Buzz Monitoring

John Hope-Johnstone

John Hope-Johnstone

Comes stai? Ok, I lied in the last post! I promised you that we would talk about YouTube this week. However, I reviewed such an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal  by Sarah Needleman, regarding the growing number of businesses tracking social-media comments on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, that I bumped YouTube.

These major companies are tracking social media to gauge consumer sentiment and avert potential public-relations disasters.

Although I prefer to concentrate on the positive business building side of social networking for HPR clients yet social media does provide a resource that has not been available in the past to monitor the mood of the marketplace and provide an avenue for good PR, if done in a timely fashion.

It is interesting how many of the social media directors are recent additions to their companies.

According to Sarah, Ford Motor Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co., amongst many others, are deploying software and assigning employees to monitor Internet postings and blogs. They’re also assigning senior leaders to craft corporate strategies for social media. Here are some examples she uses in her article:


One morning last December, Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, saw Twitter messages alerting him to online comments criticizing Ford for allegedly trying to shut a fan Web site, The dispute prompted about 1,000 email complaints to Ford overnight.

Mr. Monty, who joined Ford the previous July from an advisory firm specializing in social media, didn’t wait to learn the facts. He posted messages on his Twitter page, and Ford’s, saying he was looking into the matter, adding frequent updates.

Within hours, he reported that Ford’s lawyers believed the site was selling counterfeit goods with Ford’s logo. He persuaded Ford’s lawyers to withdraw the shut-down request if the site would halt the sales. By the end of the day, he Tweeted that the dispute had been resolved.

Jim Oaks, who founded TheRangerStation in 1998, credits Mr. Monty with resolving the problem so quickly. “My relationship with Ford has been better because of this,” he says.

Mr. Monty’s response won plaudits from social-media watchers. Ron Ploof, founder of consulting firm OC New Media LLC, posted a case study of the incident on the Web, to show clients how companies can use social media to their benefit.


“Social media have magnified the urgency of crisis communication,” says Shel Holtz, a communications consultant in Concord, Calif., and co-author of “Blogging for Business.” He says seemingly small incidents can quickly spread into bigger PR problems via the Web.

PepsiCo intensified its social-media efforts last November after employees saw critical Twitter posts about an ad in a German trade magazine for a diet cola, which depicted a calorie killing itself. A popular commentator, whose sister had committed suicide, asked, “How could Pepsi do this?”

A Pepsi spokesman quickly posted an apology on his personal Twitter page. So did Bonin Bough, who is Pepsi’s global director of digital and social media. Mr. Bough, who was hired for the job in September, says the incident prompted Pepsi to create a corporate Twitter profile; in May it launched The Juice, part of the networking site

Monitoring a corporate image in cyberspace is a daunting task, even with technological help. Tracking software can identify hundreds of posts daily, and managers must decide which could prove troublesome. “If you start seeing a lot of people re-tweeting it, then you know” to pay attention, says Marcus Schmidt, a senior marketing manager for Microsoft Corp.

Some companies use the information to shape responses to news. On July 13, a Southwest Airlines flight from Nashville to Baltimore made an emergency landing in Charleston, W.Va. Southwest’s six-person “emerging-media team” scanned Twitter, facebook and other Web sites for passengers’ reactions — and found mostly positive comments. The Southwest employees quickly posted Tweets praising the “great work by crew and customers onboard.”

Linda Rutherford, Southwest’s vice president, communications and strategic outreach, says she might have reacted differently if passengers had been more critical. “We would still be complimentary of our crews, but we might not emphasize that as much,” says Ms. Rutherford, who added responsibility for social-media initiatives last summer.

Some companies are training staffers to broaden their social-media efforts. At Ford, Mr. Monty plans to soon begin teaching employees how to use sites like Twitter to represent the company and interact with consumers.


Coca-Cola Co., according to Sarah Needleman, is preparing a similar effort, which initially will be limited to marketing, public affairs and legal staffers. Participants will be authorized to post to social media on Coke’s behalf without checking with the company’s PR staff, says Adam Brown, named Coke’s first head of social media in March.

For now, that job falls to Mr. Brown and three staffers. Last fall, Coke’s software spotted a Twitter post from a frustrated consumer who couldn’t redeem a prize from the MyCoke rewards program. The consumer’s profile boasted more than 10,000 followers.

Mr. Brown quickly posted an apology on the consumer’s Twitter profile and offered to help resolve the situation. The consumer got his prize and later changed his Twitter avatar to a photo of himself holding a Coke bottle.

“We’re getting to a point if you’re not responding, you’re not being seen as an authentic type of brand,” says Mr. Brown. (End of review of Sarah’s article in the WSJ).

As you can see from Sarah’s article it is vital that social media be used not only in a proactive positive manner, but also in a problem solving reactive manner. Not only do micro-blogs such as Twitter and facebook and Linkedin and others need to be monitored but well read blog sites as well.

Monitoring can run the expense gammit from outside companies monitoring the microblog, blogasphere or tweetworld to a simple column on Tweetdeck with a common key word. For instance we use “Corvallis” to pull in all the tweets about our town of Corvallis. (We also use (hash-tag) #Corvallis also works as a dedicated group.)

Being a university town (Oregon State University), during the school year we find many tweets and microblogs asking “why is there nothing to do in Corvallis?”  We respond to these comments by inquiring as to the kind of activities they enjoy. We then offer a list of links, or a link to our Web site with all the types of activities they enjoy. This creates great PR and a great introduction to our Web site and services.

We have also created a virtual “Twisitor Center” named “Corvallis Scene” in  where future visitors can ask questions about Corvallis and receive a response from either a staff member or another Corvallis citizen. It works remarkably well.

Programs like Twinfluence and Twazzup also give us a feeling about “who” the people are who are in our sphere of social influence.

Once a particular problem has been spotted then follow your PR guidelines. If you haven’t created any… do so quickly. Make sure the following points are included in those guidelines:

  1. Acknowledge the problem rapidly and inform the writer that you will look into it (not fix it, unless you can).
  2. Don’t be corporate or defensive.
  3. Give them a timeline about when you will get back to them (doesn’t mean you have had to fix the problem by then, just that you will update them).
  4. Keep to that timeline at all costs or you will make the problem worse.
  5. Once the problem is hopefully resolved, follow up with them once or twice to keep in touch.
  6. Thank them for helping the organization get better.
  7. If you can’t fix the problem be honest and within the realm of legal obligations, be up front as to why the problem can’t be fixed.
  8. If the problem has been created by a third party, let the third party know about the problem and get a response about fixing it. However, YOU stay the contact for the person that has the problem and have the third party respond through you. Do NOT obfuscate your responsibility.

 Hope that this has given you some fodder for thought!  Next week post, (unless I find another interesting article), we move to YouTube.

Thanks for reading, I would enjoy your comments. Visit me




  1. Aida Spennato says:

    Interessanti come sempre le Sue riflessioni.E’ importante avere un punto di riferimento cosi’ competente per poter capire a fondo le dinamiche legate ai” social media” e alla loro utilizzazione nonchè ad un uso degli stessi appropriato e corretto.

  2. Great ideas! I think there is a lot of potential for consumers to use Twitter to share negative brand experiences “in the moment” – such as this weekend when my tea water wasn’t quite hot enough, I was very tempted to Twitter-complain about it. Let’s coin a phrase, if no one has already! Twitterplain? Complitter?

  3. Good cases! Twitter is definitely a good place to learn about public consensus on some subjects. By the way, I am sitting in a Cafe and reading your blog. It’s a good enjoyment! : )

  4. nice sharing thanks it give me the little bit info thanks again

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