There are so many reasons why companies should care about how people perceive them. Indeed, virtually every company recognizes this truth when they invest in public relations professionals, advertisements, marketing departments, etc. There is a curious oversight, though, when it comes to online reputations. Many companies do not pay even the slightest attention what their overall online reputations are–what information Google reveals about them, what customers are saying on social networks, and what various niche forums say about their products or services.
It is this last possibility that I’d like to focus on in this column. Forums are important. You must register for them first, so there are not many fly-by-night commenters on a forum. Furthermore, spam is considerably less common on forums, which also serves to make them more respectable outlets for information sharing. Forums are more of a private atmosphere, too, even though they are often crawled by search engines, they are insular communities–all of these factors combine to mean that people trust statements on forums more than comments left of blogs or even social networking statuses.
Many forums are not search-able through search engines. They have required registration and do not allow their forums to be crawled by search engines. This does not mean, however, that forums have to remain invisible to those who want to discover what is being said on them. Boardreader is a site that helps people to look through forum postings, whether they are about soccer, cars, fashion, or certain cities.
Boardreader was founded in May of 2000 by a collection of engineers and students from the University of Michigan in order to find and then accurately display the messages that people often send to each other through forums boards online. Boardreader searches thousands of forums simultaneously for information pertaining to your keyword. Part of the aim for Boardreader is to increase traffic to various message boards and forums. They can do this by increasing the exposure that those forums receive. You can, of course, search by more advanced parameters too.
It is absolutely essential that people know what is being about their companies, products, or services. If they do not, they will not know how to properly respond. With that in mind, Boardreader can be used to monitor forum postings for online reputation monitoring reasons.
The online reputation of a company matters much more than many people realize. The number of people who discount the importance of an online reputation is quite alarming–as virtually everyone goes online now when they want information about anything. Whether it is Walmart, a famous athlete, a new movie coming out, or the latest fashion trends–people look to the Internet for their information. In light of this, it is very important to know not just what is coming up on the search engines for you, but also to know what people are saying in more private locales about your company or product. Boardreader is the best possible way to do that.
This is an article that is actually written by the makers of Boardreader:
This is the Boardreader site, do some searches to see the layout:
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The importance of a solid reputation cannot be underestimated. Due to the highly competitive nature of virtually every industry these days, consumers are keenly aware that they have a plethora of options when it comes to products, services, or companies. Due to this, they often seek out information on how the various companies, products, or services compare. They look to print media and television, sure, but increasingly consumers are turning to the Internet as a way to find out more about various services, products, and companies.
The Internet is a medium that needs to be watched extra closely by businesses who are concerned with their image. It is a pliant medium which does exert much control over its users. The Internet is as near to anarchic speech as you can imagine, with very few laws regarding slander, libel, uncomplimentary reviews, etc. Even if a company does not engage in the online conversation, others will still be able to control your brand’s image. Unfortunately, people rarely check the facts for information they are given–so any statement, comment, article, or video is believed to be authentic. There is a quote that is going around that illustrates this point quite well: “You can believe virtually anything you read on the Internet, because only experts are allowed to publish material there.” -Albert Einstein.
Of course, the point is that the Internet did not exist when Albert Einstein was alive and any individual who said that would be incredibly foolish. But, people do believe things that they read about products, services, companies, events, and people without giving it much thought and without checking the facts out. This is sad, but true. In order to counteract this lack of fact checking, companies must be that much more zealous about monitoring their online reputations and promoting positive content regarding their brands.
The Solution: Taking Actionly
One of the most talked about products for online reputation monitoring is Actionly. This is a tool that has been lauded by many online reputation management and social media experts. Actionly makes use of state of the art technology to keep track of the chatter about your brand, product, service, or company online. Whether it is being said on blogs, forums, traditional websites, or social networking sites–Actionly will pick up on it, make not of it, and analyze it for the client.
Google Buzz, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Youtube, and others are all monitored by Actionly in order to get an accurate picture of who is talking about your company or product, where they’re doing that talking, and what sort of things they are saying. The entire idea behind Actionly is that companies often have trouble finding actionable insights from their online reputation monitoring programs, assuming they have any online reputation monitoring programs at all. Actionly monitors all social media for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week–their monitoring platform does not take a break, so that you can.
This is Actionly’s website–where you can find out more about the program and pricing:
This is an interview with an employee at Actionly:
This is a review of Actionly as a service:
Do It Yourself and How It Fails
Monitoring an online reputation can be quite intensive. It takes time, patience, and a knowledge of how to do it yourself. Most people who try to monitor their own reputations do not do a great job, frankly, because all they know how to do is search for themselves on Google or some other search engine. While this is certainly an important part of monitoring your online reputation, it is far from a comprehensive online reputation monitoring campaign. Monitoring social networking chatter from Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, and Google+, searching news and blog aggregators, and seeing if any forums have chatter about you. Doing a comprehensive search like this, depending on how much chatter there is about you, how common your name is, etc, could take anywhere from a couple hours to days at a time.
There are tools, though, that can help to make the process easier. Online reputation monitoring tools are a dime-a-dozen, but few of them really do the job the way it should be done, and many of them miss various aspects of a good monitoring campaign. Trackur is one tool that does the job right. Trackur is a tool developed by Andy Beal, one of the most respected names in online marketing. He is an international renown consultant, author, and speaker on topics related to online marketing, including online reputation monitoring. His website, Marketing Pilgrim, is a treasure trove of information about online reputation monitoring and management, as is his book Radically Transparent. So Andy Beal’s Trackur has some gravitas before you even take a look at it’s layout, pricing, and functionality.
How Is It Different?
Trackur is not like other online reputation monitoring tools, it does a comprehensive study of the Internet to find out what, if anything, is being said about you, your company, your brand, or various keywords. It does not just monitor news, either, but videos, images, and social media. Trackur is extremely user friendly–it can be set up in as little as five minutes. Users of Trackur can get emailed any updates that the program has, so you have the ability to be notified immediately of anything the program finds and you can tackle the issue before it becomes any real problem. Anyone who knows anything about online reputation monitoring and management knows that acting quickly is of paramount importance.
At first, Trackur’s base cost was $88. However, it is now available for only $18 per user per month, a cost that is unmatched in the online reputation monitoring tool industry. You will not find an effective online monitoring service, program, or tool that is any cheaper than that. Trackur has proven to be extremely popular with users looking for alternatives to monitoring their own online reputations. Over 35,000 people have used Trackur thus far. Part of the reason is the low pricing, as well as the virtually real time results–you will often find results in the Trackur queue that are less than thirty minutes old.
The article where Beal announced his new tool, Trackur, and answered some basic questions about it. Notice this has a higher price $88, for the standard services–it has since been dramatically lowered.
A Mashable article on Trackur’s price coming down.
If you’re interested in actually getting Trackur–the site for the tool itself.
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