Yesterday we wrote about Squidoo's plans to put an end to organic Twitter PR . Now Microsoft has announced it's creating a competing tool--and this one might actually be a force for good.
Squidoo's strategy is to create a Web page for every talked-about corporation, and aggregate Twitter, Facebook, and other social buzz about the company there. If a company wants a chance to talk back, they have to pay Squidoo $400 a month; after that, they can control a sidebar on the site. I've argued  this will veer companies away from their current disaster-management tactic: placating the actual customer who complains.
Microsoft's tool also aggregates, but it's a for-your-eyes-only business tool that isn't accessible to customers. Called Looking Glass, the Web-based monitoring tool is still in a proof-of-concept stage, but its potential is terrific. (Left, the only mockup Redmond has released.)
As buzz ebbs and flows, customer service and PR specialists at a given company can track the conversation and figure out the best way to respond. Unlike Squidoo, which may encourage those specialists to react with a PR message, Looking Glass could enable companies to ameliorate customers' problems quicker, thus stemming a tide of bad press. That's assuming, of course, that the system can accurately gauge what is positive and what is negative. According to Microsoft ,
Using technology from Microsoft Research, LookingGlass automatically rates each posting as positive or negative, so the Zune HD team could rank comments according to sentiment and see how customers are responding to the product and the campaign to sell it.
It'll also provide a great opportunity for Microsoft to monetize social data by driving sales for that company's Enterprise Group. Of course, it's questionable whether many companies will want image-management software from a firm that expects you to throw a party  for Windows 7.