Whether you’re using social networks for personal or for professional reasons you need to be monitoring what’s being said about you on the Internet. I can understand why someone who is only chatting with friends and who doesn’t talk about business wouldn’t think it’s necessary to do so. If that person is you, I ask, “don’t you want to know if you’re name is out there?” A comment you leave on any public forum, or even a forum you think is completely protected, can and will be seen by someone you don’t know.

If you’re at all using social networks for professional reasons, or even to build up a following to a personal blog, you need to be doing all you can to know what’s being said about you. You can use any positive posts to pump yourself, your product or company. You can do damage control to protect your name, your brand.

For Twitter specifically I use Twitter lists and searches to help monitor conversations where my name or the station could be mentioned. For example, I use Seesmic at the station and have several live searches running at all times. All the searches I run are done without the hashtag or the “@”, i.e. search for “cbs4denver”. Sometimes people forget the “@” or when stating criticism purposely leave it off. (Personally, I think that’s the coward’s way of handling it. If you’re going to criticize direct it at me or at the station so there is the chance to respond.)

Some of my searches are KCNC, channel 4, CBS4 and CBS Denver, because many people call the station by many different names. I admit these searches show multiple Tweets that have nothing to do with the station. Did you know KCNC is a company that manufactures bikes or bike parts? I didn’t until I ran the search and found many Tweets about bikes! I take the time each day to peruse through the searches to see if anything is about the station. The searches pay off as I do find Tweets and then am either able to respond appropriately, or just be aware of how the station is being spoken about and who is talking about the station.

I’m not the only person at the station keeping a watchful eye out for what’s being said. A while ago someone posted two Tweets, one was a criticism, one was a question/statement, but neither included @cbs4denver. One said “KCNC” (the station call letters) and the other said “channel 4.” Someone else at the station noticed the Tweets before I did and responded to each Tweet in a Direct Message to this person. (I would have responded openly to show we at the station are open to conversations and questions.)

Seesmic isn’t the only Twitter application that runs live searches; others include Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. If you’re not using an application that does live searches, I encourage you to do find one you like and use it. If you’d like to stick to the Web, then use Twitter’s Web search, but you’ll have to run and refresh the searches often.

Outside of Twitter I use Google Alerts to run general searches on the Web for my name and for the station, again using several searches running variations of names. I’ve found that I’m sometimes used as an example of a journalist using social media in articles and blogs. Not everything has been praise, but nothing has been horrible. I’m happy I know this.

Being aware like this is being smart. It’s time for you to be smart too.