The Importance of Monitoring the "Webiverse"

It's not uncommon that folks want to know what's being said about them. For businesses, it's becoming more of an obsession and for good reason. While companies won't ever have 100 percent control of their online image, there are certainly various things that organizations can do to participate and track what's going on in the "Webiverse." That's why Internet monitoring tools are becoming increasingly popular within company environments and aid businesses in tracking conversations and comments--whether good or bad--that involve their brand.

Free services such as Google Alerts are widely known, and a must have for every company as it provides users the ability to track what's going on in their industry. Other sites like Social Mention and Hootsuite operate the same way but for social media profiles. In the case of my company, an online textbook marketplace, it is critical for us to ensure that we maintain a stellar Web reputation and remain at the forefront of our industry. Most other companies--regardless of industry--will need to think the same way. Here are six reasons how organizations should go about monitoring conversations online:

1) Keep an eye on the competition.
Every company should have Google Alerts set up not only for new Web content about them, but also for their rivals. Have they launched a new product? Won over a key customer? What are they doing that you're not? Following the opposition is more important than ever and provides additional insight into what's happening in the industry.

2) Track key words.
Make a list of key words related to the organization's services and offerings and set up individual searches on those terms. Whether these words show up in a news story or blog post, it's a good practice for companies to monitor this activity.

3) Determine who's linking to your site.
From a PR and marketing perspective, businesses should consistently include links to their Web site on any information that's distributed. For organizations that send press releases, this is an easy way to monitor which sites pick up the news.

4) Acknowledge customers.
Not only is it good practice to track competitors, but following key customers or partners is equally important. For example, if you receive an update that a prospect was recently acknowledged for something, send them a personal note congratulating them on their accomplishment. It's not only a kind gesture, but it demonstrates that your company monitors their business as well.

5) Locate media.
At ValoreBooks, we frequently come across new reports that cover our industry from tracking certain keywords. It's a great idea to research their work and determine if they write about that beat on a consistent basis. If so, have the marketing or PR team make outreach efforts. Perhaps they'll keep your firm in mind the next time they're looking for an expert source for a story and you'll make a new friend.

6) Be active.
Set aside some time each day to monitor and review Google Alerts as well as other social media search services. Often companies will sign up for such monitoring services, but fail to actively review each thread when it's received.

Using online monitoring tools is advantageous for numerous reasons; it allows companies to stay ahead of the curve as well as provides opportunities to play with the big dogs. The strategies available enable folks to track their professional exposure, company news, competitors, meet new media and industry elements in general. It's now up to these organizations to play an active role in monitoring and participating in their Web presence.

Bobby Brannigan is the founder and CEO of ValoreBooks, a fast-growing online provider of cheap college textbooks. He can be reached at bbrannigan@valorebooks.com.

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