Social networking means "public conversations" about you, your company, your brand or your products and services. Public conversations are great when they are positive. Negative conversations; not so great!
However, not going online is not the way to avoid negative conversations. Remember, they're happening; whether you are online or not. So why not proactively monitor those conversations, participate in them, and ensure that you influence how they continue?
The first step towards Reputation Management is knowing that someone's talking about yourself. So first keep track of the conversations around you. To do so, go to Google Alerts today and sign-up to receive alerts about your name, your company name, or your products and services. Google Alerts delivers emails with alert results to you or you can go to Google Reader to read them.
I personally prefer getting emails once a day because that way I can quickly scan through them and know if something jumps out at me.
Google Alerts can be setup for other reasons too. You can monitor Request for Quotes (RFP's) in your industry or you can create a Google Alert to stay abreast of a favorite topic or person. Perhaps you are a Lady Gaga fan or perhaps you just want to see all the conferences that are happening in 2010 so that you can plan to participate; whatever your interest, Google Alerts allows you to keep stay abreast of things that are important to you. And that's called Conversation Monitoring.
(Disclaimer: Google didn't pay me to write this promotion about Google Alerts)