Reputation management is everywhere, you can’t turn a corner on the web without seeing another service crop up out of the woodwork to monitor your company reputation online. Infact, there are entire companies working on commercial services to do just that. Trackur is one, Ratepoint another.
So how do you go about doing this yourself? Many bloggers and businesses are on a budget, and can’t afford to buy a reputation management service. In this walkthrough article, I’m going to show you how easy it is to create an online dashboard full of the information you need at your fingertips to keep an eye on both your reputation, and on the competition. The services I’ve chosen, have the added benefit of showing you a bit of a picture on your website marketing as well, and where you could also potentially gain new backlinks.
To give things a central location, I’ve opted to utilise one of the personal dashboard applications freely available in the web to manage the partial information available in one place. Loads of people opt to set these as their homepage, so when you log in in the morning, you get a snapshot of company activity.
There are a few web 2.0 dashboard applications out there on the web, iGoogle is one, Pageflakes is another – but in my opinion, you won’t go far wrong with Netvibes – and I’ve chosen it in particular for this walkthrough. I plan on going over these in detail in a future post.
The first thing you need to do is figure out what information is important to you. For my own dashboard I’ve decided to list the following information
1. a) Delicious / Digg bookmarks for my Main site (www.webdistortion.com)
b) Delicious / Digg bookmarks for my Blog (www.webdistortion.com)
2) Comments in the blogosphere using my domain as anchor text
3. a) Twitter Search for my brand name (webdistortion)
b) Twitter search for (RT @webireland) – people who have retweeted my stuff.
4) a) BackTweets – for my main site (www.webdistortion.com)
b) BackTweets – for my blog site (www.webdistortion.com)
c) Backtweets via BackTweets for my tweets (webireland)
5) a) Omglii Forum searches for my brand name (webdistortion)
b) BoardTracker forum search for webdistortion
6) Backlinks via Google Blog Search and Yahoo Site Explorer
7) Posts for my brand name within the Blogosphere
8 ) Youtube search for webdistortion
9) Flickr search for webdistortion
That’s the stuff that interests me personally. From that, I’m going to be able to spot anywhere that someone attempts to fake a comment from me, find out what people are saying about me via Twitter, monitor the blogosphere for mentions, and track forums to see where I’m getting referenced.
Personally speaking, I don’t think that my Youtube or Flickr searches will turn up much, as this isn’t an area that I’m overly active in – but for anyone that is taking photos, or shooting video, it’s worth having in there. See the screenshot right for a sample dashboard that I quickly knocked together, this is a sample of what you’ll end up with after finishing this tutorial – one central place, that you can set as you homepage which manages all of your data around the web.
Genius. Even if I do say so myself.
Setting up an account
Make your way over to Netvibes, and grab yourself an account if you haven’t already done so. This will ensure that the data you add is both private and available to you the next time you log on to the site. The signup button is easy to find (top left of the homepage), and it guides you through the signup process. Email confirmation is required so don’t use a toss away email address. Once you have signed up and signed in, the next stage of the process is to grab your RSS feeds from the third party sites.
Grabbing the RSS feeds you want to monitor
1) Server crash prevention. Delicious and Digg
I know that a few people have bookmarked my site before, so I can search for the URL directly. To do that visit http://delicious.com/url/ – you don’t need to be signed in to perform this, which is handy. Plug the URL’s of the site(s) you want to monitor and grab the associated RSS feed at the bottom of the page, as shown below.
Bingo – you’ve just got the first RSS feed to plugin to Netvibes. Save this to a text file, as you’ll need it later when we start to create the Netvibes widgets. I’ve done this for both my blog and my main www. site – you can do it for as many sites as you want, or any URL that you think has the potential to get big. Digg searches are easily setup – just plug your URL into the search box as below, then click the RSS icon to the right of the screen. I’ve mentioned on a previous post about reputation management, that you can even work out when you have been bookmarked right in the browser without a service such as delicious.
The reason I’m monitoring these, is to see if my articles get submitted to these services by others, and if they are – how well they are doing over a period of time. Having these within my dashboard, may give me an indicator that the server is getting busy, and that I need to inform my host to batten down the doors, or switch something like WP-Cache on.
2) Comments in the Blogosphere
Backtype, is one of the only services I know that allows you to find, follow and share comments from blogs and social news sites. Whilst technorati is great at tracking references within blogs, comment search is a relatively untapped search market – until now.
Best of all it offers an RSS feed for your pleasure. You can do a people search – or a URL search. As I tend to fluctuate my comments (to spread pagerank on the blogs that dofollow), and the URL that I attach to them, I was able to pull back two RSS feeds. If you manage multiple websites, then this is a real lifesaver. Each one of your commenting profiles is likely to have a link pointing back to a different website, however with BackType, you get several RSS feeds – one for each commenting “profile” – allowing you to monitor them individually.
Monitoring comments allows you to quickly jump back into a conversation that you may have left behind. You may have ranted, and forgot to come back to see the response. The other side of the coin, is that it is easy for someone to fake a comment purporting to be from your company – alot of services uses Gravaatars to bring back an image – in fact this very blog does just that. But it’s very easy to pretend to be another blogger and use their URL to comment. Hopefully this RSS feed will help prevent negative things from being said “under your alias”, and provide you with a first alert to the issue.
Once you click on each of the profiles shown above, you’ll get the RSS feed on the right hand side of the page, add this one to your text file in notepad, along with the other feeds for delicious and digg.
3) Twitter search
Twitter search is freaking great. I love it. There are a multitude of operators available for Twitter search, and the fact that there is a search API out there, opens up a whole world of fun for geeks. Inside my dashboard, due to the realtime nature of Twitter, I can find out what people are saying about me right now. I’ve added in two search feeds for twitter through the search interface. One for my brand name “webdistortion” – and one for RT @webireland – which shows me which people have decided to RT me.
Once you’ve decided what operators or searches to perform, you can grab the RSS feed from the right hand side of the interface. Add this URL to your notepad list of RSS feeds.
I’ve also recently found a great search from the guys who brought us BackType. BackTweet allows you to see who is tweeting your URL – even if they are using tinyURL’s – a feature that is missing from the standard issue Twitter search. It filters exclusively tweets which have links in them, and parses the small URL services to find the “real link”.
Connecting with people on twitter that are Tweeting your site, is good karma. Building a relatioship with them essentially makes them brand embassadors to a certain degree. On the flip side, if someone disagrees heartily with what you write, then this is a good way to find negative press as well as positive.
I’ve chosen to grab three searches via BackTweets. One of these is a direct search for my blog domain, one for my www address, and a third clever one which is my Twitter userID. The latter lets me see who is Tweeting my status to other people from within Twitter.
You can choose as many URL’s as you like.
5) Forum Searches
There are two forum search engines out there, from what I can assertain that allow you to search across multiple forums online. Omglii and BoardTracker are two such tools. Both of these offer RSS feeds for searches, and thus can be added to your dashboard. I’ve found Omglii to be that bit better, but regardless, no harm in having another possible search at your fingertips.
Plug the company you want to monitor into the above URL, and add to your text file. You may want to choose a moniker instead of a company name, if you are more interested in personal branding.
6) Backlink search
Backlinks allow you to see who either cares about you, or hates you, and for that reason they are of utmost importance when doing any work related to brand monitoring or for that matter SEO. I’ve added two searches to find my backlink superstars. One is a custom Yahoo Pipe to get Site Explorer data as RSS. The other does a search on Google blog search to find backlinks using Google’s own operators. This should get a good picture of other sites linking into you.
Add both these to your text file, for use later within NetVibes.
7) Blogosphere search
Icerocket is well known for its blog search capabilities, and I’ve teamed it up here with Google blog search and Technorati to get an overview of blogosphere activity. This should give a good picture of how many references you receive from other bloggers.
Put your company name or personal name in the URL above, and add the URL to the file. This will form the basis of a blogosphere search tab within NetVibes.
8 ) YouTube Search
Its a relatively unknown fact that youtube searches can output RSS, and the entire site can be searched for references of your company in the comments and accompanying text of a video.
Just perform a regular search on Youtube within firefox and then click on the RSS icon to subscribe to this page, this will translate into the feed that you need to add to Netvibes. Obviously you can use either your company name or personal name here. Alternatively if you have a Youtube Id here that you use (if you are a big Youtuber) then this will work best here as other post video responses to your stuff. Add each link to your notepad document.
9) Flickr Search
Interested in keeping tabs of certain places or people tagged in photos? I know, its pretty stalkerish, but if you are tagged within photos on Flickr, then it is possible for people to do a person search on Flickr, or subscribe to an RSS feed of pictures that are tagged with your mug in them.
To get the RSS feed for your dashboard, plugin your company, or comma separates tags e.g. tags=programming,fish,iphone
Ok, got the data, now to Netvibes.
Ok, so we’ve gone through the process of getting the information you want to keep an eye on around the web. You can expand upon this by being creative with the URL’s and tags that you monitor to take into account competitors and other information later. For now, we are concentrating solely on brand monitoring for you.
You should have a text file now full of the RSS feeds that you wish to monitor.
Assuming you have signed up and logged in, you will be presented with some default news widgets. You can either clear these down and delete them, or create a new tab and call it say, your company name.
Adding the Feeds.
There are two options within Netvibes to create feeds. You can use the simple “Add content tab” (located top left of your screen when you log in as shown below, or you can use Widgets.
Widgets are similar to feeds only they give you the option of letting other users find the feed – similar to the way Yahoo Pipes lets you search, Netvibes “Ecosystem” allows you to search and create unique pieces of data for others.
In addition to that, the Widget approach allows you to combine multiple pieces of data into one. This would be useful for those of you who want to create one Widget for viewing say “What The Blogosphere says about my company”. Anything that I’ve broken down into multiple parts (a/b/c) in step 1, would probably be well suited to a multiple combined widget. Netvibes themselves have their own tutorial on how to create a multifeed widget which rocks. Widgets can also be used on your Macintosh desktop, or within iGoogle if that is how you prefer to digest the information.
When you click Add feed the below box pops up, allowing you to add the feed to your page. Perform this for each of the items you have available in your feed, and an overview of your company will start to be built up.
Once you have copied and pasted the data in to netvibes, it starts to create the page. Each one of the RSS feeds you recorded early will be used to build up the interface. You can move these widgets around within the page to suit you, and even give the look and feel of your new home page a quick makeover with Netvibes themes.
Overall, building up a reputation dashboard provides a quick, easy and central way to keep an eye on what is happening around your company, brands and people online – using the power of third party searches, RSS and a homepage tool such as Netvibes. You can take a look at mine here.