With so many ways to market a small business today, it's more important than ever to protect your reputation - especially your online reputation. The web today has become very conversational, with users of all types contributing to the overall picture of your business. It's very likely that whether you currently have a social media presence or not, people are already talking about you, your products and services, or your employees online. With blogs, social networking sites, link sharing sites, etc., just about anyone can be involved in forming your company's reputation, so you need to know what is being said about you online.
Here are five reasons you should monitor the conversation online:
1. If you don't follow what's being said online, it will be impossible to counter anything negative or untrue. Your reputation will be defined by what other people are saying about you, even without your knowledge.
2. If a reporter or a blogger has a negative impression of your products or has experienced a bad customer service incident, it could end up at the top of the Google search results. Even if the information is untrue or inaccurate, news sites often have lots of authority with Google, and also a large readership with lots of links. Your reputation could quickly spin out of control without an opportunity for you to clear up a misunderstanding.
3. "You ARE What You Publish," according to online expert and best-selling author David M. Scott. Whatever you publish about your company, combined with what others online are saying about you, becomes your online reputation. Make sure you are intentional about what you do and say online, since it will become part of your company's online story.
5. Negative news tends to travel fast and far on the web, especially with the popularity of social networking sites. It's incredibly easy for someone to post something negative on a blog, which can then get picked up and shared on Facebook, or posted to Twitter, where it goes out to countless customers and potential customers all over the web. Monitoring your reputation makes it much easier to intervene and combat the negative before it gets out of control.
So now that you know why you should monitor what's being said online, here are five free tools you can use to monitor the conversation and help keep your online reputation intact:
Google Alerts. This tool lets you set up certain words or phrases that you want to monitor, like your company name, product names, key employees, etc. Then each day Google sends you a report of each time it found these phrases online, including the links to the place where it was found.
- Twitter Search. Twitter's search feature enables you to find mentions of your company, brand, or products in almost real-time, enabling you to take swift and immediate action if necessary.
- Monitor This. Lets you monitor mentions of your brand in 26 different search engines feeds at once. Simply enter the phrases you want to watch, then paste the list of feeds into your feed reader.
- Twilert. Twilert is a Twitter application that monitors daily tweets and emails you a list of those that contain mentions of your company, brand, products, etc.
- Who's Talkin. This social media search tool allows you to search for relevant terms and phrases related to your business on 60 of the most popular social networking sites on the web.
The best way to protect your online reputation is to pay attention and monitor what is being said about you online, so you can be proactive if necessary to fix problems early or set the record straight. You obviously cannot control what other people say online, but you also cannot solve problems or defend your reputation if you don't know what's going on in the first place.