Econsultancy’s latest addition to its research, the Online Reputation and Buzz Monitoring Buyer’s Guide, reveals that this sector will grow by 30% in 2008, to an estimated value of £60 million.

The addition of this guide not only demonstrates the accelarated growth of this rapidly developing market, but also shows how the industry has moved on, from a rather fluffy approach to online PR, to quantitative measurement that incorporates analytics, monitoring tools and tangible metrics.

The Econsultancy Guide includes 16 detailed profiles of the leading players in this market: Asomo, Attentio, Brandwatch, CyberAlert, Cymfony, FindAgent, iCrossing, Market Sentinel, Nielsen Online, Onalytica, Radian6, RepuMetrix, Reputica, StrategyEye, Techrigy, Trackur.

Social media has clearly hit the mainstream, and as more companies look to invest in social media marketing, a prerequisite for any brand must be to initially monitor the space and manage their online reputation, before deciding whether to actively engage.

The proliferation of online word-of-mouth, together with the rapid expansion of Web 2.0 technologies means that now, more than ever, organisations need to know what their customers are saying about them.

Although online reputation monitoring is still very much in the early adopter phase, as Econsultancy’s / Lynchpin’s 2008 Online Measurement and Strategy Report reveals, a fifth of companies (21%) are already looking at this type of data and a further 37% have plans to analyse this information.

However, a lack of industry standards means that without a standard definition of buzz monitoring, companies involved in online reputation monitoring significantly vary in the tools and services that they offer.

The variety on offer isn’t a bad thing but it can make choosing an appropriate vendor somewhat problematic, as online reputation monitoring providers include SEO agencies, online PRs, as well as traditional PR agencies.

As Giles Palmer of Brandwatch.net explains:

“Online reputation management covers such activities as PR, SEO and online monitoring. There are also the offline monitoring and press clippings markets which are very closely related.”

The guide also discusses the growing availability of free tools for monitoring digital reputation. It’s clear that whilst free tools, such as Summize (now known as Twitter Search) and Attentio’s Trendpedia may provide companies with a basic overview of their online reputation, as management guru, Peter Drucker, says: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Ultimately, the data outputs from online reputation monitoring solutions must be actionable. Michelle Goodall, online PR consultant and trainer for Econsultancy, said:

“Aggregation tools such as Addictomatic or Yahoo Pipes are great for marketers and PR professionals wanting to see a snapshot of their brand social media and UGC conversations. They are good for providing trend data on topics or around key phrases, brands and organisations.

“Combining free tools from Google, Technorati, Yahoo and other providers offers useful information, but it is the analysis and interpretation of this data that is the valuable element and this takes time. We are at the tipping point, where for most large brands, using free tools is no longer an option.”

It’s clear that the whole host of new media channels now available to consumers means that quite simply, for the organisations involved, there is “nowhere to hide”.

Chris Reed, a director and head of the digital and social media team at reputation management agency, Fishburn Hedges, said that companies cannot afford to neglect their online brand management.

“Reputations are increasingly going to be determined online – whatever sector you’re in. So an analysis of what people are saying (or thinking, even?) about your own or a competitor’s brand is going to be an essential part of any future communications strategy.”

Whilst free tools are essential for understanding top-line themes, ultimately investing in a paid-for solution offers organisations tremendous benefits, including the opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and perception of the brand, create loyal customer advocates and increase positive word-of-mouth.




Look out for Econsultancy’s upcoming London training event about


Online Reputation Management


,


on 30th September,


to learn how to audit, monitor and measure in the online environment.


For more information, download Econsultancy’s 2008



Online Reputation and Buzz Monitoring Buyer’s Guide



, free to subscribers or available on a pay-per-view basis.