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At any given moment, your company’s name could be dragged through the mud on the Web, as legions of bloggers, forum-posters, consumer gripers, and even your own coworkers mouth off on exactly what they think about your company, your wares, your competitors—even you.
To combat the millions of chatterboxes that comprise the “weblic,” enterprise companies are now hiring online reputation management firms to keep tabs on what the denizens of the Internet are saying about them and their products. And, surprisingly, internal IT is often being left out.
Milton, Ontario-based CoreX Technologies produces RepuTrace, a proprietary software program, combined with human monitoring. “It’s an all-in-one corporate intelligence tool that searches blogs, forums, message sites, consumer sites, gripe sites, and multimedia outlets,” said vice-president of technology Joseph Fiore.
It is a Web-based system like a digital dashboard; an automated layer grabs information, which is then analyzed and reviewed by human monitors. Companies can choose a variety of alert methods, from automated e-mails to phonecalls for the urgent messages.
They can also log in to the company’s Web page to check up on their updates. “Most of the reporting is done real-time in the product, on the fly. RSS feeds are on the site,” said Fiore. All the information is stored on CoreX’s own servers. IT staff do not have to manage the information in any way, according to Fiore.
The information that companies are after ranges widely, from tracking product sentiment to animal rights activists’ posting board members addresses online. Some use it to check up on employees. Examples that RepuTrace has come across include employees discussing internal theft, badmouthing the business or its employees, disclosing proprietary company information, and talking about being drunk or high on the job. The company also recently identified a blog post where an employee threatened to go on a killing spree in their workplace.
“The Internet is definitely having an effect on employment law,” said Bob Yeager, a lawyer in Vancouver, British Columbia. “People who are fired express surprise, figuring what is said here, stays here. But it goes everywhere!”
The software can also be used to track brand names and products to see where they stand in “weblic” opinion. Visible Technologies, a Seattle-based online brand management firm, makes TruCast, a Web-based enterprise software solution that searches social networks and pulls back information in real-time and scores it positive, neutral, or negative. Blake Cahill, vice-president of corporate marketing, said that the unique part of its offering is its response manager, which can allow the company to engage directly with a blog poster or someone writing in a consumer forum or social network, like MySpace or Facebook.