I've come across a number of small businesses asking how to find out what's being said about their businesses and how to track any mentions of them in the press or elsewhere. I'd like to take it a step further to consider another possibility for using Web technologies to enhance one's business.
First, the easy stuff. Previously, we mentioned some ways to track whether someone is blogging about you by using tools such as Technorati, PubSub, IceRocket, and Feedster. We also mentioned e-mail alerts from Google and Yahoo.
Now, I've come across term extraction in the Yahoo developers' area. It's a little bit geeky, and you or your Webmaster/CTO have to know what you're doing with Web code, but used well, it can help you find out what's up about your business, your community, your competitors, and whatever topic areas you can think of.
The hardest part, other than the coding, is deciding what terms to extract and what phrases to put in. Term extraction basically allows you to specify a specific word or phrase and put that in a specific format you can read; it gives you the link and even, as is noted in this post, matches it to other feeds or information.
You can do this for yourself or share it with users/customers. If you're, for example, a health food restaurant, wouldn't it be great to know the latest developments in organic foods and have people come to your Web site to get them? (And while they're there, you can perhaps sell them a meal or whatever else you sell.) What if you're a dealer in specialized antiques? The possibilities are endless.
Meanwhile, I'm hoping you'll log on to the comments area of this blog and give us some of your best techniques for finding out what's being said about you and yours and how to accomplish what once required a clipping service or a publicist.