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Reputation Monitoring and Management

Posted on 12.05.2005

Millions of dollars are spent annually monitoring and managing reputations online and for good reason. If you value the equity you have built in that brand then it is essential that you monitor and manage your reputation online for the benefit of your enterprise. Failure to do so could mean disaster; not only to your brand but the bottom line of your organization.
 
Danny Sullivan hosted a panel that featured Andy Beal of Fortune Interactive, Rob Key of Converseon, Rob Garner of Agency.com and Nan Dawkins of RedBoots Consulting at the Search Engine Strategies Monday session.

If "brand equity equals your search results," as Rob Key of Converseon suggests, then it's time to take a closer look at the Web’s consumer generated media (CGM) as more and more consumers are being presented with such content. As this content can increasingly define your company (since most users don’t scroll past the first page of results), it’s crucial that you optimize your online “shelf-space” as much as possible for positioning your company in the minds of consumers.

Why you should monitor and manage reputation
Consumer generated media (blogs, forums, message boards) is evolving more rapidly and impacting consumers buying decisions through blogs, newsgroups and forums. Some of which may be currently employed at your site or at the sites of your competition. Yahoo even went as far as to include blog postings within Yahoo! News listings. Google Base presents anyone with content to share and an Internet connection an opportunity to do so.

Did you know that 75% of users never scroll beyond the first page of results? As a result the listings that appear are defined in great part by the hands of third parties. Key suggests that "Brand is an experience that creates an impression," so if half of the listings appearing under your corporate name are negative then it is time to do something about it. Why? Because consumers cannot tell the difference in many instances from the content provided by corporate marketing departments and the content provided by an unofficial source. As a result, consumers are often subject to mixed messages and this results in a negative impression of your products, your services and your brand. And nobody wants that.

More reasons to start monitoring your reputation…
One of the reasons that you should really be concerned about monitoring your reputation online came from search marketing specialist Rob Garner of Agency.com who discussed the increasing “bounty” on brand related terms with the rise of contextual search. When such a bounty exists there are reasons (and very profitable reasons) for people (affiliates) to capitalize on your brand and its associated terms. What typically results from those overzealous affiliates comes in the form of outright content theft and site scraping. For the worst case scenarios, Garner suggests that one such was to cure the ills of scraper sites is to consult your legal team. Another, very proactive and potentially costly solution is to research variations of your brand terms, comparing them to .com's in the whois database and acquiring those domains if available to circumvent misuse.

Key also suggests that it is important to understand and map the conversation (what is being said and the volume and visibility of the communication). Doing so can provide you with insights as to how to mobilize your influential allies and make the most of messages circulating the blogosphere or forumsphere. Affiliate marketing, influential reviews and community networks all provide companies an opportunity to engage users of the blogosphere. Persuading those to pick up your cause and express the benefits to those in the middle that are subject to messages is a legitimate and safe way to quell issues that arise. The Web these days enables any company to become the content company but it is important to remain vigilant, proactive and most importantly stay transparent in your communication.

The Tools To Help You Monitor Reputation
Nan Dawkins of RedBoots Consulting, an online marketing agency cited several tools that can help those interested in monitoring and managing their reputation online. But first, it is important to know and understand what can be monitored. And, you guessed it; pretty much everything you ever expected can be monitored including total buzz, influentials, detractors, supporters, new vs. existing voices, demographics, sentiment, as well as conventional press citations. What you are really looking for however is patterns according to Dawkins. Some free resources are BlogPulse, Feedster, Technorati, CyberAlert and CustomScoop.

More Tools To Help Monitor Reputatin
Andy Beal provided several very useful blog tracking tips including creating custom RSS feeds with your company name, the name of your competition as well as any important key terms associated with your business. Another tip was to use Google or Yahoo News Alerts which track news, web groups and even press releases. This also helps in identifying scraper sites and plagiarized content. Beal also provided several useful links if you are concerned about site scraping and plagiarism, including:

- www.copernic.com/en/products/tracker
- www.aignes.com  
- www.watchthatpage.com

There are also several sites such as www.forumfind.com and www.boardtracker.com that will help site owners and marketers identify what is happening in the forumsphere.

So when it comes to monitoring, measuring and managing communication with those involved with consumer generated media, it's important to build alliances and relationships with the most active and always, monitor, identify, analyze and understand before responding.

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