Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tracking Your Reputation Online

Over the last several days I've been doing some research and experimentation with tracking reputation online. I'm a little surprised at the lack of tools to do what I think should be done. (I know, product opportunity.)

There are a lot of solutions that track "buzz". But buzz is one dimensional. It's fine and useful to know that 95 blog posts mentioned you last month, or that 35 forum discussions mentioned your brand. But what does that really tell you? If you believe that all PR is good PR (I do not believe this) then I guess that's all you need to know. Here are a few things that are missing in the solutions I've seen so far:

Qualitative Information: Were the mentions of my brand in a positive context or a negative context? Am I trending positive or trending negative? Is that spike in buzz last week due to that bad press about my brand, and is it fanning the flames? Do certain social media environments tend to favor my brand while other tend to disfavor? I don't expect the solution to know this, but I want a way to easily score or mark each mention, and then report on it.

Collaboration / Ability to operationalize acting on data: This esoteric sounding requirement is really just me saying "I need to be able to do something with this data, now. It's not good enough to just have it sitting there". In my vision of a healthy internal online reputation management program you've got people throughout your organization ready to engage and contribute to discussions throughout the social mediasphere. As you discover new discussions that warrant engagement, you need to be able to assign those discussions to people in your organization, allow them to update their progress on a particular assignment, and collect important information about the engagement such as details about key influencers (like other channels of engagement key influencers use). In other words, if I discover a conversation about my brand on Twitter, and that leads me to a blog post from that same person, and it turns out that person is a key influencer, I need to keep track of the channels that key influencer uses. If I later find out that this key influencer is a regular contributor to an online forum, I need to be able to keep track of that detail, too. Why? Because key influencers are people I need to develop a relationship with. To have a relationship with them, I need to know where to follow them. By the same token, I need to be able to treat some mentions as just aggregate noise. I don't care about the person, and I don't need anyone to engage, but I want to score it and report on it. Then, don't show it to me again.

Categorization & Reporting: Going back to my first want, I need to be able to categorize each mention for reporting and analysis purposes. Aside form the pos/neg score (which isn't a category), I want to tag each one for the products or topical references made that are important to me. Is it about one of my products? Is it about the company in general? Is it about the industry in general? All of this detail doesn't really do anything for me at the individual mention level, but when you aggregate mentions, and the start looking for correlations between various attributes and your positive/negative score, you are suddenly armed with real insight that can help you form or reform your strategy for reputation management.

Lastly, I want this tool to be a rich internet application (RIA). I'm already living in my web browser, I don't want another desktop app, even if it pretends to be a browser. My browser is highly personalized to my work style. A browser based app allows me to leverage my browser setup, rather than making me move back and forth.

For sure, I haven't see all the tools out there yet. So far my experience has been on the extremes: internet applications that are too simplistic; and desktop applications that aren't really built for what I'm trying to do.

If you have any experiences to share in this arena, I'd love to hear them.


Chris said...

Nice requirements list! No, I can't help.

What are some buzz-tracking tools of the primitive sort, other than searches?

Aaron Gray said...

Thanks, Chris! Here are some of the buzz-tracking tools I've found:

blogpulse from Neilsen BuzzMetrics (for blogs)

Omgili for forums (leaves out some very significant forums, however)

Trackur - a simple web-based search tool that presents articles or assets mentioning your search term.

There are a few others that I looked at, but they escape me at the moment.

There are also a lot of "service based" solutions, where there's a person doing research and sending you reports. But I'm really interested in an application that enables the internal operation.

Thanks again for the post, Chris.


Francy said...
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Aaron Gray said...


I forgot to mention, I'm also looking at Attensa, which is a desktop application. It's an rss aggregator that searches across rss sources for keywords - which makes it interesting. It allows you tag articles, too. But I haven't figured out how to do anything beyond that. Still poking around.


Chris said...


In WebTrends we've set up some reports that detail the quality of site visits from aggregated buzz sources and the results would be even more interesting if we could combine those results with a picture of buzz activity in general, using tools like these. Now to figure out how to collect the data and merge it with our site analytics reports.

Aaron Gray said...


What you are doing sounds very interesting. Do keep me posted.