Reputation monitoring got a new player with the public launch of BuzzLogic at DEMOfall this week (see their 6-minute presentation). The announcement got me thinking about two ways of looking at online reputation monitoring: macro and micro.
BuzzLogic focuses on identifying trends in the online conversation, identifying the most influential writers (not just blogs), and how influence flows through the conversation as it travels around the Net. It's a macro approach that focuses on identifying and engaging the most influential voices. The influence map below offers one glimpse of the web-based analytical service.
Macro reputation monitoring is important. Tracking buzz around markets, products and companies requires heavy-duty tools as the volume of the conversation grows, especially for highly visible, consumer-oriented businesses that generate a lot of online mentions. The usual poster children for monitoring are Dell and Kryptonite, and the BuzzLogic demo used Microsoft for its example. Companies that sell lots of products to lots of people will need macro monitoring tools that scale to match their exposure. Several companies offer macro monitoring services, and BuzzLogic looks like a solid entrant.
On the other hand, everyone is an influencer online. Big news stories—and big company problems—don't always flow from the most influential bloggers. Part of the beauty of social media is that everyone has a voice. With a sufficiently compelling story, any voice can start the conversation. Call it the Long Tail, call it Chaos, or just call it a really big job to monitor. The problem is that any mention of a company (including products, promotions and people) could be the first appearance of something that's going to be a big problem. (Or, being optimistic, the beginning of a great opportunity, but those tend to be less urgent than the problems.) The macro approach catches the problem as it gains traction in the larger conversation; what's needed is a micro approach to provide early warning, too.
How do you do micro reputation monitoring? You can use the do-it-yourself approach with vanity feeds and a feed reader; the problem is, that doesn't scale. It works for companies who aren't mentioned a lot (which is a lot of companies, just not the household names). Some of the high-end monitoring services may be able to catch the single-post indicator of an approaching storm, but I suspect that this is an area where a human reader is still most effective.
I came across a case this week where a single online mention provided an early warning of what has become a huge problem for a consumer products company. As I'm writing the case study, I plan to talk to the companies who offer high-end buzz-monitoring to understand how their services compare and how they address micro monitoring.