing a time limit on when you can take legal action.

Some of the time periods begin when an action occurs. Others only when the injured party “knew or should have known” about it. It is the second part of that you should worry about. If your name has been misappropriated or your protected property has been stolen, you will have to show that you did not turn a blind eye or blissfully live without any of the reasonable efforts a prudent businessperson would have undertaken to protect his or her own valuable property.

Set up monitoring tools

What should you do to monitor yourself, then? With each medium, there are useful tools and ways to monitor for potential problems. These are a few of the better ones available today:

1. Search Engine Alerts. In today’s information age, it is not considered vain to set a Google Alert or Yahoo Alert to “listen” for your own name or other protected words or phrases. They are easy to set up and manage and then work tirelessly to continuously monitor for your selected terms among pages that these search engines index.

2. Social Media Tag Searches. Social media is raging into our lives. Who does not know anyone with a FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace or similar account? That means there is a lot of “chatter” out there, some of it not so pretty. You cannot ignore the SM world, even if you are not a participant at this point. Use free tools like the web-based TagBulb or downloadable TagFetch to watch for key words that people use to “tag” their comments.

3. Twitter. Twitter searching has become a world of its own. You already get the automatic “@username” feature in your Twitter home page that keeps up with every Tweet that includes your username. To broaden that monitoring, however, you need a tool. There are countless tools available now. If you use a third-party application to manage your Twitterings, look for features built in that let you filter and search. Otherwise, try TwitterSearch (same company, different web page) or TweetBeep tools.

4. Newsfeeds. This is getting into higher levels of technicality, but the tools are no more difficult to use than some of the others mentioned above. An RSS feed reader is simply another monitoring device that watches the “stream” of information flowing through the Internet. RSS (“really simple syndication”) is how many web sites these days send their content out when it is updated. It is very common for news sites, so you cannot afford to overlook it. Unless you have an aggregator like Gregarius, Bloglines or one of the many other RSS Feed Aggregators out there, you would have to check each individual RSS feed.

5. Video and other media sites. YouTube allows people to “broadcast yourself” and Flickr makes every photographer world-renowned (at least for a few seconds after posting). How do you sift through the noise? In addition to search engine alerts, consider something like Video-Alerts.com, a free service that specifically focuses on YouTube.
(Of course, each of the strategies above can also be used for monitoring trends in your industry or tracking competitors, but that is outside the scope of this series.)

Finally, during my research for this post, I found other useful posts on this topic that you might find helpful: A slideshow, “Why you should monitor social media” posted this week by Connie Bensen of Alterian; a good video essay on how some businesses use Twitter to monitor their own names, and a blog post on how to monitor your name on Twitter.

In a later post, I will focus on what action to take should you find a problem. Until then, get those alerts set up!

2 comments:

kbladow said...

Lewis -

Beth Kanter has some great information about monitoring what others are saying online. She refers to it as "listening," and although she talks about it mostly in terms of nonprofits, the core of what she says would apply to anyone monitoring what's being said about them. You can find her posts at http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/listening/.

Personally, I've been experimenting with my own "ego searches." I've found MonitorThis (http://alp-uckan.net/free/monitorthis/) to be really helpful. It will generate an OPML file of RSS feeds for quite a few different search engines, which can be easily ported into a news reader. It's much easier than going to each site to set up the feed. Right now, I'm using Yahoo Pipes to combined the feeds and find unique stories. - K

Lewis Kinard said...

Thanks for the tips!