There is little in contemporary business that deals on more equity than your business reputation. Stock prices fluctuate because it, and the media tipping point is reached at alarming speed for either good and bad praise or hostility about companies 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 good, it's all good friends. Business worldwide both large and small battle every day using the double-edged, sword of Web power. You should know about the poison comments too, and of course, if nothing is being said about your business online, well, that is a problem in and of itself.
Good or Evil?
From a marketing perspective, we have the capability to reach more people in remote corners of the world than ever before, making use of the awesome reach of the Internet to connect with our blogs, videos, and shopping carts that have no physical limitations. The flip side of that coin is that we now inhabit a world where anonymous people can go for their 15 minutes of fame as impromptu authors, video producers and critics, and that can spell trouble for your organization.
Google, Yahoo and other search engines give huge credibility to sites like Wikipedia 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 offering great buzz on your goods and services can provide a fantastic bump even if unjustified by reality. Bully for you! The impact of spiteful haters can cost you prospects, customers and dollars to an incredible extent also.
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 easily check out the real-time babble.
Google alerts enable you to pick keywords relative to, in this case, your business name and Google will email you instances when they occur online as indexed by the Google search engine. Go to www.google.com/alerts to set this up. Depending on the size and online notoriety of your company, you can modify the frequency of these email alerts from daily to weekly. There are a couple of refining options. Choosing type = 'Everything' will monitor all the buzz about whatever keywords you type in, comma delimited. For most small businesses, a weekly notification should be adequate.
Here are some points for what you might want to check to see what your customers might find:
- Your business name, including any divisions or alternative names as it applies
- Your competitors
- Frequent misspellings of your business name
- Your flagship product names, part numbers and trade names
- Your key executive names-- bad juju on your top people will reflect badly on your business
Google Alerts keeps track of the Google database. Social Oomph (www.socialoomph.com) allows you to track tweets. You should 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 scour the tweet-o-sphere for and email you summaries 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 component to it. If hostility is being spread, you may have the ability to join the ongoing discussion and correct the record or counter the conversation when it is at its most poisonous and influential to your business reputation.
Signal is a tool currently 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 cumbersome 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 periodically back, as these are folks who traffic LinkedIn. This is still in beta and isn't significantly 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 analysis about what is being said relating to 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 bulk of chatter.
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 focuses on how people browse the web, in particular, Google. That means controlling what keywords you use to advertise your website and be found, trying to mirror what people are searching for and in a unique enough way to minimize competition. Subsequently 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 determine who and what is being said about you. The easy way to do this initially is obviously to Google your company name. You’re going to find your web pages to be sure, but if there is bad stuff available you’re going to see that too. If it falls on page 1 of Google returns, you have a developing situation.
Find more great non-traditional marketing tips at the Smart Blog
. Post your case-studies you might find yourself in the next post. Karl Walinskas runs Smart Company Growth
, a management consulting firm for small companies. His books, audio and other cool stuff can be found at the Shop Smart link.