Wednesday, 26 March 2008

How does the web see you?

In the offline world of networking and contacts, it is quite difficult to track exactly how much impact you have made and over what area, unless you count the piles of business cards on your desk, or the number of people you know when you walk into a networking or business event?!

However, in the digital space, EVERYTHING you do leaves a mark to some extent, and that those marks can lie around forever, popping back up to haunt you at a later stage! (In case you dont believe me, take a look at the Wayback Machine, where all previous iterations of your website are hoarded!)
Herald the Social Web, or Web 2.0 - a World Wide Web where collaboration and sharing of information, ideas, products, whatever you like, form the cornerstone of online conversation. The key ingredient is about maintaining a high degree of credibility, and honesty - if you fake information or your conversation online, you will get found out and getting back your credibility can be a long and difficult process (as many big brands have found out!).

Have you ever Google'd yourself? (Searched for your own name online). Try it and see where you currrently appear - you may be surprised - recently I suddenly appeared at the top of page one for the results of a swimming competition that I took part in some 8 years ago! Sites today are being constructed better and the search engines are getting cleverer at indexing that data, so its no real surprise that previously "hidden" information is popping to the surface now and again. It's worth keeping an eye on how you appear on the search engines - if you dont look, your employer, competitors and peers may do so. Using Google, Yahoo, Ask, MSN and so on, and looking at how many times you appear in say, the top 20 or 50 entries, gives you a good idea of how visible your online presence is, but that's about it.

Which leads nicely onto Qdos. Qdos is a (currently free) way of monitoring online personal profiles - reflecting the significance of what it is that you've created. Produced (I would suggest) as a by-product of their main product, Garlik monitors online data to prevent identity theft, which in itself is a very useful product.
You can search for any person by name, and, once signed up, you enter your location (so the system can determine which you is really you!), then you will get an initial profile, probably based on an aggregation of web searches. To help the system refine what it knows about you, you can then feed in more information about where you converse, shop, blog, comment etc. Qdos then ranks your popularity, Impact, Activity and Individuality. Effectively your digital footprint.

All a bit of fun at first glance, but if you want to make an impression on the social web from a personal, or business viewpoint, you need to know where you appear. (There's Friendfeed, too, that I found out from Chris Brogan here, which shows an indication of how you appear on the web, a different tack, but another useful tool!)

Once you have gotten your head around your personal (or any person's) digital profile, there are other tools to monitor your online "buzz", notably products like Brandwatch that enable tracking and monitoring of mentions, sentiment and credibility for your product or brand. And if there's no conversation about you? Well, decide if there needs to be and set up a strategy to implement something!