Buzz Monitoring = Brand Development

Every day, people are talking online about your company and products. Some discussions are positive; some are negative. The trick is to capitalize on these discussions to build a better brand and link popularity.

There are several ways to capitalize on these discussions and product mentions. If a discussion is positive, have someone from your company post something showing appreciation -- a simple thank you. Then, perhaps, provide greater insight or additional advice. Even offer a special promotion to the other readers. This added bit of attention can go a long way to developing a stronger customer base.

Is it a negative conversation? Look at this as an opportunity to resolve a customer problem and develop a better brand image. People expect problems. It's how the problem is resolved that matters, and determines a company's reputation. The online retailer Zappos is famous for this strategy.

Once people see how your company handles positive and negative comments, they'll be more likely to recommend your product to others online (i.e. links) and offline.

To get you started, here are five ways to monitor what people are saying about your company, products, and services.

1. Name/Product/Buzz Monitoring

Set up an alert service for any mentions of your company's name, products, trademarks, and even your competitors. There are several free and paid alert services. At the very least, sign up for Google Alerts, which is free.

2. Forum & E-mail Newsgroups

Many overlook these as old technology. Just as people still use "good old e-mail," the use of discussion forums and e-mail groups is still alive and strong. Since some have restricted access, such as logins and passwords, they may need to be monitored manually. Determine the key sites to monitor, then hire a high school or college intern to visit them every day or two. Or hire a low-cost remote worker for this alert task.

For those serious about their online image and looking for more than a simple alert service, consider paying more for a person knowledgeable of the industry. Then empower them to contribute and get actively involved in the discussions. This is one of the most powerful ways to build a solid online brand.

3. Social Media

Some of the alert/buzz monitoring services will help with social media sites. Yet, consider finding a company that specializes in social media monitoring. Some firms have proprietary technology. Others have set up sophisticated strategies using technology and people. Some even offer the service of discussion participation to advance your brand.

Before outsourcing the contribution of online discussion to another company, make sure they're highly knowledgeable and have expertise in your industry. You're putting your company's reputation in someone else's hands, so make sure you trust those hands.

4. Review Sites

There are review sites for just about every product or service, from gourmet coffee to vacation rentals. Find the key sites for your industry/product, then set up a service to monitor them both automatically and manually.

Work in a competitive industry with lots of consumer reviews, like travel? Find a buzz monitoring firm or Internet-savvy PR agency that specializes in this for your industry. They will already have services set up to monitor key sites like TripAdvisor and the like.

5. Site Analytics -- Referring Sites

Who's talking about your company right now? Site analytics is often overlooked when trying to figure out where new traffic is coming from by means of links. This is a simple and highly cost-effective way to quickly find new discussions about your company.

Get your company involved in being an active contributor to online discussion to further develop your brand. It's as simple as monitoring what people are saying and becoming active in those discussions. At the very least, you can steer negative discussion into something more positive.

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