We’ve been working on a research project about brand protection and reputation monitoring on all the social sites, like LinkedIn, twitter, etc… and seeing a disturbing trend. Most of these companies are selling something you can get for free. Very few have any value add, and even fewer offer any genuine innovation. So before you or your clients pony up several thousand to several hundred thousand dollars to babysit your business’s social reputation, take a long hard look at Google Alerts. It’s free, and any geek worth his coffee allowance can set it up for you.