Its funny. Apparently its time consuming for companies to conduct brand analysis (just know what is being said about them). So a niche has been filled by Scout Labs and others. (Hopefully Scout is paying attention and is reading this. Maybe Umbria will also comment their product is better. :D)
On the one hand, I think more companies ought to pay attention. In addition, I hope through honest reflection they use the reactions exposed online to make improvements. For example, I will pick on Blackboard (the company I pick on most). A complaint about documentation from Laura Gekeler’s blog resulted in a contact from a senior director offering help. There are dozens of people who blog about their experiences with Blackboard. I doubt most of them are on the radar of Blackboard’s marketing folks.
How many of these posts help to sway the impressions to Blackboard brands? My readership is tiny. The same compliment issued on my blog, Laura’s blog, and a top blogger would help the brand most coming from the top blogger. So far, except for the patent rumble, the top bloggers and sites like Slashdot have remained mostly silent. The profile of the typical blogger who will mention Blackboard is that of a user. Students mention having to use it for a class. Faculty members mention putting something up for a class they teach. Instructional designers talk about building classes. The smallest but most vocal group are the technical behind the scenes people (like me) who have to make this stuff run. None of these build a huge following. At best we read each others’ blogs so we influence each other than the masses.
Something that used to bother me is the appeal to being a publicly traded company as the reason why they are mostly silent. That is quite okay with me. Just fix it and don’t say anything.