There is little in modern business that trades on more equity than your business reputation. Stock prices fluctuate because it, and the media tipping point is reached at surprising speed for either good and bad praise or hostility about businesses worldwide. The first step to managing your online business reputation is to be able to keep track of 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 duel every day using the double-edged, sword of Web power. You need to know about the poison comments too, and naturally, if nothing is being said about your business online, well, that is a problem in and of itself.
Buzz or Sting?
From a marketing perspective, we have the capacity to reach more people in distant 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 physical limitations. The flip side of that coin is that we now live in 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 tremendous credibility to sites like Wikipedia and RipOffReport.com in the spirit of full disclosure, especially on big business. The problem 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 give a fantastic bump albeit unjustified by reality. Bully for you! The impact of spiteful haters can cost you prospects, customers and dollars to an incredible extent also.
The Most Repeated Keyword in Business Today
What do you think is the most often used keyword today in business? This isn’t a trick question or a trick. It is in fact the word, “keyword”. Think about it. There is so much instruction about SEO and online marketing that focuses on how people browse the web, particularly, Google. That means regulating 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 reduce competition. Consequently 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 monitor 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 initially is of course to Google your company name. You’re going to find your web sites surely, but if there is bad stuff out there 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 every week or every few days is something that just isn’t top of mind. Here are three tools you can use to easily check out the real-time babble.
Google alerts allow you to choose 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 fine-tune the rate of these email alerts from daily to weekly. There are a couple of refining options. Picking type = ‘Everything’ will monitor all the buzz about whatever keywords you type in, comma delimited. For most small businesses, a weekly notification should be sufficient.
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 applicable
- Your competitors
- Various misspellings of your organization name
- Your flagship product names, part numbers and trade names
- Your key executive names– bad vibes on your top people will reflect badly on your business
Google Alerts monitors the Google database. www.SocialOomph.com allows you to monitor 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 suggestions 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 ability to join the current conversation and correct the record or counter the conversation when it is at its most harmful 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 cumbersome with the filters and for most results, look up your name and company without the filters box checked. This is specifically 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 phrases 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 routinely back, as these are folks who traffic LinkedIn. This is still in beta and isn’t particularly advertised by LinkedIn, and has a restricted universe of professionals (those in LinkedIn who allow public view of their discussions) and will tell you more about trending topics than give you a comprehensive overview about what is being said regarding your company. 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 business, you need to develop a strategy to displace and counter inaccurate dialogue and tell your company story. More on that next time. Meanwhile, post the tools you use to take the online pulse about your company.
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.