DJ Sterling

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Business Tools

Top 10 Free Tools for Monitoring Your Brand’s Reputation

How to Begin


Depending on how popular and well-known your brand is, there may be few or many people talking about it. If you’re looking to start a blog, position yourself as an expert or start networking actively in your desired topic area, then listening is an important research routine. As you become more well-known, more conversations will be held around your brand name, so you’ll spend more time listening and possibly responding to blog posts, tweets, etc. If you’re a large and popular company, you may need to hire someone to manage these monitoring tools daily.

The first thing you need to do is acquire a feed reader. I personally use Google reader because it’s easy to sort feeds, bookmark/favorite them and share (give value) them with your network.

I would also register for a Delicious account, which can help you sort and organize blogs that mention your brand. Think of Delicious as your own research and development plant. Once you’ve set up these two accounts, the following tools will help you locate articles that mention your brand, feed them right into your central hub (Google reader) and allow you to manage them (Delicious).


1. Google


Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results based on your choice of query or topic. You can subscribe to each alert through email and RSS. The alerts track blog posts, news articles, videos and even groups. Set a “comprehensive alert,” which will notify you of stories, as they happen, for your name, your topic, and even your company. Yahoo! Pipes is also a good tool for aggregating and combining feeds into one central repository.


2. Blog Posts


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If you have a blog, then you have to be on Technorati, which is the largest blog search engine in the world. They say that if you don’t claim your blog in Technorati, then you don’t own it! When you register with it, Technorati tracks “blog reactions,” or blogs that link to yours. Search for your brand on Technorati, and subscribe to RSS alerts so that when someone blogs about you, you find out.


3. Blog Comments


Backtype is a tool for monitoring blog comments. If people commented on various blog posts, citing your name, you never used to have a way of tracking it, until now. Backtype is a service that lets you find, follow, and share comments from across the web. Whenever you write a comment with a link to your Web site, Backtype attributes it to you.

Use it to remind yourself where you commented, discover influencers who are commenting on blogs that you should be reading, and continue conversations that you started previously. You can even subscribe to these comments using RSS. coComment is another tool that will help you manage your comments across the web.


4. Social Comments


Yacktrack lets you search for comments on your content from various sources, such as Blogger, Digg, FriendFeed, Stumbleupon, and WordPress blogs. For instance, if you comment on a blog, you can locate other people who are commenting on that same blog post and rejoin the conversation.

My favorite feature of this tool is the “Chatter” tab, which allows you to perform keyword searches on social media sites and then notifies you of instances of your brand name. Yacktrack’s search page results also give you an RSS feed for the search term. You can also use Commentful and co.mments to track your social comments on the web.


5. Discussion Boards


Along with blogs and traditional news stories, discussion boards are another channel where people can gather in a community and talk about you. Most people disregard discussion boards until they see other sites commenting on information viewed on them. Use boardtracker.com to get instant alerts from threads citing your name.

Boardreader and Big Boards are other tools that work similar to this one


6. Twitter


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Twitter messages (tweets) move at the speed of light, and if you don’t catch them they will spread like a virus. Using Twitter search, you can locate any instances of your name and decide whether you want to tweet back or ignore them. It really depends on the context and meaning of the tweet.

Conduct a search for your name, your company’s name, or various topics you’re interested in and then subscribe via RSS. Twilert and TweetBeep are additional tools you can use to receive email alerts.


7. FriendFeed


FriendFeed is a social aggregator. You have the ability to take all of your social accounts, such as YouTube, Delicious, Twitter, blog, and Flickr,
and pull them together into a single (Friend) feed. You can conduct searches on your brand throughout all social networks at once using this search engine.

Aside from learning about the latest video or tweet related to your topic, you can analyze comments that people make under them. FriendFeed users tend to favorite and comment on what you share and tracking it will become more important as this service grows in population. You can also receive alerts straight to your desktop with Alert Thingy.


8. Social Search


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Social Mention is a social media search engine that searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and microblogging services. It allows you to track mentions of your brand across all of these areas.

The results are aggregated from the top social media sources, such as Flickr, YouTube, Digg, Delicious, Twitter and more. Like the other services, you can subscribe to your results by RSS or email. Other social search engines include Serph and Keotag.


9. Interactive Search


While all the other tools listed are quite rudimentary, this one is rather complex and intelligent. Instead of being hit with hundreds or even a thousand results for your brand name, Filtrbox only delivers the most relevant, credible mentions of things you need to track. Its “FiltrRank” technology scores content based on three dimensions: contextual relevance, popularity and feedback. You can look back to previous searches 15 days out for free as well.


10. Your Network


networkA lot of people overlook a strong network when it comes to monitoring their brands. If you have a robust network, especially people in your industry who observe the same keywords as you, then you will receive important updates without even asking for them.

I get updates for just about everything now, including Facebook messages stating that I misspelled a word in my blog post and email messages pointing to an article I was referenced in. If you concentrate on building relationships, you won’t miss a beat, even if you want to!


What to Do Next


After you’ve selected which tools you want to use in your brand reputation management system and you’ve set the proper RSS or email alerts for your name, company and/or topic, now it’s time to set a schedule for when you want to check your status.

Will you do it once a day, twice a day or once a week? When you’re first starting out, once a day or week will work for you, but I highly encourage those who participate regularly to pay more attention to their online brands. Just Googling your name won’t be enough. You need to be a bit more paranoid in the digital age. in order to prevent fires from spreading, actually network with people who are talking about topics of interest or thank people who have complimented you.

Think about the brand reputation you want to project to the world. Wouldn’t you like it to be positive!? 🙂


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HOW TO: Build Your Personal Brand on Facebook

1. Know your audience


Too many people are sharing information to the wrong audiences. Your manager doesn’t want to know if you just went to the bathroom and, although your parents would love to eavesdrop on your relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend, you might not want to share those details. Since our lives are starting to converge more and more every day, you need to decide what audiences you want to connect with on Facebook.

Do you want to use Facebook as a communication stream to your family and friends? Are you looking to network with professionals that could help you get a job? These are questions you need to start asking yourself before you add “friends” to your Facebook profile. If you decide to open it up to the masses, then you need to be mindful of what you share and how that could impact people’s perception of you. Remember, you can limit what select users can see on your profile, just by changing your settings, which we’ll discuss more below.


2. Decide on your branding strategy


Everyone should have a Facebook branding strategy and it should be based not only on the audience you’re targeting, but your overall life goals. Depending on who you are, where you are in your career, what you’re passionate about and an expert in, you’ll want to brand yourself differently.

If you haven’t signed up for Facebook, then you have a great opportunity to start fresh and to build your Facebook profile to best represent you. If you’re a current Facebook user, then start analyzing how your brand is being portrayed and take steps to customize it to reflect your branding strategy.

If you don’t want to build a branding empire, a strategy should still be extremely important to you; you’re already branded and that brand can help shape perceptions online to portray you in a positive light and help you secure a good reputation. This means choosing what links and media you share in your news stream to add value to your brand and those you’re friends with.


3. Set your privacy settings


Depending on your Facebook goals, you may set your entire account to private or grant certain individuals permission to view sections of your profile. You can also make your entire profile public for the world to see, which could be beneficial to you if you’re looking to become more visible in your industry and will result in your profile ranking high for your name in search.

facebook privacy settings image

I recommend turning tagging settings off for both photos and pictures so that you can take control of your Facebook wall. You wouldn’t want your friends tagging you in a picture of you doing something stupid, would you?


4. Fill out your profile completely


Facebook is a great platform where you can paint a picture of who you are. When filling out the information fields, be sure to focus on the education and work section, where you can reconnect with fellow alumni from college, or past colleagues that might be able to help you get a job.

Also, in the contact information field, be sure to list your blog, any websites you might own and links to your profiles on other social networks. Since hiring managers use Facebook’s search engine to find candidates, it pays to load up your profile with keywords that they can search against. Depending on your Facebook brand strategy, you’ll want to promote more information in certain fields like your contact information and less in other fields.


5. Import contacts and grow your network


Each month, you should go through the process of importing your contacts from your email accounts and your instant messenger screen name accounts. This will help you continue to grow your Facebook network as you’re meeting new people through your other channels.

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If you have a blog, it’s also a smart idea to use Facebook Connect. By having Facebook Connect on your blog, you can bring your friends with you and promote your content through social interactions that start on your blog and end up on Facebook.


6. Update your status


Updating your status on Facebook allows your to project a single message to a large audience. Your status is a reflection of who you are and what you do. You can update your status with press mentions, your latest blog entry, a new project you’re working on or your interest in a particular job. Based on your branding strategy, you’ll want to update your status to either keep people informed about what you’re up to, push them to your content or both.


7. Start a group or a page


Facebook groups have fewer features than Facebook pages, but they are still important. Use a Facebook group to bring people together in your industry, become a valuable contributor to that community and market your blog, your product, or yourself! Facebook groups let you share links, videos, photos, and start discussions.

barack obama facebook page image

Facebook pages are for brands, ranging from Coca Cola to Barack Obama and even you. These pages resemble your Facebook profiles, so only use one if you have a large number of Facebook friends. By having a Facebook page, your brand can go viral, holding a spot on other people’s profiles. The other main advantage is that your page will rank high for your name in Google and you can use it for your professional career, while keeping your personal profile private.


8. Join or start an event in your area


One of the best aspects of Facebook is that you can get involved in your community by joining or starting an event in your industry. By opening up your event to everyone, you can meet new people and discover other people who have shared interest and can support your career. Events can also be cataloged on your Facebook page.

If you’re looking to start a weekly or monthly event and want to keep a calendar, logging it on a page is a good strategy. By starting an event, you’re positioning yourself as a leader and an expert, which is great for your personal brand.


9. Link out to your Facebook profile


You might already have a blog and accounts on other social networks, including Twitter, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, Technorati, etc. If you do and your Facebook strategy is to promote yourself and remain public, then placing a link (and possibly a Facebook icon) on these other sites to your Facebook profile is a great idea.

As the chief marketing officer for your personal brand, you want to build your friend list, so that you have more people to market to now and in the future. Think of your Facebook profile as a digital asset and grow the equity in that asset over the rest of your life.


10. Feed your social networks


simplyrss imageBy using Ping.fm, you can update your status on Facebook, as well as many other social networks in an instant, without duplicating your efforts. Also, you can import your blog titles in Facebook using notes or by using an application called Simple RSS.

Not only does this make you more productive, but it appears as though you’re contributing to your community, without you having to think about it. Since Facebook is all about sharing, those that share more will be remembered more, which is great for personal branding.


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8 Ways to Create Paperless Business Cards

What’s that, you’re still printing your business card on paper? That is so last year. These days, business cards are going all virtual and that’s a good thing. Not only are paperless business cards good for t

networking

he environment, and easier to carry, they’re also unlimited — you’ll never run out when you’re networking at an event or conference.

But there are a bunch of different ways to construct a virtual business card, which is right for you? Below are eight ways to build a virtual business card that you can use to send your information to contacts the next time you’re at a networking event. Please share any other services you use in the comments.

Use Your Phone


contxts-mobile-sms-business-cards

1. SMS – While it’s true that almost everyone you meet is going to have a pocket to store your business card in, it’s also true that almost everyone you meet will have a cell phone as well — and they’re likely to be a lot less cavalier about losing, misplacing, or throwing away their phone than they are about your business card. The services below allow you to beam your business card via SMS text message to interested parties.

Contxts – Send and receive 140 character business cards via text message for free. 140 characters doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s enough to include vital contact information (like name, business name, phone #, and email). See our previous review of Contxts here.

TextID – Meet someone new and tell them to text message your username to a short, six digit number. In return, they’ll receive your contact info via SMS. The service costs $19.95/month with 250 free texts.

DUB – Once you’ve created your business card on DUB’s web site you can then have it sent to other users by email or SMS simply by sending a text message to the DUB site. DUB actually could have fit into almost any of the categories in this section since it supports email, SMS, and they have iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile applications, as well as a web interface.

2. Mobile Web – MyNameIsE is essentially a mobile social network of business cards. The site collects together all of your social profiles into a virtual business card that is accessible via mobile web and iPhone-optimized web sites. When you meet a new contact, simply enter each other’s usernames and a connection is made.

e-connector

Perhaps more interestingly, though, the people behind “E” have created a USB dongle called the E Connector (pictured above) that they plan to sell to trade show and conference organizers as a way for attendees to more easily share information. The dongle, which is about the size of the keyless entry keychain fobs used for automobiles, can automatically share contact information when it comes near another Connector.

3. Email – Why manually email your contact information to someone you’ve just met when you can tell your phone to do it for you? Check out the services below, which combine the ease and ubiquity of text messaging with the power of email to share your virtual business card with colleagues.

Dropcard is a lot like Contxts and TextID, but it’s focused on email. After you create a profile, anytime you meet someone you just text their email address to a special number and they’re emailed your virtual business card. Dropcard is free for up to 5 connections per month, but for heavy networkers, opt for the $9.99/month plan that allows you to send unlimited cards.

WeaveMet – WeaveMet is a similar service that lets you send your contact information to people you meet via email or text message. You simply instruct the service (via SMS) to email new contacts your information, along with a short note (like where you met).

4. iPhone – There are a number of great iPhone business card sharing applications available in the App Store, and we profiled a bunch of them last month. One of my favorites is beamME, which lets you create a vCard and send it to anyone you meet via email, mobile number, or even Twitter direct message. But check out last month’s roundup for a number of great options.


Use Your Social Media Profiles


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While mobile phone-centric applications are very helpful in the field, they only provide room for the most basic of information. The options below will help you create a more complete business card.

5. Social Networks – Social networks, especially those that cater to business usage, are an amazing replacement for business cards. Most people you meet are probably going to Google your name anyway, so filling out profiles on prominent social networks is a good way to make sure that what they find is what you want to present. LinkedIn, or Xing if you live in Europe, are good places to start.

LinkedIn offers tools to help you connect further with people you’ve met via networking events, as well as a way to communicate with them without having to give out your personal contact information. Be sure to complete your entire profile and pick an appropriate vanity URL.

Another option that shouldn’t be overlooked is Facebook. Privacy controls make it possible to keep your business and social contacts separate, and the coming addition of vanity URLs will make it a lot easier for people to find you.

6. Google Profile – On the whole, Google Profiles are pretty basic — they’re yet another place to list standard biographical information and profile links. But because they now figure so prominently into Google search results, it’s a very good idea to set yours up as part of your virtual business card strategy. Further, short vanity URLs make them really easy to share.

7. Twitter – Everyone is already exchanging Twitter user names when they meet at conferences because they’re short, easy to remember, and a great way to invite someone to connect with you without having to exert much effort. In May, we profiled a new app that allows you to send business cards over Twitter.

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twtBizCard makes sending a business card via Twitter as a easy as appending a hashtag to the end of an @reply directed at the person who you want to send information. The nice thing about sending a virtual business card this way is you can use the remaining tweet space to include a message about where you met.

8. Profile Aggregators – As a whole, every one of your social media profiles paint a picture of your online identity, so you may very well want to include those profiles as part of your virtual business card. But for social media junkies, that becomes a difficult prospect — sharing a bunch of social media profiles URLs just isn’t easy. An elegant way to deal with that problem is by using a profile aggregator.

We recently reviewed a number of ways to share your social media profiles, but two you should pay special attention to are Retaggr and Chi.mp. Retaggr creates a virtual social media business card that you can share and embed. The card includes links to all of your social profiles and even pulls in dynamic content (like blog posts and tweets). Chi.mp, meanwhile, gives users their own yourname.mp domain name and aggregates content from socials sites that you use. The reason Chi.mp is ideal for business use is that it has advanced privacy settings that allow you to create special profiles for different users — i.e., so that your business contacts never need to see pictures of your kids from your Flickr stream.


What About All Those Old Cards?


So now your business card is completely virtual, what do you do with your old paper cards? Well, it’ll probably still be a few years before the business card completely goes the way of the Do Do, so hang on to a few of them. However, there is something you can do about all the paper business cards you collect at networking events.

If you send your collection of business cards to CloudContacts, they’ll scan and organize all that information for you. You can view all the business cards you’ve collected from people you’ve met online, and download that information to desktop email clients like Outlook, Entourage, Thunderbird, and Exchange. Once they’re done scanning, CloudContacts will either return your paper cards to you or recycle them.


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