|Your customers and clients, potential
customers and clients, competitors, friends, influentials and foes are online. They talk
about you, your products and your services. They can organize for you or against you
without you ever knowing they are doing so. Unless you track them online.
Online tracking and analysis of brands, competitors and industries is more than finding what people write about you. It is also determining whether their messages directly impact your organization's survival and success and what you should do to promote or counter the messages you find online.
The challenge to tracking is finding where people talk about you. The online world is vast. It takes creative research to find the newsgroups, forums, bulletin boards, web sites, listservs, etc. that discuss your organization, industry, products or services.
Web/newsgroup/chat room/forum monitoring: Monitoring watches appropriate sites. Monitoring reports what is being said, how it might affect your organization and what you should do about.
Web/newsgroup/chat room/forum relationship programs: Relationship programs enter discussions actively to try to influence the discourse. Technology companies, particularly, have developed relationship programs, and some provide client service online through participation in in their own or other forums and bulletin boards.
Monitor constantly. It is an essential part of public relations to understand what your publics say about you. Increasingly, what is debated online is finding its way into traditional media. Reporters and editors surf for story ideas and when they find controversy, they jump on it.
Online tracking can be an early warning of future news stories. Online activists have learned this well. We have seen activists post grievances to multiple Web sites and forums to catch the eyes of disgruntled customers, editors and reporters.
Choose and design relationship programs carefully to maximize communications effectiveness. Entering a discussion can commit your company to actions that you might not have intended or anticipated. We witnessed an occasion where a well-meaning engineer providing advice on a discussion site cost a company much anxiety, time and money because he spoke out of turn. This is why some companies require employees to note that they are not speaking for their companies when the employees engage in online discussions. To get started in tracking, see Online Marketing/PR sources.
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