One way to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of a programme over time is to regularly monitor and collect data on how it is perceived by interest groups, the media and the wider public. A ‘reputation monitoring dashboard’ is an option for collecting this kind of data on a regular basis, allowing users to monitor and quickly appraise reputational trends at a glance and from a variety of different sources.
The technique is most commonly used in the corporate world to monitor the reputation of brands, products, competitors and high profile public figures. The option has become increasingly common with the development of social and alternative media, which has made keeping track of a product or programme’s reputation more complex.
The kinds of information to feature in a reputation monitoring dashboard include:
- Google Alerts: Tells you when newly indexed web pages mention your programme, organisation or other keywords you set it to monitor
- Blogs (including via Google Blog Search and technorati.com)
- Twitter feeds (for example using tweetbeep.com or tweetdeck.com)
- Facebook activity, including relevant new groups, events and wall posts (for example using socialmention.com)
- The most common searches being typed into search engines
- Search engine results pages (SERPs) - what comes up first in a search engine in response to a keyword query
Organisations with limited resources or technical know-how can easily build their own ‘dashboard’ in Word, Excel, PowerPoint or any other commonly available application. This approach requires manually updating the various parts of the dashboard at regular intervals using manual or automated searches of keywords from selected sources.
But ideally a dashboard will update searches on a fully automated basis. Bespoke software applications and online tools are available that allows organisations to customise the keywords and sources they are interested in monitoring (for example mentionmapp.com and peerindex.com). iGoogle is a free application available that allows users to build a reputation monitoring dashboard using Google Alerts, but that will amalgamate results from a variety of different sources. Go to www.google.com/ig to create an iGoogle dashboard.
Automated alerts can be converted into an RSS feed. Programme or organisation managers can monitor the feed to track reputational trends on a daily basis, in order to inform better and more responsive decision making.
By segmenting dashboard results by type of stakeholder, it is possible to track reputational trends among different groups and to manage stakeholders in a more nuanced way.
If regular records are made of the reputation dashboard, these can be used as a source of both qualitative and quantitative data for use in programme or organisational evaluation. In particular it can be used to measure how public opinion shifted over time.
PublicServiceMonitor (formerly CouncilMonitor) is an organisation in the UK that monitors news, blogs, forums and social media sites and summarises what is being said about local government bodies. The service was launched in December 2009. It measures a benchmark group of UK councils on a consistent basis to provide national trend information relating to what people are saying about different councils online. It publishes a freely available web-based dashboard to present comparative information and provides a fee-based service to individual councils.
Source: PublicServiceMonitor. Online.
Advice for CHOOSING this option (tips and traps)
- Creating a dashboard is most beneficial at the beginning of a project, allowing you to monitor public impact and perception trends over the entire life of the project. Add keywords and sources as you go if necessary, but try to avoid the temptation to change what you monitor altogether.
- Take account of common misspellings and alternative spellings of key words when building the dashboard. Especially when technical words or foreign words are involved, people may mistype references in social media and in search engines. You can use MSN’s ‘Keyword Detection Mutation Tool’ to find the most common misspellings of your keywords.
Advice for USING this option (tips and traps)
- If a dashboard is already being used, make sure it tracks the most appropriate keywords from the most relevant sources. Whose opinion do you care about and what type of media and social media do they use?
- If you are manually updating the dashboard ensure you are logged out of your personal email account and have disabled personalized searches on the search engine you are using, otherwise the searches you type in will return unrepresentative or skewed results.
- At the data collection and evaluation stage, try to obtain versions of the dashboard from regular intervals over the assessment period to build a dynamic sense of how reputation has developed over time. As many dashboards will update automatically based on live feeds, this may require taking screen shots of the live dashboard for later comparison.
- If you are using this option to monitor programmes in the developing world, you may need to look beyond online and social media, as internet usage is very limited in some parts of the world and particularly among certain parts of the population. The selection bias among those using the internet and social media in developing countries should be accounted for. A reputation monitoring dashboard in these instances could also include print media, radio references and mini ‘pulse check’ surveys among the population.
- Create Your Own Library Social Media Monitoring Dashboard: This blog post from Ellyssa Kroski describes the process she went through to create a social media monitoring dashboard for the New York Law Institute.
- 40+ Social Media Dashboard Tools for Tracking Stuff: In this blog post, Barry Hurd proposes and answers a number of questions on the use of social media dashboard tools.
- What does monitoring your brand on social media channels really mean? This blog post from Beth Kanter describes the process of 'listening' to what people are saying about your brand through social media monitoring.
- Public Service Monitor: Public Service Monitor is a website which monitors the internet seven days a week identifying the topics that are being discussed and evaluating the information to provide a snapshot of the views presented.
Beal, A. and Strauss, J. (2008) Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online (NJ, John Wiley and Sons)