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Reputation Monitoring and Management in the Age of CGM

Posted on 8.02.2007
In the age of consumer generated media (CGM) image is everything – your brand is at the mercy of the public more than ever before. Sometimes a review of a faulty product or poor customer experience can find their way online, where the message can be duplicated and spread quickly and mercilessly. Recently, underhanded tactics such as writing negative or inane blog posts while posing as an associate of a competitor’s company have started popping up online.

Just as positive customer testimonials and word-of-mouth marketing can help your site soar, the opposite can bring it crashing down. If you value the equity you have built in your brand then it is imperative that you monitor and manage its reputation.

Why you should monitor and manage reputation
It should come as no surprise that CGM impacts consumers’ perceptions and their buying decisions. But weblogs, newsgroups and forums are not just available to the millions of Web users that frequent them - the content from those sites and pages has now made its way into natural search listings. Since most of us never scroll beyond the first page of results, it’s easy to see how important this virtual search engine real estate is (as well as the original CGM sources) and how vital it is to create a consistent brand experience online and a positive reputation across all channels.

The What and How of Reputation Monitoring
What exactly are we monitoring? Pretty much everything; total buzz (mentions), influential media and new sources, detractors and supporters, demographics and even sentiment. And what you are really looking for are patterns – e.g. positive vs. negative citations. There are plenty of tools to help you get started. Some free and very effective resources include Blog- Pulse, Feedster, Technorati, CyberAlert and CustomScoop. Still, these services can not act as a standalone replacement to personnel dedicated to managing your reputation online.

More Tools for Reputation Monitoring
Blog tracking is the easiest way to get started. You can create custom RSS feeds with your company name, the names of your competitors as well as any important key terms associated with your business. You might also want to use Google or Yahoo! News Alerts (issue tracking), Web groups and even press releases to help identify scraper sites and those who plagiarize content. There are also several sites such as www. forumfind.com and www.boardtracker. com that will help site owners and marketers keep track of the conversation on Web forums.

The Real Value in Reputation Monitoring
Understanding and mapping the conversation (what is being said and the volume and visibility of the communication) can provide you with insights to mobilize your influential allies and make the most of messages circulating the Web. Mapping the conversation will also give you insights into how to persuade influential’s and quell negative issues that arise from your detractors.

With the prolific rise of CGM, consumers are being bombarded with content that influences their opinions and buying decisions. Since many consumers are unable to differentiate between content provided by businesses and content provided from non-affiliate third parties, perceptions are defining reputations. As such, it’s crucial that your company is positioned positively in the minds of consumers by monitoring and managing your reputation online. It’s also important to remember the speed at which these messages can be delivered and spread – monitor frequently. Doing so will limit the problem of mixed messages, negative impressions and unscrupulous opponents.
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