Much of our work involves measuring what is being said online about companies, their people, their products/services and even their business practices.
One thing we see happening quite often and when people first come to us for help is when communication professionals arrive at a point where they might start to feel overwhelmed and/or uneasy about their depth of sourcing.
Most of the time, these are people entrusted with the responsibility to track online conversation and their concerns range from time constraints right through to the very real potential that they may be missing certain social media and online buzz by relying solely on a scattering of freely available resources and tools.
The hardest thing for most people to realize is that real-time Internet monitoring must go beyond vanity searches and a collection of feeds.
The importance of timely monitoring, and the kind of advanced warning which is able to avert a real PR disaster can never be overstated. In other words, if a story has hit the News, it may already be too late to manage the damage.
This becomes especially important with disgruntled employees, clients, critics, extremist groups and even that person you may have interviewed or fired, who may feel dissatisfied by the manner which they were dealt, and believes they have the power to publicly embarrass you on the Internet. The key is being aware of every instance of online smearing, complaint or compliment.
Whether or not your strategy includes using an online reputation monitoring service like ours, below is a list of the most important facets of Internet monitoring, and must be included in the scope of every online monitoring strategy:
Track all forms of online discussion and content across the entire Internet, including blogs, forums, consumer sites, social networking sites, video and images.
Analysis of real-time results broken-down by sentiment, geographical location and online media source (i.e. blogs, message boards, social networking site, video, etc.). Being able to trend patterns of relevant data is an important consideration which will help you to measure things like the online temperature towards campaigns and business practices, consumer perception, influence, reach, and avert any negative incident from recurring.
Participation and Engagement - now that you have located the negative post and have been targeted in an online discussion, your online reputation monitoring strategy must move in a coordinated manner to manage online communications, correct any false statements, and hopefully this includes forming online allies. It is an effort which ought to include measuring the online footprint of the discussion over the entire Internet, and taking your communication strategy to every blogroll instance or online discussion which rebroadcasts the original post.
Maximize the visibility of any positive buzz that is circulating online. Improve their ranking in search results to ensure that fair and impartial information is properly positioned. The key in any SEO initiative to position fair and impartial posts is to work with the top 3 pages of search results in Google, Yahoo, MSN, Live, and Ask.
The final tip is that online reputation monitoring strategies ought to include a layer of risk interpretation which assigns some system of priority to placed on online conversation with the potential to make or break a companies brand, and threaten risk and security protection programs (i.e. online incidents that could quickly turn into an outright company or product boycott, rally or protest outside your commercial establishment).
I happened across an interesting post which questions certain "reputation management" tactics of SERM firms.
The techniques described in the blog include burying "negative online attention" - a technique which in my experience is never as easy or straightforward as some are led to believe, nor are they guaranteed to work.
Suggesting otherwise would be disingenuous.
I agree with the bloggers opinion on bloatware, spamming and other techniques to bury negative posts as being unethical, however not only are these practices and techniques in "bad taste", they are also extremely counter-productive.
In the case of spamming on specific keywords or keyphrases to "bury" negative online attention, they may work in the short term to reposition "negative" posts in Page 2 and later search results, however it also creates problems for brand and reputation monitoring efforts, especially if that SERM firm is also responsible for monitoring for any new online posts. More specifically, that spam they flood the Web with will eventually just make things more difficult for them to sift through any relevant posts and will inevitably add more time to their monitoring effort. There is no doubt that this will eventually effect the precision, quality and accuracy of their monitoring.
CAUTION: If the SEO or SERM firm you use is not the same as the firm your company uses to perform online brand and reputation monitoring, you may want to consult with the online monitoring folks before tasking anyone to "bury" any/all negative online attention.
RepuMetrix offers risk and reputation management Web tools and monitoring solutions - we do cross into SEO solutions and they are automatically included in our mid to upper tier packages. However none of our approaches or techniques include "aggressive spam mailings, popups, viruses, bloatware or worms."
The caveat is that it is always a good idea to screen the experts you call in to provide reputation management and Internet monitoring services, and that includes getting a good handle on the type of services they offer, questioning the reliability of their technologies/techniques and their general stand on "code of ethics" as it pertains to using techniques which may do more harm than good.
RepuTrace™ is the All-in-One Corporate Intelligence Tool which can also be used to assist in the areas of brand and reputation monitoring, investigations, competitive intelligence gathering, market intelligence analysis and research or even to protect against counterfeit brand issues.
To schedule a free online-demonstration of RepuTrace™, click here.
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Below are some links to product or company mentions in mainstream media:
Protecting the firm’s name on the web | Law Times
Safeguard Your Brand Reputation Online | Inc. Technology
They’ve got their eyes on you—are your ears burning? | ComputerWorld Canada
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | CNW Group
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | PR Newswire
Tips on Safeguarding Your Online Reputation | WSJ Startup Journal