As regular readers know, I am a big Google Fan. Today is about a tool that everyone has, yet few may be using, and which is essential in a time of crisis or while managing an important issue. It is called Realtime.
A while back, Google installed onto its regular search engine an option that allowed you to add to a search the option to get real time mentions of your search term that would appear at the top of the page of your search results. The search would include mentions from Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, allowing you to see what someone said about your search term only seconds after they said it. In other words, you have your finger on the pulse of the conversation about a specific topic.
This tool was said to be so sensitive that it picked up chatter about earth tremors within a few seconds of one occurring. The only thing was that the way the results read was kind of confusing as they appeared at the top of your page and updated regularly, pushing your search results from more static sources down the page. If you entered a search term on a subject that was quite common, say “FDA” it could push your static results down the page quickly and could be confusing. One would hope FDA is watching, but one doubts it….
Now, however, Google has made Realtime available as a stand-alone tool. What that means is that you can operate a realtime search without mingling it with the search for more static sources. What is the utility?
Presumably you are using a browser where you can open multiple tabs. Realtime would allow you to open a tab for Realtime and to perform a search for a term that you want to monitor. During a crisis, this could be particularly important. Or, if you are simply wanting to see what people are saying about you, you can monitor for your name or your company name. That could help you avert a crisis. One can imagine that most Congress people would love to monitor their own names.
If your search requires more than just one word, there is capacity for an advanced search that allows you to narrow and specify your search terms. If you are more interested in a specific topic related to a name, you can narrow the search in that way.
In addition, like a Google News Alert, you can sign up for an alert to be sent you any time a new entry appears. Unfortunately, it does not appear that you can put this through by RSS feed, but rather only by email. So you may have to be careful here if your topic is a hot one, you might be getting an email every few seconds. However, if your search parameter is not that common, the email alerts are very useful. Otherwise, to monitor in real time, you simply keep the tab open and check it periodically to see what people are saying about the topic of your interest.
I have a presentation entitled “Crisis in a Keystroke” that I have given many times to many different companies and organizations. The presentation is in the form of an imagined case study of an emergent crisis situation as it unfolds in the span of a few hours, stealth nearly the entire time to the company that is being affected. The balance of the presentation then explains what you can do to mitigate and manage emerging crises in social media. One of the remedies is effective monitoring.
Of the many characteristics of crisis communications that have changed over the past 5 years, two stand out. First, the balance of power in communications has shifted away from the communicator to the audience. The audience has much greater control over the content and spread of your message. Second, the speed with which a crisis can unfold. The difference between now and five years ago in terms of speed is nothing short of breathtaking.
That means that real time monitoring is essential and anyone who isn’t doing it is flying at least partially blind. Don’t let it be you.
If you want to find Realtime yourself, other than by using the link provided in the first paragraph above, you can get there by going to your Google landing page and clicking on “More” and from there, click on “even more”. It is listed as a new program, and is not in the Lab section.