Hiding in Plain Sites

“I didn’t know it could do that!”

I cannot list how often family and friends have said this when I used some computer feature that was previously unknown to them. I smile when I hear this. It’s fun and it means I have given something useful to someone.

Perhaps, you have said it yourself when an item you’ve used for several years is used by someone else in a different way than you knew was possible. A new feature, or a long forgotten one, demonstrated by this apparently magical individual manipulating your item in new and exciting ways enlightens you. Then your hand slaps your forehead in the classic, “I could’ve had a V8” gesture, as you realize how useful this will be.

By virtue of searching for clients’ possible exam exposures online for several years, I have learned that incredibly useful information is hiding in plain sight, or in plain sites. It’s there staring you in the face. You just need to know where and how to see it. Some information is mundane, some highly valuable, some not applicable to your situation but all of it potentially useful, interesting and capable of generating additional return on your web monitoring investment.

With that in mind, here is a sample of the valuable information you might discover. The list is not exhaustive and your results may vary.

Negative press – It’s funny how often in this socially connected landscape people talk negatively about you or your company with impunity, knowing that their supposed anonymity is a shield. The negative comments­—posted on Twitter, Facebook, forums, discussion groups, etc.— that you come across while pursuing exam exposures can be used in positive ways. If you listen closely and nonjudgmentally, you can filter out the negativity and find clues for improving your program and discovering new opportunities you have not considered.

Innermost thoughts –Numerous exam candidates openly and truthfully say what they think about your test, whether the certification is worth it, and how useful it is. Companies pay millions to conduct this type of research and here it is free for the taking if you pay attention.

Competitive insights – Just like your test candidates, your competitors talk and you’ll likely gain valuable insights into what your competition thinks and how they talk to others about your exams, processes, people and organization. This can be a treasure trove of information, just waiting to be harvested.

Trademark violations – It’s amazing how many sites we encounter that use our clients’ trademark, branding and name without any regard for the effort and expense they’ve put into creating and protecting them. I’m sure your trademark and branding efforts are very important and valuable to you. Protecting them is critical.

Product comparisons – Free market research is there just for the taking.  Again, by listening to the conversations you come across, you’ll be able to get an honest assessment of your ranking in your field.  Even though these comparisons can get quite granular and personal, they will be extremely valuable.

Trends in market/advertising/PR – We tend to get insulated in our own corporate environments and it’s always great to see how the competition is getting their message out while searching for your own content. It can really get the creative juices flowing. You can learn whether your marketing messages are outdated or leading the pack.

And just like that, you too are a member of the apparently magical individual club, able to amaze friends and influence people at a moment’s notice and maybe, just maybe have someone look at you and say, “Wow, I didn’t know you could do that!” It will make you smile. It will be fun. It means you have given something useful to someone, just by finding and pointing out what is there, hiding in plain sight!

Cary Straw

Senior Web Patrol Analyst, Caveon Test Security

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