Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Christopher Golda and Michael Montano, founders of BackType, and talked with them about the growth of the site, and their continued efforts to become the blogosphere's number one repository for comments, tracking, search and alerts. Among the first steps they promised, and have already delivered, was the option to add comments you make on social services Digg and Reddit to your profile page. Along with the site's recent integration with FriendFeed, BackType has risen in visibility and functionality, even as few are using the site to its fullest potential.
As Golda and Montano explained over lunch Thursday, the site was originally started to track comments activity by friends they followed from around the Web. With so many different commenting systems out there, from WordPress to TypePad, Disqus and more, no one service provided a full history of individuals' activity, and they saw an opportunity to create a product that was built around comments and the people who make them, rather than individual blogs and their readers.
As BackType has gained awareness, the founders have so far been surprised by the high number of people using the site for social media marketing - tracking keywords for their company and the competition, but it's become a natural evolution of a service that can gauge a company and its products' visibility across the Web. Extending the services that BackType tracks, like Digg and Reddit, makes the product's database more robust and diverse.
Additionally, the rapid integration of BackType to FriendFeed has helped raise the product's visibility, they said. Now, assuming the blog you comment on is being tracked, any comments you make on the Web, assigned to your e-mail address and name, can be pulled into your FriendFeed stream, like Disqus and IntenseDebate have been doing for some time. (You can see my BackType stream in FriendFeed here)
Interestingly, at least for now, the BackType integration into FriendFeed does not track comments from Disqus or IntenseDebate. Golda and Montano offered FriendFeed a "Disqus and IntenseDebate free" version of the feed, as to not avoid overlap from those who had already turned on those services, but FriendFeed took that as the standard, meaning users who want all comments still need to integrate both services. (For example, my Disqus feed is also live.) This might change later, but FriendFeed would need to make the update, and their "to do" list is no doubt long.
As BackType's database has grown, so too has its functionality for companies looking to track their keywords across the Web. I've even set up an RSS feed from BackType for the company where I work, so if we are mentioned in a comment somewhere, our PR firm will see it and have the opportunity to respond or evaluate quickly. You can set your own alerts by e-mail on the BackType.com site or use their Trends site to see the velocity of updates. (Examples: Google, Seesmic, and Obama.)
Smart marketers and public relations people are already searching news, blogs, and Twitter to monitor their brand. To track the brand across comments throughout the Web using BackType is just as important. While you can still follow people and discover what they're saying at the blogs they frequent, and discover new sites, I think BackType will become a more integral part of people's social media monitoring than anyone ever expected. Adding Digg and Reddit, while small additions, just makes their sphere of tracking even more thorough.
In case you want to see what I'm saying on BackType, follow me here: http://www.backtype.com/louisgray.