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  1. People Will Talk (and Type)
  2. Finding Those "Invisible" Conversations
  3. Finding the Gold
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Finding Those "Invisible" Conversations

But these sites are only the tip of the iceberg—the ones you can easily see. The accusations and discontent posted there can garner responses on a company's web site and in its advertising and promotion. But what about the comments and discussions about your company that you can't see?

And they, gentle reader, are legion.

Online consumers are talking about your company every day in nooks and crannies of the web that you may not be aware of. Pick a company or industry and there's a forum, discussion list, message board, or newsgroup talking about it.

Over the years, consumers have exchanged experiences and opinions about merchants—both online and offline—in such groups as misc.consumers and alt.consumers.experiences. But these conversations are not invisible to you and your e-business. With sites such as Google Groups, you can locate and read comments made about your company. Google Groups has organized the Usenet discussions and categorized them for easy searching on a particular subject or issue. In addition, services that combine web postings with email discussion lists, such as Topica and Yahoo! Groups, make it easier to monitor such discussions.

These discussions are at least semi-permanent. You can visit the forums, boards, and newsgroups and subscribe to the discussion lists and read what is being said about your company.

But there's another type of forum where consumers can express their more virulent opinions—the chat room. The problem here is that there are no archives of what's being discussed. As soon as it's said—or typed into the text box—it's moved off the screen a few minutes later by the posts that follow. That means that if someone is spreading damaging rumors about your company, you'll have no way to know about it unless you actually find and monitor these live chat sessions on the Net.

For good or bad, newsgroups, discussion lists, newsletters, chat rooms—even personal web sites—have given consumers and competitors the chance to talk about your company and the goods and services you offer.

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