How To Monitor Online Conversations

Keeping up with online conversations can be a daunting task. As a freelance consultant, I not only need to keep up with what people are saying about me and my company, but I also need to monitor the latest industry trends to learn new skills and stay relevant. While wearing my blogging hat, I also have to keep up with conversations that would be interesting to web workers for this blog, or relevant for people building online communities for my own blog.

Interesting conversations are happening all over the web, on blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed and many other sites. People are talking about you, your company and your industry, and revealing many tips and tricks that you should know. I am a self-confessed data junkie, so I have a few tips to help you make sense of the massive amounts of data available and to focus on monitoring just what really matters.

Use a Dashboard

An RSS-based monitoring dashboard is a great way to collect everything you’re monitoring into one place. I’ve set these up for clients in a number of different ways depending on the preference of the person responsible for monitoring. For people new to RSS, I generally encourage them to use something like Netvibes, which has a visual layout with multiple tabs and columns where you can see several key conversations at a glance. I have a couple of sections in my RSS reader where I keep everything that I’m monitoring, and I make sure that they are the first things I read.

Filter Your Feeds

Filtering RSS feeds through Yahoo Pipes or other tools is a good way to make sure that your monitoring dashboard contains relevant content and not just a list of blogs to read. I use Yahoo Pipes to filter for mentions of my name, my company and efforts that I am involved with across various sites (Twitter, FriendFeed, blogs, Flickr, video sites, etc.) Yahoo Pipes can also be used to combine many feeds and filter those high-volume RSS feeds for only relevant content that you need to know. Tools like PostRank are a good way to find the posts within a feed that are generating the most buzz.

Choose the Right Twitter Client

Use a smart Twitter client that lets you group the important people that you want to monitor and provides a way to get real-time notifications for mentions of certain keywords. TweetDeck is a good choice. I have a couple of different groups set up to help make sure that I see the posts from people who have important ideas and who provide me with the greatest value. I also have keyword searches in TweetDeck for companies or events that I am involved with to make sure that I don’t miss any important conversations about these efforts on Twitter.

Find Hot Topics With FriendFeed

FriendFeed is a great way to find the hot topics of the day, to make sure that you’re keeping up with industry trends and new tools or techniques that you can apply to your work. I like to group people by topic, like community management, and use the “best of” feature to find the best posts of the day, week or month from those subgroups of people. The example below shows the best post of the month from my “News Makers” group. It’s an easy way for me to filter the flood of content in FriendFeed down to something much more manageable.

FriendFeed Best of Month

FriendFeed Best of Month

While monitoring is important, you should also be responding to these conversations. People are more likely to engage with you in future if they get a response back, rather than feeling like their feedback went into a black hole. Respond to as many @replies on Twitter as you can, and also use your blog for longer responses or to post reactions to relevant conversations that are happening across the web.

What are your tips and tricks for monitoring online conversations?

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