You need to know what people are saying about you

In some of my recent blogs I have talked about the growth of social media and how mass communication power is shifting from organisations with editorial control and into the hands of individuals armed with nothing more than a mobile phone.

So, given the communication power that these individuals wield, how do you know what people are saying about your company on social media channels?

Angry customer

I recently had a break in my broadband connection into the office. The internet is so essential to me that I jumped in the car and drive the 25 miles into town to my other desk, so that I could at least be productive.

As I was setting up, I put a quick message on Twitter about how frustrating it was to lose my connection, adding – in fairness to BT – that this was the first substantial break for more than a year.

I was amazed when, within minutes, BTCare responded on Twitter asking for all the details so they could find out more about the outage for me.

In the past I have had occasion to rant about the difficulty of communicating with BT, but this amazed me. The message and the subsequent explanation was good customer relations. It nipped the issue in the bud, before I could spread negativity around the millions of global Twitter users.

As I have said before, any sensible business needs to track customer service, regulation, competition and legal issues that may affect them. As part of that you need to know what people may be saying on Twitter, in blogs, on You Tube or any of the other social media.

How do you go about that? There are organisations that will provide you with comprehensive monitoring, often as an extension to their monitoring of conventional media.

But there are some simple measures you can implement at no cost to provide a reasonable level of monitoring.

IoD Scotland magazine

This article was published in IoD Scotland’s Winter 2009 magazine

Brainstorm the search terms that would bring up any issues you want to monitor. Your company name, any brand names, competitors, possibly some key words about your market place or industry sector.

Then set up your monitoring. One of the easiest ways is to use Google Alerts. Go to and set up an alert for each search term. You can have them delivered as an email or an RSS feed. Personally I would suggest an RSS feed and use a news aggregation service like the free Google Reader to gather and read the feeds.

Even if you have no intention of Twittering your thoughts to the world on a regular basis, the next step is to go to and set up an account. If you are customer-facing, you might even want to take a leaf out of BT’s book and name it as a customer care account, like BTCare. You can then send either an open, or direct (with a capital D before the username), response to any issues.

Once you have your account opened, put in your search terms in the search box on the right. For each term, select the RSS feed (at the bottom of the column), adding each to Google Reader, or your chosen news aggregator.

You can then add any other RSS feeds you want into your news aggregator. Newspaper feeds, blog feeds and other RSS feeds. Then it is simply a matter of establishing a routine to monitor the results.

Time is the issue. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch I can recommend an app called Newsstand. It links with Google Reader and means that you can skim through the summaries in ‘down time’ away from your desk.

Mark all items you want to scrutinise with a star (opening the stories on Newsstand is slow). Then click the tick at the bottom right to mark all stories as read. When you are back at your computer, click “Starred items” in Google Reader and you will see the stories you want to follow up. (Remember to remove the star once each item is checked.)

It was exactly this simple, easily set-up system that allowed us to spot an issue for a client recently. The client responded directly to the Twitter user. Not only did this stop any further negative comment, but even secured an ‘honourable mention’ from the person concerned.

I make no pretence that this approach is a substitute for more sophisticated monitoring, but it is, at least, quick, simple and completely free. Use it as one element of your early warning system!

© Ken McEwen Public Relations, 2009.
No unauthorised reproduction without full acknowledgement of source. All rights reserved.

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