Ten years of blogging.

This Saturday marks ten years since I started blogging, and I never would have guessed where it would lead me, the friends it would introduce me to and the doors it would open.

It was writing this blog, writing mostly about social media, where I found my voice. It gave me confidence and support, brought me into a community of bloggers and took me to places far and wide to speak to and connect with people at conferences.

Looking back, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to this platform of professional and personal expression. When I started it on a whim ten years ago in a bored moment working at a web development shop in Los Angeles, I never would have guessed the transformational role it would play in my life.

Thanks to all of you who drop by from time to time to join me on my journey, read what I write and leave a comment. It means a hell of a lot to me.

Monitoring your brand health – part two.

In part one of this series, I gave recent examples of when we respond to bloggers when they blog about Vancity. In this part, I want to talk about how to monitor the conversation so you can find those opportunities to respond.

The most basic tool – Google Alerts.
I have just changed the way I monitor the health of the words ‘vancity’ and ‘azaroff’. I have had Google Alerts set up for a couple of years now, so whenever a blog post, news article or web page is published that mentions ‘vancity‘ or ‘azaroff‘ I am alerted by email as it happens.

This helps me keep up with the conversation as it happens about my company or about me personally. Most of what is written is totally ignorable, and most often the post is not even about us. Vancity is a slang term for Vancouver (“Just landed in Vancity, ready for some skiing“), and is also the name of an art-house theatre in town (“Waiting in line to see the sci-fi, chop-socky, Korean anime slasher pic sequel at the Vancity Theatre“). But occasionally I hit a post worthy of a response.

Why should you monitor?
Truth be told, being the first to know puts you in a particularly good position within your company. You are the one with knowledge, and can raise issues. For an organization like an FI where a lot of people don’t get how this works, it almost makes you a magician. Use it! Nothing gets people excited like an extreme blog post, whether positive or negative.

How to monitor.
Monitoring what people say about Vancity is taking more and more time. I have my Google Alerts set, as I described. I also used to monitor Technorati, but stopped at some point because it just wasn’t top of mind. And I have found some good stuff using Twitter Search, but these were manual and I just don’t do it that often.

I was having lunch with my friend Gregory Krysa (“All social media is inherently authentic.“) recently, my equivalent at Aritzia, and he told me what he’s doing to monitor his brand’s online reputation. This is so simple, I almost hesitate posting it in case you are all already doing this and I’m the last one to the party. But here goes…

Using RSS as the aggregator.
So this is the stupid-easy part. I already use Google Reader daily to keep up with all of you guys and your blogs. Well Gregory simply said that all of these services have an RSS feed.

I mean duh!

So if you go to Google Blog Search and look up your company (I’ll use “credit unions” as a proxy) and sort by date, you can see all mentions of your company in the blogosphere starting with the most recent. This page has an RSS feed. You can see it if you use a browser that automatically discovers feeds, or you can see it in the left-hand column of the results page.

Google Alerts also allows you to subscribe via Google Reader instead of email. Google Alerts let you do a comprehensive search so you can get sent news, websites and blog posts. Google Blog Search allows you to do an advanced search, so I can remove words like “theatre” so I skip posts about what’s playing at the Vancity Theatre. Find the one that works best for your needs and add it to your preferred RSS reader (if you don’t yet use an RSS aggregator, I’m not sure I can help you).

Beyond Google.
Technorati also has RSS feeds included in their search. Look up your company in Technorati and then see that there’s a little RSS icon at the top-right of the centre column of the results page. For some reason, Google Reader was finicky with this, and it took a few tries, but it worked.

Now do the same thing in Twitter Search. In the right-hand column, there’s a link to the RSS feed to this result. Voila!

Now check Google Reader.
So then I created a folder within Google Reader called “vancity”, and put all these feeds in there, along with the feeds from our main website and from ChangeEverything.ca.

It isn’t perfect.
I haven’t found a way to check Facebook. Facebook is a closed community, and there aren’t RSS feeds. If your needs become this sophisticated, perhaps it’s time to invest in a blog monitoring service who can add this dimension to your search. If you use one, please leave a comment and let me know which one you use and whether or not you are satisfied. I imagine we at Vancity are ages away from needing that.

I hope this was useful as a practical way to start understanding the word of mouth that is happening online about you or your organization. Let me know if you’re already doing this, or have better methods. I have just set this up, and it’s already been phenomenal.

I look forward to your comments…

Three years of Resolutions about change.

Viva la resolution!It started in 2006, the year we launched ChangeEverything.ca.

We began what would become an annual tradition: our Viva la resolution! contest where anyone could come to the site, name the change they want to make about themselves, the community or the world and blog about that change at least three times.

The winners would be selected partly by user selection and partly by the moderator, Kate. The three top choices would receive a Vancity Visa Gift Card worth either $1,000, $500 or $250.

It has generated some great content for the site over the years, including the truly amazing EnviroWoman and her pledge to live plastic-free.

So this year, we’re doing it again! If there’s a change you’re interested in making, come to this site by February 28th and dig in!