Whether you are tuned into them or not, chances are your organization is a part of conversations out there on the Web. And unless you are living under a rock somewhere, the same is probably true of you personally. Tuning into the conversations – and participating – can be a great way to understand the needs of members, customers, and prospects. And it can also help you meet problems head on when they arise.
So how do you listen in? Here are some tools to help you out.
Setting up Google Alerts for your organization’s name as well as any key products or people (like, for example, your CEO) is really the minimum you should be doing. It won’t cover everything, but if you are currently not tracking your brand online at all, it’s a great first step. By default Alerts is set to “Comprehensive” which means it will search across Web sites, blogs, major news outlets and Google groups. You can choose to have search results for any term you enter sent to an e-mail address of your choice. Any updates to the search results will then be e-mailed to you at the frequency you specify.
Better yet, you can choose to have the results delivered to RSS – which leads to the next part of this post.
… Well, not quite yet. Before we get to RSS, you might also considering supplementing your Google Alerts with a few saved searches at Addict-o-matic. With just these two quick tools, you will have a pretty impressive view of your presence (or not) on the Web…
But if you want to take things further:
Personally, I prefer picking and choosing among multiple tracking tools and pulling them together into a “dashboard” by using an RSS reader. If you aren’t yet making use of an RSS feed reader, brand monitoring is a great reason to start. Not really sure what RSS is? Check out this great tutorial, RSS in Plain English, from Commoncraft. And if you need a reader, I recommend Google Reader along with this brief tutorial on how to get started.
Once you are ready, try these:
Yep, same Google Alerts as above, but you can choose to receive it by RSS feed instead of e-mail. Or, if you prefer, grab Google News or Google Blog Search or any of the other parts of Google Alerts as separate RSS feeds.
Technorati catches a fair amount of flack these days, but it is still a pretty good tool for picking up on buzz in the blogosphere. Similar to Google News, you put in a search term, hit return, and mentions of you across the social Web appear starting with the most recent. Hit the subscribe button and you can keep track of new mentions in your RSS reader.
Keeping up with blog posts alone may not be enough when it comes to staying on top of conversations about you in the blogosphere. And subscribing to the comments of every possible blog out there that posts about you is not realistic. Tools like backtype do the work of tracking comments for you. You can search for comments containing particular keywords and, of course, subscribe to your search results with RSS (or by e-mail).
BlogPulse Conversation Tracker
BlogPulse is a fascinating tool that helps you track conversations from the “seed” that started them. Sometimes relatively unknown bloggers might mention your organization or keywords relevant to your organization in a post, but instead of the post languishing in obscurity, it gets linked to by a much more popular blogger and the conversation explodes from there. Blogosphere helps you track the whole cycle. To get a feel for it, take a look at the following searches – one on the term “crowsdsourcing” and another on the URL for my other blog, Mission to Learn.
As with the other Google and Technorati, you can subscribe to a feed for the search or even to specific conversations that the search uncovers.
Blogs are all the rage, but good ol’ discussion boards still generate plenty of conversation out there on the World Wild Web. Boardtracker helps you find the ones that are about you. Just put in your search terms and hit enter. You can add the search results to your RSS reader (seeing a theme here?!) to keep track of updates and new conversations, and it you sign up for a a free account, there are a number of other tools you can use to track boards.
From a brand standpoint, Twitter is becoming as important as Google. It’s the place where your customers and members can say all sorts of things about you – good or bad – 140 characters or less. As brands like Motrin know all too well, it can be powerful force. “Listening” to Twitter is much the same as listening to Google. Simple go to Twitter search, enter your search terms, and subscribe to the RSS feed for the search results. There are also various services, like Twilert, that will send search result and updates to you by e-mail.
Facebook has grown tremendously in popularity, but listening in to the conversations there can still be a bit of a challenge. One tool to take a look at, though, is Lexicon (Facebook account required). A search on Lexicon will give you insight into how often particular keywords are mentioned on “walls” within Facebook. While you can’t tell who has been mentioning you, the next version (currently accessible in beta) will also provide some demographic data, association with other words or phrases, and the positive vs. negative “sentiment” surrounding a particular word or phrase.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Social Mention. Similar to Addict-O-Matic, Social Mention aggregates what’s being said about you across a number of different media sources and even assigns a “social rank” to you. As with all the others, you can grab your saved search by RSS feed.
If you pull all of the above feeds into a single folder labeled “Monitoring,” or something along those lines, you’ll have a great way of keeping track of the majority of what’s being said about you out on the Web.
Hedgehog & Fox
P.S. – Looking for other great tips and resources? Follow me on Twitter.