This article is being written in mid-May, 2009.
Why is that related to the topic?
Because if you’re reading this any later than six months post-publication, chances are half the information here is badly outdated, perhaps even completely inaccurate. The Internet is the embodiment of rapid change and innovation, and even a self-admitted geek like your author has a hard time keeping up with all of the communications tools available, only some of which are clearly useful for reputation management.
The potential roles online tools end up playing aren’t always obvious at first. Twitter started strictly as a social networking tool. But then people were using Twitter to communicate from the site of natural disasters. Soon, others were “Tweeting” breaking news of all sorts, while some Twitter users found it was a great way to instantly complain about…anything. Including you. Twitter had evolved, in months, into a way for those who intend you harm to start immediately blasting your reputation.
Even with well-established tools, such as Google search, most people aren’t aware that it’s possible not just to set up Google news alerts, but to set up a Google “comprehensive” search that will cover anything that is indexed by Google about your topic – blogs, images, video, groups, etc. There’s a well-written explanation of how to do that at http://www.alertrank.com/google-alerts-getting-started.html. If there’s a topic, a company name, a person’s name, a brand name that you want to keep tabs on, this is a great (and free!) option.
Here, in alphabetical order, are some other tools I’m currently using:
CustomScoop (www.customscoop.com) – Still my preferred online media monitoring. There are some others with more robust features (and higher fees), but this one works for my needs.
Pipl (www.pipl.com) and Zabasearch (www.zabasearch) – Shockingly useful search engines for information about individuals. Some of the info is free, some is (usually low) fee-paid. I can pretty much guarantee you that this is where private investigators start looking for missing people without having to call in a favor at the local police department. I find Pipl’s initial results have more depth.
TweetBeep (www.tweetbeep.com) – The Twitter equivalent of Google Alerts.
TweetDeck (www.tweetdeck.com) – Allows me to track Tweets by individual or subject, with quick links for sending my own Tweets out.
TweetTag (www.tweettag.com) – Search what’s been on Twitter over the past 24 hours.
Twoogle (http://twoogle.browsys.com) – This is a very new service that lets you search Google and Twitter at the same time.
WhosTalkin.com (http://www.whostalkin.com) – A social media search engine that tracks a wide range of blogs, major news portals, social networking sites, even images and forums.
You don’t have to be a geek to take advantage of these tools, but you do need to employ one who has sufficient training and experience to collect accurate information about how your most important asset – your reputation – is being managed online. Technophobes have no place as corporate leaders in the 21st Century. Otherwise, you are allowing that asset to be managed by people who either don’t care about it or are actively hostile to your interests.
Finally, if readers find other tools they’d like to recommend to me for the specific purpose of online reputation management, please contact me — I’m always eager to learn (and, perhaps, write a follow-up piece).
Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international consultancy and author of “Keeping the Wolves at Bay: A Media Training Manual.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.