Our last post focused on how to own your online presence, but also equally important is monitoring what other people are saying about you online. Whether you’re a company, a freelancer, or just an individual who wants to be more active online, it’s important to gauge both the amount of activity and the sentiment surrounding your brand online.

At Domain.com, we’ve jumped in head-first to social monitoring, and while we are the first to admit that we’ve still got more to learn, here are some of the keys to our methods:

Start with Twitter

If you’re being talked about online, chances are the place that will provide the most immediate and highest volume of content is Twitter. First off, make sure you have a Twitter account. If you don’t, it severely limits your ability to respond to real-time social interaction, which makes social monitoring somewhat pointless in the first place.

Next, start using Twitter search. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, and will only continue to get better as Twitter grows. Search for your brand, related terms, competitors, and other relevant terms. For example, some of the searches we run include Domain.com, domaindotcom, domaincom, domain, @domaindotcom, and other variants. This will give you a good indication of who is talking about you on Twitter, how many people are talking about you, and what they’re saying.

The Best of the Rest

Twitter is a great start in monitoring the real-time web. However, there are many other places to pick up on your brand mentions. Here are some of the others that can return valuable search results:

Friendfeed is an aggregator where users can integrate Twitter, Blogs, and other social profiles into one online stream.

Facebook continues to move towards being a more open social network, and its search functionality is increasing. Soon you’ll be able to search the status updates of all Facebook users who elect to have their profile information public.

Social Bookmarking Sites such as Digg, Reddit, or Delicious are a good place to search to get a good sense of your brand’s relevance and authority online.

Question/Answer Sites such as Yahoo Answers allow you to search through all the questions being asked to see if anyone has questions about your brand.

Social Search Tools such as Oneriot or WhosTalkin can provide interesting insights and uncover some search results you might otherwise not stumble across. They aggregate searches from a variety of the smaller and larger social networks available.

Check for Comments

Forums and comments on blogs are still common methods of discussion, and there are some great tools to search blogs and forums across the entire internet.

Boardreader searches numerous message boards and forums acrosss the internet.

Omgili is another useful forum search that often returns fewer results than Boardreader, but also different ones from time to time.

Backtype is a highly useful blog comment search tool, as is Icerocket.

Google is Your Friend

Google is great for everything that isn’t covered by one of the above tools. Make sure you set Google Alerts for terms you want to follow. Use Google News and Google Blog Search to find news articles and blog posts that include a mention of the terms you want to follow.

This is all starting to sound like a lot of work, right? Numerous searches at well over a dozen websites can add up to a good amount of time involvement, even if you’re efficient about it. Once again, Google offers a great solution: Google Reader. If you look closely at all the search results pages on various social sites, nearly all of them include a link to that search as an RSS feed. Set up an RSS reader, add each of your various searches to the reader, do some organizing, and suddenly you’ve got all of your searches delivered automatically right to you! This way, rather than performing searches once a day or even multiple times daily, you can let your RSS reader do all the work for you.

Does it Matter?

Social networking and social search is becoming an increasingly important way that internet users browse the web, get feedback, and ultimately find you. Social monitoring is not as easy as simply typing your name into Google to check search results, but it can provide a valuable and much more time-sensitive view of what’s going on relevant to your brand on the internet. It’s definitely worth it to take the time to check in on the social web.