It has been discussed over and over again, “Who owns a brand?”.
The answer is simple.
Nobody Everyone owns your brand. It is a collective and individual perception of an idea. As PR professionals, we used to be able to push a message to a lot of people and expect them to buy into it. This usually worked.
If the message was genuine and interesting, well, that is always good… but even if it just pushed a message that was noise. A message that merely spammed the masses could garner some success.
Why did this work?
It worked because the audience didn’t have much of a voice, users couldn’t reach other users to share opinions of what was great and what wasn’t. Sure, they could talk to their neighbors and coworkers, but it was nearly impossible for their message to get any traction.
Now we have more ways to reach potentially large audiences than I would have ever thought possible. The best part is that most of it costs the user nothing but time. The name of the game is blogging.
So… how do we as the ones who want to manage these brands get a clue as to what these bloggers are saying about what matters to us?
We listen. Here are some ways to listen to the blog-O-sphere.
- Google’s Blog Search is as simple as Google’s other searches. The only difference is that it looks only at what it considers to be blogs. A search for CRT/tanaka, my employer, results in 132 hits. A search for “twitter” delivers over 5 million hits. The best part is that if you look at your results page, on the left sire you have the opportunity to subscribe to the RSS feed of that specific search… you drop that into your RSS reader and start to build your monitoring list.
- Another ego-search site like google’s blog search is technorati.com.
This offering is more surfable than some others. It offers video results from top video sites as well. Alos the results here will be different than Google’s. The same search for “Twitter” brought in just over 200 thousand hits. Fewer but different results, so still worth the visit. Also, as with Google’s service, you can subscribe to the results.
- Targeted blog reading.
This one might seem like old news, but it is important not to rely on one tool only. Some brands have common names that are just going to return too many hits when you search for their name. Consider targeting high-traffic blogs that are focused on the industry or culture that might have something to say about the brand.Also consider participating in the discussions on these blogs. This will help greatly when pitching these bloggers later on. A blogger will be much more likely to listen to a loyal reader than an email from an unknown address.
- A good place to locate some fairly active blogs in a specific area is Alltop. This is one of Guy Kawasaki’s projects and is lightweight and functional. It offers you many verticals to from which to start. Each one shows the five most recent sites with updates in the given area. I don’t see a way to subscribe via RSS to any of the pages, but all the blogs that you link to from there have strapped on the RSS… or you wouldn’t find them on Alltop.
Summize.com is a great way to monitor the conversations that happen on the micro-blogging service twitter. Be sure to check out the advanced search functions. The service has some impressive numbers and monitoring it can offer some insight that you won’t find elsewhere. Again… the results can be subscribed to via RSS… are you starting to see a trend here?
- Podcasters have a lot to say. The only problem is that there is generally no way to search the content. That said, you should still consider finding a select few of them that discuss topics related to the brands you are tracking. Feel free to try the search functions in iTunes for keywords, but VERY few podcasts offer transcripts that could be searched.
- Do all the above for your competitor’s brands
These should give you a solid start on tracking the ever-moving sea on blog content.