Thursday, March 11, 2010

Are You Using Google Alerts?

With Google having so many products and more new ones introduced every day, Google Alerts might have slipped past your radar screen. It is a very useful product and is being used by all kinds of people for scores of things from one of the tools of those using it track SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) campaigns, to people and companies wanting to see what is being said and written about them in the internet, to people just wanting to see what the latest news is on their favorite star. It is also free.

Figure 2: Getting to Google Alerts from Gmail

"Google Alerts is a content monitoring service, offered by the search engine company Google, that automatically notifies users when new content from news, web, blogs, video and/or discussion groups matches a set of search terms selected by the user" (wikipedia). These notifications can sent to your email, and rss feed, or even configured into iGoogle. I first heard about Google Alerts from a podcast where one of the podcasters had set up a Google Alert to keep up with all the things being done by William Shatner (Star Trek's Captain Kirk) but have since found it useful for tracking all kinds of things. Imagine finding out latest news on your favorite top without having to really search for it.

Figure 3: Finding Google Alerts from amongst the various Google services

Finding Google Alerts is relatively easy. If you already have a gmail account you can click on the "more" button found next to Calendar, Documents, Web, and Reader in the upper left-hand corner of your gmail account (shown in Figure 2). That will then take you several services that Google offers (Figure 3), where it is currently listed as the first service under "Search". You'll then be taken to the "Welcome to Google Alerts" (shown in Figure 4).

Figure 4: Welcome to Google Alerts

Now you're ready to create your Google Alert (Figure 4). Here is how the form is laid out:

  • Search terms: is what you wish to be alerted about
  • Type: is what type of search to you wish to do. You can selected News, Blogs, Web, Comprehensive, Video, and Groups. So you can focus on any of those areas but the default setting is "Comprehensive which includes all the others anyways
  • How Often: is how often do wish the alert to be generated. You can select "as-it-happens", "once a day", or "once a week"
  • Email length: allows you to select between 20 and 50 results (note there won't always be that many returns depending upon how much activity there is on your search term
  • Deliver to: will send the report to your gmail account or a feed

After you've clicked on the "create alert" button, you'll get a window that looks similar to the screen shot at the top of this post. If you want to create another alert from here you can click on the "New Alert" button. This looks a little different than the initial "Create Alert" (shown in Figure 4) but you still have the same components.

Figure 5: Manage Your Alerts

You should think about other search terms that are similar or affiliated with your initial search term, if you wish to capture more returns in the search. Companies are often known by and reported with several terms. General Motors for example is also known as GM, and then there are the various divisions it has today and had in the past, so you might set up a variety of search terms to find out in your Google Alerts if you wanted to keep up with news on them. A word of caution, however is that you should think about the frequency that you get the alerts or how many alerts you set up because otherwise your inbox could quickly get flooded.

Google Alerts are a very useful tool for all sorts of things. Regardless of if you want to do some inexpensive SEO campaign, keep an eye on what is being said and reported about you or your company, or if you just want to keep up to date on what your favorite star is doing, you can do it with Google Alerts.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Are You "Doing" Social Media?

I've been blogging for a few years now and initially became interested in Social Media as a way of promoting my blogs and was keenly interested in what was emerging from "Web 2.0". It is hard to really put a rate of acceptance stamp on it but Social Media is on its way to being commonly accepted to the point where people will stop talking about doing and it will just become part of of most everything that people do in one way or another. It certainly hasn't reached that point yet but every day it is moving in that direction.

By now you've probably heard about the earthquake over the weekend. Tweets on Chile and Hawaii are both currently trending very high at Twitter. Mashable's founder Pete Cashmore reported on Facebook that Mashable's coverage of the events in the Social Media realm has been reported by CNN. The Mashable article showing the pictures from Twitter was tweeted 1901 times, shared on 457 times on Facebook, and dugg 216 times. Google announced its Chile Earthquake Person Finder, the story was tweeted 1702 times, shared 269 times on Facebook, and shared 197 times in Google Buzz (this morning). You might have heard of coverage of the forced landing of US Air flight 1549 in the Hudson River. This event really helped propel use of Twitter in breaking news stories. Social Media and coverage of the Iranian election and protests afterwards, provided coverage that the usual news organizations couldn't get with an impact on people there that could only be provided by Social Media.

In January the Pope told priests that they needed to blog. “The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different ‘voices’ provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.” The story reporting this was tweeted 1860 times, shared on facebook 887 times, and dug 181 diggs when I looked at it this morning. In 2009 it was announced that the Vatican would be putting videos on YouTube. The Catholic church is not the only religious organization realizing the potential of Social Media, just last week it was reported that the Dalai Lama created a Twitter account. The story was tweeted 3520 times, shared on Facebook 1134 times, and 319 people have talked about it on Google Buzz. There was apparently a fake account that had fooled the media, this reportedly helped convince the Dalai Lama to create a verified Twitter account.

In January Microsoft founder Bill Gates joined Twitter. Mashable reported this and later reported that Bill Gates had gotten over 100,000 followers in 8 hours. I don't know what the record is for fastest rise to 100,000 users, but I have to think that Bill Gates set some records in that area. The story announcing that Bill Gates had gotten so many followers in such a short time was tweeted 3109 times (as of last look this morning). Mashable later announced that Bill Gates was using Twitter to announce his new project.

Social Media is being incorporated more and more into the old "media" on a regular basis. Skynews, the 24 hour UK news channel, in January started a roll-out of the Tweetdeck on all its news staff computers in January. Sky News is owned by the News Corp, parent company of Fox News, and the parent company of MySpace. Julian March, executive producer of Sky News Online, said “The big change for us in 2010 is evolving how social media plays a role in our journalism. We no longer ghettoise it to one person, but are in the process of embedding throughout the whole team.” The story was tweeted 939 times (as of this morning). The BBC Director recently mandated that their journalist use Social Media. Peter Horrocks, the new director of BBC Global News said, “This isn’t just a kind of fad… I’m afraid you’re not doing your job if you can’t do those things. It’s not discretionary.” This article was tweeted 1409 times and shared 122 times on Facebook (as of this morning). Add to this that many news organizations, newspapers, magazines, and even television stations have reporters and writers using Social Media to reach their audience and spread the word. CNN has a regular segment called the Ireport where viewers can send in clips where they can do their own reporting of events. Another example of Citizen Journalism at work.

Social Media can break news faster than many of the traditional news outlets and it provides a coverage that the traditional news organizations can't get anywhere near. It allows everyone the opportunity to get their message out to a wider audience than ever before. Are you "doing" Social Media? If not, why not, and when will you?

Photo Credit: Terremotochile Catedral via conycampos