If A Tree Falls In The Forest...

If you've ever had the inclination to reflect on deep philosophical questions, or possibly just suffered through intense boredom or insomnia -- all very similar pursuits -- you may have pondered the age-old question, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Or perhaps you prefer the more modern version of the question once posed by the late George Carlin, "If a man speaks in the forest and there is no woman there to hear it, is he still wrong?" (I assume his question was rhetorical.)

During a recent marketing luncheon I attended, I began considering the implications of this question when applied to social media. One of the panelists speaking at the luncheon was the communications manager from a large consumer brand. He talked about the increasing importance of keeping a pulse on his brand across the social media landscape, yet admitted that he had absolutely no idea how to actually track anything relating to social media.

Using this example, you could revise the "tree in the forest" question to go something like this, "If someone makes a reference to your Web site through a social media platform, and you don't know that it exists, does it still make an impact?" OK, so I'm no George Carlin, but work with me here.

If you are interested in keeping a pulse on your company's online reputation, the answer to that question is probably yes. The impact of social media content, whether it is a blog post, a bookmark on digg, a Twitter comment or an online consumer review, is clearly growing in significance for both the consumer and for those of us whose job it is to "own" our company's brand.

That still leaves the question that perplexed the communications manager on the marketing panel. Is there a method to accurately measure social media buzz?

There are some simple semi-automated solutions like setting up a Google alert or an application from Yahoo that I recently discovered called "Pipes." A Yahoo member took the time to create a "Social Media Firehose" pipe that tracks content across social media sites. I did a search on my company, AdOn Network, and came across material I'd been previously unaware of: blog posts, press releases and even a video on YouTube of an interview I did at Ad:Tech earlier this year (after watching it, I decided I really need to stick to the written word).

While solutions like these help provide a social media snapshot, there are also companies that offer ongoing social media tracking and analysis services that can delve much deeper into actually understanding and managing your company's online reputation across sites featuring user-generated content.

A few of the companies that I have come across that offer this type of in-depth analysis include:



·    Networked Insights: Features a solution called "Insight Platform" that delivers real-time customer intelligence from social media sites.

·    Prime Visibility: Its  "Prime Buzz" service calculates your social media "buzz metric" that provides a quantifiable number to gauge the positive or negative buzz about your company across social media sites (Full disclosure: Prime Visibility is owned by the same parent company as AdOn Network)

·    Techrigy: Offers a solution called "SM2," a software solution designed specifically for PR and marketing agencies to monitor and measure social media.

With the resources available to track and analyze your brand across social media sites, the real answer to the impact question posed earlier is that you don't have an excuse for not knowing what is being written about your Web site or brand anymore.

What, if any, services are you using to track the social media buzz relating to your Web site and your brand?

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