November 23, 2011
There is not much in contemporary business that trades on more equity than your business reputation. Stock prices fluctuate because of it, and the media boiling point is reached at disconcerting speed for either good and bad praise or hostility about businesses globally. The first step to managing your online business reputation is to be able to monitor what is being said about you, by whom, and how often. If it’s all great, it’s all good friends. Business worldwide both large and small duel daily using the double-edged, sword of Internet power. You need to know about the poison comments too, and of course, if nothing is being said about your business online, well, that is a problem all in itself.
Good or Evil?
From a marketing viewpoint, we have the capacity to reach more people in remote corners of the world than ever before, leveraging the incredible reach of the Internet to connect with our blogs, videos, and shopping carts that have no geographical limitations. The other side of that coin is that we now inhabit a world where anonymous people can go for their 15 minutes of fame as ad hoc writers, video producers and critics, which can spell trouble for your company.
Google, Yahoo and other search engines give huge validity to sites like Wikipedia and RipOffReport.com in the spirit of full disclosure, especially on big business. Trouble is, fact checking ain’t what it used to be if indeed it happens at all. Loud online voices providing great buzz on your goods and services can provide a fantastic bump albeit unjustified by reality. Bully for you! The sting of acrimonious haters can cost you prospects, customers and dollars to an incredible extent also.
The Most Common Keyword in Modern Business
What do you think is the most often used keyword today in business? This isn’t a trick question or a gag. It is in fact the word, “keyword.” Think about it. There is so much guidance about SEO and online marketing that revolves around how people browse the web, specifically, Google. That means controlling what keywords you use to advertise your website and be found, trying to mirror what people are browsing for and in a unique enough way to reduce competition. As a result we have long tail keywords which are phrases like “How to winterize your boat” so that when someone does eventually look for that, our page or Adwords ad is right there to be discovered.
To keep track of your online reputation, keywords are also what you use to ascertain who and what is being said about you. The easy way to do this to begin with is of course to Google your company name. You’re going to find your web sites surely, but if there is bad stuff available you’re going to see that also. If it falls on page 1 of Google returns, you have a developing situation.
Remembering to do that weekly or every few days is something that just isn’t top of mind. Here are three devices you can use to effortlessly investigate the real-time chatter.
Google alerts enable you to choose keywords relative to, in this case, your business name and Google will email you instances when they come up online as indexed by the Google search engine. Go to www.google.com/alerts to set this up. Depending on the size and online reputation of your organization, you can adjust the frequency of these email alerts from daily to weekly. There are a couple of refining options. Picking type = ‘Everything’ will keep track of all of the buzz about whatever keywords you type in, comma delimited. For most small businesses, a weekly notification should be adequate.
Here are some tips for what you might want to monitor to see what your customers might find:
* Your business name, including any partitions or alternative names as applicable
* Your competition
* Various misspellings of your organization name
* Your flagship product names, part numbers and trade names
* Your key executive names– bad juju on your top people will reflect poorly on your company
Google Alerts monitors the Google database. Social Oomph allows you to track tweets. You
need to create a free account and then go to Monitors/Keyword Alert Emails on the left hand menu. You are allowed to set up to 50 keywords or phrases to rake the tweet-o-sphere for and email you recaps either daily or every twelve hours.
The keyword tips are the same as for Google Alerts. The cool thing about monitoring Twitter chatter is that it has a very real-time element to it. If ill will is being spread, you may have the capability to join the ongoing conversation and correct the record or counter the conversation when it is at its most toxic and influential to your business reputation.
Signal is a tool presently under development by LinkedIn in conjunction with Twitter, using a similar search on discussions groups, shares and posted answers. Access it by logging into LinkedIn and going to www.linkedin.com/signal. This is a bit clunky with the filters and for most results, look up your name and company without the filters box selected. This is especially useful for product launches or branding efforts you might have to see if there is a buzz on LinkedIn among professionals. Unfortunately, the search box appears to have no Boolean capability to add multiple search words separated by commas or expressions like ‘+’ or ‘OR’.
If you’re in the consulting or professional services field this may be one where you save your searches and check regularly back, as these are folks who traffic LinkedIn. This is still in beta and isn’t particularly advertised by LinkedIn, and has a limited universe of professionals (those in LinkedIn who allow public view of their discussions) and will tell you more about trending topics than give you an overall overview about what is being said regarding your business. I’d recommend playing with it to see if it is useful to you, but use the alerts in Google and Social Oomph to monitor the majority of chatter.
Now that you’ve set up ways to more simply monitor the online discussion about your company, you need to develop a strategy to displace and counter incorrect dialogue and tell your company story. More on that next time. Meanwhile, post the tools you use to take the online pulse about your business.
A hate page, Ripoffreport or Wikipedia lie can sink your business reputation. If your company needs strategies to fix yours, check out business reputation management services. Karl Walinskas owns Smart Company Growth, a firm that helps businesses grow through sparking sales and controlling expenses and cash flow. He’s been published for years on better leadership, communication, and marketing practices for small business and authored the book, “Getting Connected Through Exceptional Leadership”.
You can read the Smart Blog for small business growth to learn more tips you
can use today.