Something Not So Secret: You’re Being Watched

Most savvy web users are well aware of the fact that all of their actions, words and opinions online are being tracked by:

  • Google
  • Marketers
  • Celebrities, bloggers and regular people alike via Google Alerts
  • Site administrators
  • PR/marketing people
  • ISP’s
  • (Probably) the NSA

Yup, you’re being tracked. No, your Facebook and MySpace conversations (and pictures) aren’t secret. Neither are your Gmail conversations (although Google claims they don’t read them, their robots skim them to present you with ads).

Public relations people monitor not only online newspapers, but the blogosphere and social media. If I type in, say, the word “Wendy’s” into this thread, this thread will show up in the media monitoring reports of Wendy’s. Starbucks too – hey can you guys send me a coupon for a free latte for the mention? Thanks!

Bloggers are also scanning the web for mentions. A few people I am sure have that alert setup are guys like Michael Arrington, Chris Brogan and Matt Dickman. It’s fun to have one for your own name setup, not only to see not only what others are saying about you, but also to track what everyone else with your same name is up to (you can set that up here if you’re unfamiliar with alerts).

None of this should come as a surprise, everyone knows the Internet with its open architecture should cause you to submit things with care.

Of course, different sites all use varying degrees of seriousness, tone, etc. Being on Digg is like having a casual conversation at a bar or at a coffee shop, for instance, versus contributing content on Wikipedia which is a bit more scholarly, vs. a conversation on TopRankBlog which is a bit more corporate.

Anyway, on to the point: you can use all of this monitoring to your advantage.

Mention a corporate entity in a flattering way – let them know you enjoy a certain product and you’d like to see something else done that you’d like even more. You’d be surprised how far a well written post can spread within an organization. You may even gain a few new fans who have not yet had an introduction to the blogosphere. Another tip: if you’re going to criticize, use constructive criticism and you’ll be taken more seriously than if you use negativity.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of what the web is saying is vital to understand your deepest fans and early adopters of new products. It’s also important so you can latch on to buzz about a client or product and help fan that buzz even further. Here’s 10 more reasons you should monitor social media.

Keep track of what your fans are saying and use the information to help you build even more fans. My post on social media and artists are a natural fit elaborates on this further. Also, it’s nice to have those mentions if you’re ever trying to get signed by a record label.

Get creative and think of unique ways you can use the fact that people are monitoring to your advantage. They will want to engage you and the results here can absolutely lead to win-win situations.

The transparent, open environment of the Web where everyone has a voice is pushing forward a great conversation unlike anything humanity has ever seen. It’s an exciting time to be alive, and we’re at the forefront of a communications revolution. The fact that everyone is so interested in reading the conversation and taking part is a positive.

Some of us have been in deep conversations like this for years, but it is really cool to see it hitting a point where the mainstream is really taking notice and there is lots of interest in seeing the content.