If you're starting to think about monitoring the online reputation of your small business, then you're probably starting to realize that there are a number of free tools to help you sort through the noise and find the nuggets that matter most for your company.
The bottom line is that the best brand monitoring solution is a system that works on its own, independent of you, and delivers the results to you on your desktop. If you take advantage of these free tools and follow the tips provided here, you're likely to be several steps in front of your competition. Just remember that in each desktop tracking device, tailored search queries and filters are the key to getting the best data from Twitter, FriendFeed, and the social Web as a whole.
Download Adobe AIR
Adobe AIR has become the standard for sophisticated desktop-based web-trend-tracking clients. AIR works on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems to bring rich Internet applications using Flash, Flex, HTML, or Ajax to your desktop.
Once you download AIR, you're free to download any of the applications that run on the technology, and this will open you and your small business up to a world of tracking opportunities.
Twitter Desktop Clients to Monitor Mentions
Twitter is at the heart of the real-time Web, which means at any given moment in time there could be someone having a positive or negative experience with your product or service and sharing that experience.
If you want to stay hip to chatter around your brand, industry, product, service, competitors, or overall Twitter trends, Yahoo's Sideline app is a must-have application. Use Sideline to create groups of search terms that auto-update, or just view trending topics on Twitter. Since you don't need a Twitter account to use it, it's the perfect introductory Twitter application with enough sophisticated functionality to please even more advanced users.
And if you've already taken the Twitter plunge, you'll want a desktop client that lets you manage accounts and create custom searches. For managing multiple accounts and unlimited searches, you'll want Seesmic Desktop. For a simpler user interface with lots of options to ensure you never miss an important tweet, TweetDeck should be your Twitter client of choice.
More Desktop Tracking
FriendFeed is Twitter's faster, information-overloaded younger cousin, but it's still a huge repository for data related to your brand. You'll need a FriendFeed account, but Alert Thingy for FriendFeed brings the site's best asset - robust search - right to your desktop.
Snackr is both for light-weight and heavy duty tracking. Hopefully, by now you've set a feed reader to keep up with news in your space, alerts around your company name or business, and competitor-related data. If not, go to Google Reader first and search for feeds to subscribe to based on keywords, then grab Snackr. This application will act like a stock ticker for items in your feed reader, so you can continue working and automatically view new feed items wherever Snackr is docked (ie. bottom or side of screen).
Even though Filtrbox has a web component associated with it, the idea is to create filtrs, or searches that mine the Web for articles, and then adjust delivery preferences to receive notifications on your terms. Your filtrs should be the search terms and keywords you've already established, though you can add advance filters to standard queries. When that's done, visit the Account tab to customize how Filtrbox notifies you of new results. Think of Filtrbox as a better Google Alerts with analytics and more accurate keyword recognition in online content.
Better Than Google Alerts