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October 06, 2008

Reputation Management starts in the past

By Simon Heseltine

So you've decided that it's time to monitor your online reputation.  You've read about RSS feeds, and alerts, and you're sure that you know what terms you want to monitor.  Heck, you've even gone as far as to write out an engagement plan, identifying what you're going to do when you find people talking about you.  Maybe you're going to contact the evangelists and reward them in some way, maybe you're going to attempt to engage the detractors, so that you can:

  1. understand their issue
  2. engage them to at a minimum move them to a neutral stance by addressing their concerns

Great, but is that going to be enough?

TimetunnelWhat about events that happened before you started scanning?  What if 3 months ago there was outrage over the features one of your products, or a celebrity went out and pushed a drive for something in your space at an event that you weren't even aware of? 

The answer to that question is that you absolutely need to look in the past.  But how can you do that?  The easiest way is to use a tool that does this for you, of course they're not cheap, but you've got to think about what it's worth to you to get that information.  Think about that cost in these terms: If you can't baseline the online discussion about your company over the last 3 months, the last  months, the last year, then how can do you know whether the online profile of your company is improving?  The simple answer is that you can't.

Let me give you an example using one of my agency's clients.  We'd set up alerts for this client, and were getting ~50-75 per day on the phrases we were monitoring.  When we ran these keywords through our proprietary buzz monitoring solution we uncovered ~150,000 hits, of which over 87,000 were dated this year.  What does this data show?  Well, it shows:

  1. that you have to look backwards to understand the present and plan for the future - there were certain events earlier this year that increased the chatter in this particular field, knowing those events is going to help the client be a part of the chatter the next time the planets align in the same formation
  2. that Google and Yahoo don't index everything (results from our system were not all indexed, but they were out there on the web), so if you're relying on alerts you may not know where your audience really is, so you may not be interacting with them in the ways that you could, and if you're sourcing your RSS feeds based on data from Google and Yahoo, then you've got the same issue.
  3. that this client should have been monitoring this space a lot sooner ;)  (hey, at least they've made the first steps now).

Now, of course, there aren't any solutions out there that are going to retrieve absolutely every mention of your keywords online (especially where password protected forums are employed), but you do need to keep in mind that the deeper you can dig into the past, the more you're likely to uncover... well... more, and whenever you're trying to make decisions about your marketing plan, or maybe even the direction of your organization, the more data you can get the better.

Dino_bones
photo by WoodleyWonderWorks

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