Monitoring Your Online Reputation

Do-It-Yourself Reputation Monitoring

There are many free or inexpensive tools that will help you to monitor your reputation online. What you save in money, you'll pay in time, or sacrifice thoroughness and timeliness, but if you have limited resources, it's a better-than-nothing solution.

Going it alone generally means using search engines: you conduct manual searches for the terms you wish to monitor using Google and various other search engines to check web sites and blogs. If you can identify some specific blogs that are focused on your industry or product category, you can subscribe to them using an RSS reader or visit the sites to sign up for e-mail updates when new articles are posted. There are also a handful of sites that enable you to monitor news stories by entering keywords.

Much of this is manual work, as you are doing manually what an automated solution could do for you.

Alternatives to Manual Monitoring

There are a number of "Managed Reputation Monitoring Services" that function like clipping services for the online medium. Largely, these are meta-searches that aggregate data from multiple sources into a single database, and automate all the various manual searches you would have performed.

Key considerations for choosing an automated solution is the degree of service they provide, the format in which reports are provided, which sources they monitor, what kinds of analysis they provide, what countries and languages they include, and what other forms of support they offer.

Ultimately, the output of an automated service (whether you use it yourself or hire a company that uses one) will be some baseline analytics based on individual messages, along with copies of the messages themselves.

Making Sense of the Data

Regardless of what approach you use to monitor the internet, there is still a manual step involved to make sense of the data. Even if you use filters to attempt to identify relevant articles, it's often takes actually reading them to determine what statement the author is making, and whether it is supportive, neutral, or harmful to your online reputation.

Companies should assign the task of reputation management to an employee as part of their duties. Ti is possible to hire a PR firm to flag articles, but ultimately, someone inside the company will need to take charge of the task of interpreting what they find and coordinating actions to be taken in reponse.

The author warns of taking things out of context. In addition to reviewing information in a single message, you will need to go to a site to view the entire thread - as you may misinterpret the message or its impact if you view it out of context.

As an aggregate, you should conduct a "sentiment analysis" that shows the total number of messages, the positive count, and the negative count, compared to the previous month, and graphed to show trends.

Knowing When to Take Action

The author provides no useful guidance for gauging when a negative response merits a reaction on your part. He points to the extremeness: failure to respond to a single negative remark has created an avalanche of bad PR, but responding to every negative remark makes your persona seem hostile, aggressive, and intolerant - but does not provide any guidance for identifying when a reaction is appropriate and necessary.