A recent study shows many companies do little to monitor their own online image. Popular social networks are left with customers complaining without response.

Whether a company is based in digital technology or not, brand image management must now include online conversation monitoring as part of its marketing strategy. Customers have ample choices for places to air their purchase choices and opinions, for better or for worse, and many companies are not doing much to respond to this fact. New data shows that companies are using ineffective means of keeping track of what is being said about their brand online. The “Socially Challenged?” survey of business information technology professionals from InformationWeek Analytics was published by eMarketer last week.

Of tools used to monitor social networks, according to surveyed IT professionals, 56 percent used search alerts from Google, Bing or similar services. Other tools were less common, with only sixteen percent of companies using an outside vendor. Fifteen percent used a specialty application from companies such as Radian6 or Scout Labs. 

This coverage did not include the comparison of efficacy between search alerts, outsourcing and specialty applications. 

IT professionals were also asked what types of online comments companies handle with a formal process. The highest number of these types of comments were posts of “official company-related statements on different social networking sites" other than the company homepage, at 32 percent. 26 percent had a protocol for inappropriate comments from employees online, 21 percent for customer complaints posted on e-commerce sites. Fewer companies had these systems in place for customer complaints on social networks - fourteen percent for Facebook or MySpace, and only twelve percent for Twitter.

Despite negative publicity, the directness of social media allows companies to connect directly with customers. This system offers an opportunity to respond, show great customer service or improve a company’s product or service in question, as eMarketer points out. Marketers can optimize the situation away from vulnerability regarding their online image to greater effectiveness at fixing bad experiences.

By Ivory King