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Quite a few people seemed to enjoy last week’s post about How To Monitor Online Conversations, so I thought it would be a good idea to explain how to make a monitoring dashboard to make it easy to track what’s being said online about you, your company, your competitors and anything else you need to keep an eye on. The key to monitoring dashboards is to set them up in a way that you can check them frequently, quickly and easily.
When I talk about monitoring “dashboards,” I use the term very loosely. In some cases, I set clients up with RSS readers that have a typical dashboard look and feel for monitoring feeds, while in other cases the “dashboard” is really a monitoring section in an existing RSS reader with the feeds delivered as an OPML file.
In my experience, people who are new to RSS readers tend to do better with a reader that looks more like a dashboard than the a tree or folder structure. This is particularly true for monitoring because a dashboard lets you see more information at a glance. Netvibes and iGoogle are both good choices for new users. However, I think that the Netvibes layout tends to work slightly better for this purpose. Here’s an example of a monitoring dashboard built using Netvibes:
However, I personally use NetNewsWire for my RSS reader. I have my monitoring dashboards set up in folders that don’t in any way resemble a typical dashboard. Try out a few different readers to find the one that works best for your style and usage. The tool that you select isn’t the critical element. The real magic is in the content that you are monitoring.
I monitor three primary types of content in my dashboards: vanity mentions, competition and industry analysis.
Vanity mentions are the conversations that people are having about you, your company, your products and your employees. Keep a close eye on these mentions so you can respond quickly to questions and concerns. A proactive approach to monitoring and responding to discussions can help you avoid potential issues before they get out of hand and can show people that you are responsive to your customers. I track vanity mentions for companies that I am involved with across Twitter, blog searches, Flickr, various video sites, FriendFeed and more.
You can get interesting insights about your competition and their activities by proactively monitoring their communications and what other people say about them online. I often monitor competitors blogs, press releases, support forums, job postings and personal blogs or social media accounts of key employees, in addition to monitoring mentions of the competition on various sources.
Industry analysis should also be part of your monitoring dashboard. Monitor blogs written by thought leaders within your industry along with tracking for mentions of keywords that are important to your organization or your interests. I often use this section of the monitoring dashboard as a way to find content for blog posts. It can be a great way to see what other people are talking about in your industry and give you an opportunity to respond to, disagree with or build on interesting ideas from other people.
In addition to the dashboard technology, I use tools like Yahoo Pipes and PostRank to help me find relevant content and filter it down to the pieces that are the most important for my purposes. If you have never used Yahoo Pipes, I have several two-minute Yahoo Pipes video demos that can help you learn what you need to get started.
How do you monitor online conversations? What kind of monitoring dashboards do you use?