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11.2 The First Step: Monitor the Conversation

Learning Objective

  1. Understand that listening to the buzz online is a crucial step in the online reputation management process.

Focus groups are not required for gauging customer sentiment on the Internet. It’s all out there, connected via hyperlinks and crawled regularly by search engine spiders.

KeywordsIn online reputation management, a term that is used when searching the Internet for mentions.—the foundation of categorizing and indexing the Web—make it relatively simple (though possibly time consuming) to listen to the chatter online. Customers are not using channels designated by a company to talk about that organization, but the good news is that the Internet makes it easy for a company to use the channels that customers have selected.

Online Reputation Management Keywords

Online reputation management (ORM)Understanding and influencing the perception of an entity online. allows a company to track mentionsIn online reputation management, the instances when a selected brand, company, or staff members are talked about online, usually by clients or consumers. of itself, its staff, its products, its industry, and its competitors. In fact, the tools allow for the tracking of anything; it just comes down to deciding what is relevant to you.

In terms of the company, one can track the following:

  • Brand name
  • URL (uniform resource locator)
  • Key products
  • Key personnel (names, job titles, etc.)

In terms of the industry, one can track the following:

  • Conferences
  • Patents
  • News

In terms of competitors, one can track the following:

  • Brand names
  • Product launches
  • Web site updates
  • Job vacancies

For example, if Apple were to use these tools to monitor its reputation, some keywords used for the company might be the following:

  • Apple
  • “”
  • Macbook, iPod, Macbook Air, iTunes
  • “Steve Jobs”

For its industry, Apple might use the following:

  • Consumer Electronics Show Las Vegas
  • CeBIT

For its competitors, Apple might use the following:

  • Microsoft, Creative

It is also important to track common misspellings, all related companies, and all related Web sites.

Tracking the names of people key to a company can highlight potential brand attacks or can demonstrate new areas of outreach for a company.

Brand names, employee names, product names, and even competitor names are not unique. To avoid monitoring too much, identify keywords that will indicate that a post has nothing to do with your company and negative match that keyword in your searches.

For example, “apple” could refer to a consumer electronics company, or it could appear in a post about the health benefits of fruit. Finding keywords that will indicate context can help save time. So you could negative match words like “fruit,” “tasty,” and “Granny Smith.”

How to Track: CGM and Search

Thankfully, ORM does not entail hourly searches on your favorite search engine to see what is appearing on the search engine results page (SERPs), although being aware of your search space is vital as well. There are a number of search engines that allow users to narrow a search to particular media or industries, and using RSSAbbreviates all the content most Web sites on the World Wide Web contain in order to provide you with specific content you want. RSS allows you to receive and syndicate this information without requiring you to constantly open new pages in your browser. Also see feed reader. (really simple syndication) means that these results can be updated regularly and kept conveniently in one place.


Remember RSS from Chapter 8 "Social Media"? It means that you can keep track of everything in one central place.

Monitoring all mentions means that the following need to be tracked:

  • Blogs
  • Twitter
  • News
  • Forums
  • Comment boards
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Job listings
  • Events
  • Patents
  • Web site changes

There are a number of different tools that monitor these areas and supply the results via e-mail alerts or RSS feeds. The following are some free tools that are available.

Google has several search services, some of which have been mentioned previously, and periodically adds more to the list. With the services below, an RSS feed is available for the search (Google Alerts sends weekly or daily e-mails with updates), so that all updates can be available through a feed readerAn RSS aggregator that lets you view all your RSS feeds in one place..

  • Google Alerts. Google Alerts will send an e-mail when the keyword is used in either a news item or a blog post.
  • Google News. Google News searches all news items for mentions of a keyword.
  • Google Blog Search. Google Blog Search searches all blog posts for mentions of a keyword.
  • Google Patent Search. Google Patent Search allows you to keep track of all filings related to an industry, and searches can be done to see if there are patent filings that might infringe on other patents.
  • Google Video Search. Video Search relies on the data that have been added to describe a video and will return results based on keyword matches.

There are several search engines that focus solely on tracking blogs, news, and other social media and can provide trends for searches. As well as providing regular updates of new postings, these search engines can provide an overview of a certain period of time.

Keeping track of blog posts is one thing, but mentions of a company can also appear in blog comments and on forum postings. The following two services assist in monitoring comments and forums.

  • Boardtracker. Boardtracker monitors popular forums and provides alerts via short message service (SMS) for keywords mentioned in a thread.
  • Co.mments. RSS alerts can be created for mentions of a keyword in the comments of blog posts.

Yahoo! has a number of social media companies under its umbrella, and most provide the opportunity to monitor mentions via RSS.

  • Flickr. RSS updates for searches on a particular keyword will reveal when a brand name has been used in tagging a photo.
  • Yahoo! Upcoming. Yahoo! Upcoming will alert you via RSS to any upcoming events related to the keyword you have selected.
  • Delicious. An RSS feed can be created for URLs tagged with keywords or for new bookmarkings of a URL.
  • Yahoo! Pipes. Yahoo! Pipes allows anyone to set up a custom buzz-monitoring tool with previously chosen filters.

There might be Web sites that a company would like to monitor for keyword mentions that do not offer RSS feeds. Using a service such as Rollyo ( allows the creation of a custom search engine that will search those specific sites only.

Listening is the first step to getting involved in the conversation surrounding a company. Using search tools and RSS feeds means that information can be accessed quickly and in one place without the need to visit hundreds of Web sites.

Key Takeaways

  • With ORM, there is no need for costly focus groups to know a brand’s reputation.
  • Conversations are taking place all the time on the Internet, and it is crucial for companies to be aware of what is being said about them. Customers are now dictating the channels of communication, and companies that cannot engage with their consumers in this way stand to lose them.
  • ORM is about using the tools of the Internet, the same tools that customers are using, to monitor, analyze, and ultimately influence the conversation. Companies need to learn to listen and engage.
  • There are many free and paid-for tools available for monitoring online conversations, and with most it is easy to set up custom RSS feeds that will update with any new mentions. Mentions need to be analyzed for sentiment, credibility, influence, and source, and appropriate action to be taken.


  1. Using the Yahoo! properties mentioned above, evaluate a particular brand by using relevant keywords to see what comes up in a search. What did you find? Give examples. Are you surprised by what you saw?