Are You Managing Your Online Message?

The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Omar Khayyám

I recently attended an interesting talk at the World Trade and Convention Centre presented by Carman Pirie of Colour. Pirie made a statement that really stands out in my mind: The online conversation is going on with or without you, so you may as well be part of it, and help shape it.

In other words, if your company does not have an online strategy for managing your brand, you should get one soon. The “erosion of trust in the corporate environment,” as Pirie puts it, is such that advertising is having less and less of an impact on people. Also, someone can instantaneously and anonymously start saying good as well as disparaging things about you or your business online. The flip side of this is that you can enhance your brand with the effective use of social media technologies and Pirie summarized some of these for us.

First on the list is Facebook, where you can create interest groups and invite your “friends” to join. Similar sites include MySpace and Bebo. These tend to be used primarily for personal purposes, although some groups, like the Information Technology Industry
Alliance of Nova Scotia (ITANS) use it; LinkedIn, by contrast, tends to be used for business and I will discuss it in detail in a future article.

Blogs are another way of “shaping the conversation,” and there are many web sites that offer free blog capability. So if you have something to say and want it published, start a blog! Note that search engines typically give blogs a high ranking since their
content changes so often.

A “micro-blogger” called Twitter is gaining in popularity for short messages. If you send a message to your Twitter network, everyone on that network will get it. This reminds me of maillists, which can be thought of as early applications of social media,
and they are still being used today.

RSS (“really simple syndication”) is also becoming popular. This allows a reader to subscribe to any topic on a blog or web site, and any time its content changes, the person gets an update, called a “feed”. These feeds can be read by RSS readers, which are sometimes bundled with email readers. (Their audio cousin, the podcast, is another facility which is sometimes used.)

Del.icio.us is a “social bookmarking” tool that allows you to share your web bookmarks with other people on your network. The idea is that if your del.icio.us network is comprised of people who share your interests, chances are you will be interested in the sites they bookmark.

Digg is an aggregator of what is being said online. If you want to know what is cool, go to www.digg.com to find out. If you imbed digg technology into your website and enough people “digg” you, suddenly you too are cool!

Radian6 is a tool you can use to find out what is being said online about any topic. Pirie did a search on “Nicom IT”, my company, and found in a “BlackBerryInsight” blog pieces of an article I had written only a few days earlier, because the Herald has an RSS feed which Radian6 subscribes to. I had tried a similar search with Google and found no mention of this column at all, much less a recent article.

Pirie’s friend David Jones came up with a four-step process for dealing with it all, which he summarizes with the acronym “MAIL”: Monitor, Analyze, Interact, and Lead. The BlackBerry thread serves to illustrate the point. By monitoring online media, they were able to find out who was saying what about the BlackBerry and shape the conversation to what they want their audience to hear.

The “BlackBerryInsight” blog offers a whole list of social media facilities to choose from, including some that I mention in this article. If you care to look them up, others include Furl, Yahoo My Web, Google Bookmarks, Blinklist, ma.gnolia, Windows Live, Netscape, StumbleUpon, Newsvine, Reddit, and Tailrank.

Clearly, I need to work on my blog!

The Bottom Line: You cannot ignore online media and you can use it as a powerful tool to promote your message. Use the appropriate technology to find out what is being said, figure out what it means, get involved, and “shape the message”.

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