Monitor the brand. Most people will read that phrase and think it applies only to business. But as Mari Smith so eloquently said in an interview with Social Media Examiner, you are a brand whether you are one person or a whole organization.
Every online interaction, every avatar, every online profile works together to create your brand. An important part of building and managing that online presence is monitoring the conversation. Do you know what people are saying about you?
I ran across a great video in a post from Pamorama (Pam Dyer) that gives good basic instruction on how to set up a listening platform for Twitter using Twitter search, TweetBeep.com, and Backtweets.com. I'm not going to rehash the video from John Haydon, but I encourage you to watch and learn. I'd like to offer a few tips I use in addition to Haydon's info. He gears much of his stuff to nonprofits, but this short video on Twitter search is for everyone.
Using Twitter search (http://www.search.twitter.com/), Haydon recommends monitoring five key components: your name, your Twitter username, your brand (CK Syme.org, Starbucks, whatever), your competitors, and keywords. Backtweets.com allows you to track a specific URL. This is most helpful as many of us use TweetDeck or Hootsuite with a built-in URL shortener. With BackTweets.com, I can track a specific URL such as my blog (www.cksyme.org) and set the free service up to send me email alerts. I find this app most helpful in conjunction with bit.ly that allows me to track the shortened URLs that I tweet. TweetBeep is an alert application much like Google Alerts is. I have several key phrases I monitor on TweetBeep, including my name and my brand name (CKSyme.org). A neat feature of TweetBeep is that they will push those alerts to an RSS feed. If you don't have an RSS reader set up, you can still track those RSS feeds through your browser. Internet Explorer, for example, has a "feed" tab on the Favorites pull-down menu. If you sign up for the alerts via RSS, it becomes very simple to monitor through that tab.
How do you find the time to do all this? Incorporate the tasks into what you're already doing. You check email? Have your alerts sent to your email. Do you have an RSS reader? Have the feeds sent there. Monitoring your brand and your competitors can become a seamless part of your online day. Biggest surprise? When I started monitoring my name (Chris Syme) in addition to what I was already monitoring (brand and username), I found a whole bunch of tweets I hadn't seen before. Combined with Google Alerts, this process gives me a pretty good idea what's going on in real time around my brand.
Are you monitoring your brand online? How are you doing it? What free tools do you use?