Look after your online reputation

Search tools and social networks and offer a variety of methods that let you track what people are saying about your firm online. Simon Quance explains how to make the most of them.

Reputation management has taken a new twist with the advent of social network. The near-weekly parade of online PR disasters illustrates just how important it is to listen to what is being said your business, and responding appropriately.

This interactive, real-time environment means your reputation is exposed more than ever to customer comment, whether it’s good or bad. Clients can post their thoughts on products and services every time they interact with a supplier. They might comment on foursquare when checking in at a restaurant, converse about a new model of car on a user forum or rant in their blog about poor customer service at a hotel.

If a message is significant and reaches someone highly connected and influential, the comment can go viral very quickly, which is great news if it’s positive, and potentially disastrous if negative. When England cricketer Kevin Pieterson tweeted about being dropped from the England cricket squad, his reputation may not have suffered, but the way his comment spread – and his subsequent retraction followed – demonstrate the need for speed.
 
There are many different tools on the market to measure and monitor online reputation, some of which are free and others which require payment. Let's take a look what tools and techniques are available for businesses.
 
Free services
Google Alerts is a simple way to monitor your presence, and get an overview on conversations around your brand. Alerts is very easy to set up (only requiring a Google account) and can deliver coverage either as it goes live or as a report every morning.
 
It can be useful for alerting you to a building story or service issue, but as with all monitoring techniques, the quality of the keywords you use when setting up any monitoring is vital. You really need to think about the way people might refer to your business or service, rather than defaulting to the way you refer to it in-house or in your marketing communications. Include common misspellings or even shortened terms (like textish) in your search to be sure you capture as much as you can.
 
It is also important to note that the service is not complete and while it is good for traditional news and blog coverage, it doesn’t tend to cover community mentions (forums & message boards) and real-time discussions (Twitter), so cannot be relied upon for total coverage. That said it should be the first base for all brands, and Google trends can also give you a sense of how your brand mentions trend and differ over time.
 
Other free tools include:

  • Yahoo Pipes, a web app that provides a UI for aggregating web feeds and web pages.
  • Boardreader, a search engine for forums and boards.
  • Blogpulse, a search engine and trend discovery system for blogs.
  • Social Mention, a social media search engine that searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news and videos.

Widgetised homepages such as Netvibes or iGoogle are another way of gathering news and information about your business or brand using a single view. Essentially they allow users to harvest  information using widgets that you can install on your own unique homepage. These widgets are effectively tiny elements of other websites and can include news, images, video and social media search results from sites such as Twitter.

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Comments
Bob Harper's picture

Excellent article

Bob Harper | | Permalink

Great article...is this a point accountants could add to an "added value" audit/accounts review checklist?

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing