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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

Do you monitor your Institutes online identity? Here are some tools to help.

10 Mar 2008

written by Kyle James

Do you monitor your Institutes online identity?  Here are some tools to help.

In the last few weeks a few new tools have come out to help in monitoring an online identity.  Because of this I think it’s important to take a deeper look into what to monitor.  As if you didn’t already have enough things to do in a normal day, there is a whole list of things that require regular monitoring.   Although this article is specifically geared towards monitoring a college’s identity, you could easily apply the same strategy to monitoring any company or even your own online identity.

Being the first person to know what is being said around the web about your institution is a critical aspect for anyone in communication, marketing, or management of a college or university.  It’s been months since Karine Joly over at College Web Editor first brought this important point to my attention and following her advice I’ve been able to stay on top of anything that is written about Wofford College across the vast web.  Because it’s been a while I think its about time to follow-up with the resources that I’ve been using to monitor Wofford’s presence that can hopefully help you to better monitor your online identity.

eagleeye250 Do you monitor your Institutes online identity?  Here are some tools to help.
Keeping an Eye on Things
by Mike Mycek

The Power of RSS

With Really Simple Syndication you can quickly search multiple resources to look for an mention of a specific term or terms.  I have heard a lot of people talk about Google Alerts and the power this provides, but you can do the same thing with RSS without email overload and building potential bacn in your inbox.  There are many different search and news portals that can provide results through RSS.

I have used the following RSS feeds to monitor Wofford’s online presence, the link is to the page where the “Wofford College” RSS feed can be pulled.  These examples show how simple it is to monitor something through an RSS feed.  All Google Alerts does is provide the same data except in a daily email instead of RSS feed.  Depending on your comfort level with RSS it could be time to take the next step in online monitoring.

RSS feeds to monitor an identity.

Some other good services for tracking an identity online:

Notes: You will notice that many of the results are athletics and sports related, but hopefully your a fan of your institutions athletics program?  Many of the items will show up in multiple results.

Other things to keep an eye on

Also besides all these wonderful feeds there are a few sites that require frequent monitoring.  Most important is to keep up with your institutional Wikipedia page.  Wikipedia entries are very trusted by Google and other search engines so most likely the resulting page will be right at the top of a search.  Many people will go directly to the Wikipedia entry instead of your website because they know the information is more likely to be unbiased.  Knowing what this page says and that it is accurate is very important.  Most likely a very large percentage of your students use Facebook it’s also important to monitor your Facebook network to get a pulse on things that happen in the student ranks.  Read my post about Facebook for additional information about marketing on Facebook.  YouTube videos and Flickr pictures are two other things that you should regularly monitor.

Although it’s rare that you will need to act on any of the data that you find it does happen from time to time.  For example there was a blog post about Wofford months ago that used our logo in a rather unbecoming manor.  Because of these resources we first of all knew about the incident and secondly were able to request that the writer remove the graphic.  Always remember, knowing is half the battle.  If you don’t know about things then it is very difficult to act accordingly.

What Tools Should I use?

So now that you know you can use RSS feeds to track many things and you have an idea of some of the things that you should track what tools should I use to track everything?  Personally I use Netvibes to track all my RSS feeds (If you missed my post and video about RSS & Netvibes you should definitely give it a view).

addtonetvibes Do you monitor your Institutes online identity?  Here are some tools to help.The very best thing I’ve found you can do is head over and build a MonitorThis report for your search.  In their own words, “With MonitorThis you can subscribe to 22 different search engine feeds at the same time. Enter a search term and click the ‘make monitor.opml’ button to get a list of rss feeds in OPML format.” An OPML file is something that you can load into your RSS reader to create and display an RSS feed.  What I did was create a new tab in Netvibes called Wofford Tracker and imported the OPML file into this tab to quickly create the 22 RSS feeds.

There is a lot of redundancy in the results and frequently things that you have already read will turn up as unread again, but all in all this one tool will allow you to track your identity across the majority of the web.  It essentially does the same thing I was doing independently through the RSS feeds I mentioned above except instead of tracking 5 services I’m now monitoring 22.

Trackur is another tool that came out a few weeks ago that you can use to help track your identity online.  When the service first came out I signed up for a free trial.  Although it is a good place to start I didn’t feel that it was half as detailed as the results I was getting through the MonitorThis feeds.  A nice feature of Trackur is the duplicates are cycled out and there are some other nice options for tracking.  The standard service is $88/month so there is an investment required.  It was organized and the favorites, filters, and sharing options were helpful, but I don’t know if this justifies the investment when MonitorThis is free especially when there were many things that it didn’t find that displayed in one of my RSS feeds.  With online identity management awareness is the most important element and the tools for sharing and organizing play second fiddle.  Most of the time you won’t find anything that needs to be reported, but when you do a simple link in an email to key individuals is usually enough.  Monitoring these few diamonds in the rough doesn’t require a separate piece of software in my mind.  A special tagged del.icio.us bookmark or word document is more than enough.

Final tips

It is very easy to get overwhelmed with monitoring an online identity.  My advice is to spend thirty minutes two or three times a week checking things.  If something large and newsworthy is happening on campus then you might need to monitor constantly, but for the most part a few times a week is plenty.  I’ll admit I tend to check it out everyday, but am attempting to step back a little.  The more people you can get involved and setup then the less you need to monitor as the load can be spread across multiple people.

If there are other resources out there that you regularly use to monitor your institute online I’d love to hear about them.

Additional Reading material about Online Reputation Management:

The content of this post is licensed: The post is released under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license


About the author

Kyle James

Kyle is the CEO & Co-Founder at nuCloud and formerly the webmaster at Wofford College. He also spent almost 4 years at HubSpot doing a range of jobs including inbound marketing consulting, sales, management, and product management.  Kyle is an active contributor in the social media spectrum. Although his background is technical, he claims to know a thing or two about marketing, but mostly that revolves around SEO, analytics, blogging, and social media. He has spoken at multiple national conferences and done countless webinars on topics ranging from e-mail marketing to social media and Web analytics. He's definitely a fairly nice guy.

Ways to Connect with Kyle

Kyle's Blog Kyle's Facebook Kyle's LinkedIn Bio Kyle's Twitter Account Kyle's Foursquare Kyle's Flickr Photos Kyle's YouTube Profile Kyle's SlideShare Presentations

This post was written by - who has written 274 posts on .eduGuru


  • http://www.attenalert.com David Mytton

    A good overview of different ways to keep track of keywords.

    Using RSS feeds is definitely a great way to keep track of things but it can be awkward to set up and really stay on top of. It’s also a pain to go through all the sources. And you don’t have any kind of statistical analysis.

    Services like Trackur do a good job to help out with this. I’d also like to mention my service which actually just launched today – http://www.attenalert.com – which does a similar job.

  • http://imhe.blogspot.com Seth

    You can also track keywords on Twitter. Great way to see the communications going on as they happen.

    http://imhe.blogspot.com/2008/02/ways-to-use-twitter-in-academia.html

  • http://www.trackur.com Andy Beal

    Hi Kyle, great overview of tracking tools. I’d love to know what extra features you’d like to see added to Trackur.

    @Seth – Trackur also tracks Twitter conversations. ;-)

  • http://doteduguru.com Kyle

    @ David – I’ll have to check out attenalert. It looks like you have free trials so I’ll definitely give that a spin.

    @ Seth – Cool! How do you set that up? I could see that having value long term. Have you noticed anything so far?

    @ Andy – I think what I didn’t like most about Trackur was that I didn’t feel it picked up everything. Honestly that was my biggest gripe. I was seeing things in my RSS feeds that didn’t show up in Trackur. The extra features are nice, but with a tool like this, IMHO, it’s most important to pick-up every single conversation instead of most with lots of bells and whistles.

    Also in Online Identity Management, I don’t know if you really need much more than just the stories. 99% of the time you will just mark it off and only rarely will you do anything special with it. At least that’s my experience it.

  • http://www.trackur.com Andy Beal

    Thanks Kyle. Trackur’s pretty comprehensive with the channels it monitors, so I’m shocked it missed anything.

    If you’d care to share, drop me an email with an example or two of what was missed. Maybe we need to add more sources, or maybe we need to tweak the filters.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  • http://doteduguru.com Kyle

    @ Andy – sure, let me get my thoughts together and take a look back at the account and I’ll send you an email later in the week.

  • http://faithfulweb.wordpress.com Mark Alves

    Serph is another handy option for monitoring social media mentions via RSS:
    http://serph.com/about/

  • http://www.viperchill.com/blog/ Glen Allsopp

    I would recommend adding analytics to this. If you are getting traffic from certain sources then you have to be added somewhere.

    Cheers,
    Glen

  • http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/emarketingcollege/ Rob S

    Great post!

    The Google alerts via e-mail are still import because (as far as I know, haven’t looked recently) there is no way to receive info on new (non-News) Google search findings by RSS.

    Keep in mind that for most search tools a search for “wofford college” (in quotes) will turn up different results than wofford college (without quotes). The quotes search only includes results where the search terms appear together in that order.

    Toss admissions counselor IM screen names and actual names, etc., in the mix, too :)

    Some more resources to add to the list for consideration:
    http://www.icerocket.com/
    http://www.blogpulse.com/
    http://home.services.spaces.live.com/
    http://www.pubsub.com/
    http://www.wikiseek.com/

    On the topic of Wikipedia, I have an alert set up for when our main Wikipedia entry changes, using the free http://www.changedetection.com/monitor.html It gives me some false positives, but saves time over manually checking it. There are other similar Web page change detection services. It would be great to find one that notifies via RSS.

    Hopefully http://www.silobreaker.com/ will mature to the point of being useful.

  • http://collegewebguy.com Drew

    This is a nice overview. Very timely in fact. Our whole communications department ate lunch today and this very question was asked of me. I didn’t have a solid recommendation other than google alerts. ….I think we’re spending $6K annually on a meltwater news service.

  • http://doteduguru.com Kyle

    @Rob – those are some other nice services. You are correct I always try to use exact match or like you mentioned putting quotes around it. It saves me from people who have a last name Wofford results. I’ll have to check out changedetection, thanks

    @Drew – I’ve been tinkering with trackur a little more. It might be worth signing up for a test run if you guys are spending that much. Their largest enterprise option only runs about $4,500 annually. I know nothing about meltwater, but I’m not really impressed by their site as a first reaction.

  • http://www.thebestofblogs.com Bill Beck

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    Sincerely,
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    The Best Of Blog Awards
    Email:Bloggerbeck@aol.com

  • Atalie Rose

    this is a cool overveiw =]

  • Sophie

    I agree with atalie and it really did inform me about everything and i hope to read more about the rss and things like that =]

  • http://www.thoughtsonemail.com Rob S.

    I saw this on tech recipes and thought it was useful for rep monitoring:

    http://www.tech-recipes.com/rx/2860/google_how_to_access_filter_by_date_dropdown_box

    You can filter Google search or news results by date by appending some info to the url.

    Here’s Google search results for Wofford College. Note the dropdown for past 24 hours, past week, etc.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=wofford+college&as_qdr=d&btnG=Search

  • http://www.thoughtsonemail.com Rob S.

    Follow-up to that, it is interesting to note that it shows results that aren’t picked up by Google alerts. Hmm.

  • http://linkbuildingbible.com Link Building Bible

    Man! Why do you have to add more onto my plate… although this is a good thing to add, and i always wanna know what people are saying.

    Glad that my comment on Court’s blog helped you.

  • http://www.bonnerspringswebdesign.com Kansas City Web Design

    These are almost tools to use – not just for schools, but for organizations and businesses as well. Great stuff!

  • http://www.youngcomposers.com/forum/notation-software.php Notation Software Music Editor & Music Maker – Personal Composer

    I am quoting:

    “Many people will go directly to the Wikipedia entry instead of your website because they know the information is more likely to be unbiased.”

    Where are you getting your facts from? Wikipedia is not an authoritative resource. You can never use Wikipedia as a resource for a major research report. I would trust information from a niche site rather than information from Wikipedia. Of course, Wikipedia is good for general facts, but again, for critical topics such as Science/Research, you do not use Wikipedia as a resource!

  • http://doteduguru.com Kyle James

    @Notion Software – your going to spam my blog for a backlink then ask a question without obviously knowing the audience or context of this post. Go do a google search on any college’s keyword. Using Wofford, where I work, for example the wikipedia entry is the 3rd result returned after our homepage and athletics site. Now your trying to tell me that my main audience, high school students, won’t skip my site to visit Wikipedia for information? I can also look at my analytics on referral sites and see all the people coming to our college site from Wikipedia so I know they are viewing our information there.

    Any other questions that you have about monitoring a college’s online identity?

  • Mike

    Honestly I think it has to do with the search results. If you were listed higher than Wikipedia, students would go to your site instead of Wikipedia. The reason why Wikipedia is so popular is because it ranks so high in Google for so many keyphrases. However, in my opinion, if you are niche enough not only can you outrank Wikipedia, but you will hold more user interest. For example, people will much rather go to my site than wikipedia to learn about music.

    Ok, so maybe students “use” Wikipedia (heck, so do I, but I don’t rely on it’s information for important research), however the statement “they know the information is more likely to be unbiased” cannot be determined from analytics ;) Analytics cannot read our minds. More than likely, the students go to Wikipedia because they are lazy, and found the information with ease (yup, the first or second results in Google). Ok, so that in itself is also an assumption, but as a student not too long ago, that was my mentality, and I am sure it is others mentalities too. Finding qualified journals is very painstaking and time consuming, Wikipedia is alot easier after all. This is why it is the professor’s job to state that using Wikipedia as a reference (or at least, an ONLY reference) will get the student a grade of a big fat 0.

  • http://www.spokane.wsu.edu Barb Chamberlain

    An older post but still important, Kyle! (and when you wrote it I wasn’t following you on Twitter & I didn’t see it :D)

    I use a pipe called Social Media Firehose: http://pipes.yahoo.com/update_maker/social_media_fire_hose

    It brings up some items I don’t get using the various types of Google alerts (which you can in fact set up as an RSS feed rather than email), so I use both along with a direct Twitter search result as a feed.

    One more resource recently suggested to me: whostalkin.com (which I can’t help but read as “Who’s stalking”…. I’ve looked at the results and am still trying to figure out whether it yields things I didn’t find in the other two.

    I tried Serph thanks to the discussion here and kept getting an error until I realized it didn’t want quotation marks around my search string. That’s really non-intuitive, given search parameters in other tools such as Google, and I want the ability to seek for specific intact strings.

    @BarbChamberlain

  • http://www.anchor-intl.com/category_airmonitors.php air sampler

    I had never really considered tracking my companies online identity any further than rankings but it really does seem important. I’m going to have to check out a few of these tools to keep a better eye on it.

  • http://twitter.com/mytravelchannel My Travel Channel

    Thanks for this interesting information about SEO i have problems in my website from RSS ;-(   http://businessontheinternet.org/

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