Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Strategies for online reputation monitoring

Are you paying attention to what your brand is doing online? You should. Bloggers write about their experiences as customers, and the news isn't always good. The list of famous examples is short and overexposed but informative. Bad publicity from a blog can lead to real-world consequences (in Kryptonite's case, around $10 million worth). By now you should be monitoring your online reputation. Here are the different ways you can do it.
  1. Do it yourself (or assign it internally).
    Grab a feed reader, set up some vanity search subscriptions, and look through the results. If your company is small enough, or has a low profile, this may be all you need.

  2. Hire a consultant.
    Hire an outsider who will use the same types of tools you could use yourself. The difference comes from hiring someone with expertise in social media and Internet search, who will not be learning the technologies and culture on your dime. Choose this option if you don't have the time or expertise to do it yourself and your exposure doesn't justify the cost of high-end services.

  3. Hire an agency.
    Monitoring social media on behalf of their clients is a fast-growing specialty of many interactive marketing and PR agencies. The proprietary tools they claim to have may be nothing more than a feed reader and an analyst, but these firms should at least be good at connecting the brand monitoring service with your other marketing activities. This approach may be best when you use the same agency for their other services.

  4. Subscribe to an automated monitoring and analysis service.
    At some point, the quantity of search results becomes overwhelming. If your search terms (company name, brand name, products, etc.) appear many times a day or get lost in a sea of irrelevant search results, you need a computer to do the initial screening. Umbria and Biz360 offer software-based services that move beyond simple keyword matching into natural language processing and other advanced analytical techniques. You'll need a budget that approaches the cost of a mid-level marketing employee, but this is the inexpensive way to escape the limits of manual methods.

  5. Contract with a high-end monitoring service.
    If you have a big budget (reportedly 7 figures) and a well-known brand, look into the high-end services from Nielsen BuzzMetrics and Cymfony. Both start with data mining and analytical technologies similar to Umbria's, but they add the services of human analysts. Large corporations and high-profile brands are most likely to have both the need and the budget for these services.

    Frankly, the companies who are likely to sign up with these companies are the ones who already subscribe to multiple research services, so I wouldn't be surprised if they work with multiple reputation-tracking services, too. These companies are most likely to benefit from an intelligence delivery system to manage the distribution of multiple intelligence sources.

When selecting your approach, consider these questions:
  1. What's your budget? We might as well start with the obvious question. These approaches vary from free (except for the cost of your time) to over a million dollars, and budget constraints will eliminate the high-end options for many companies.
  2. What's your visibility? Companies aren't equally visible, online or otherwise. If your company has a low profile, the manual processes (1,2,3) may be adequate. If your name appears thousands of times daily, you need automated help (4 or 5).
  3. What's your exposure? If a negative story about your company or products were to appear, would it affect your business? How many constituencies do you need to keep happy?
  4. How much analysis do you want done for you? The five approaches are listed in order of increasing service and analysis provided. For example, the difference between Umbria and the most expensive services is the expert analysis added to the software analysis.
  5. Are you already working with a company that offers these services? If their service is appropriate to your needs, you can benefit from what they already know about your business.

If this seems like a good idea but a lot to sort out, I can help. Send an email to info@socialtarget.com to get things started. Doing nothing is the only approach that is wrong for everyone.

P.S. Reputation-monitoring companies should be quick to find references to themselves online, right? I wonder how quick? The current time to beat is 150 minutes.

Update: You'll find more on this topic under reputation at the new Net-Savvy Executive.



At 8/16/2006 12:29 PM, Blogger Mama Duck said...

Definitely a great list for starting out. Thanks! Our list is up if you’d like to look… have a great day!

At 8/16/2006 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good information. It's a list that is worth reading...branding is crucial in today's market.

At 8/16/2006 12:53 PM, Blogger Josh Maher said...

Interesting list...



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