By Vistage Editor
There is little in modern business that trades on more equity than your business reputation.
Stock prices rise and fall as a result of it, and the media tipping point is reached at alarming speed for either good or bad praise, or vitriol about companies worldwide. The first step to controlling 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. Businesses worldwide, large and small, duel everyday 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 in and of itself.
Buzz or Sting?
From a marketing standpoint, we have the ability to reach more people in remote corners of the world than ever before, leveraging the awesome reach of the Internet to connect them with our blogs, videos, and shopping carts, with no geographical 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 authors, video producers and critics, and that can spell trouble for your business.
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. 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 even if unjustified by reality. Bully for you! The sting of acrimonious haters can cost you prospects, customers and dollars to an incredible extent as well.
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 gag. It is in fact the word, “keyword”. Think about it. There is so much instruction about SEO and online marketing that revolves around how people search the web, in particular using Google. That means controlling what keywords you use to market your website and how it’s found online, trying to anticipate what people are searching for and in a unique enough way to minimize competition. Consequently, we have long-tail keywords that are phrases like “How to winterize your boat,” so that when someone does eventually look for that, our website page or Adwords ad is right there to be discovered, clicked on, and monetized.
To monitor 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, of course, to Google your company name. You’re going to find your web pages to be sure, but if there is bad stuff out there you’re going to see that, too. If it falls on the first page of the Google results, then you have a developing situation.
Remembering to do this every week or every few days. And here are three tools you can use to easily check out the real-time chatter.
Google Alerts allow you to pick 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 notoriety of your business, you can adjust 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 sufficient.
Here are some tips for what you might want to monitor to see what your customers might find:
- Your business name, including any divisions or alternative names as applicable
- Your competition
- 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 poorly on your company
Google Alerts monitors the Google database. Social Oomph (www.socialoomph.com) allows you to monitor tweets. You need to create a free account and then go to Monitors/Keyword Alert Emails on the left-hand menu. You’re allowed to set up to 50 keywords or phrases to scour the tweet-o-sphere for, and you’re emailed 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 component 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’s at its most toxic and influential to your business reputation.
Signal is a tool currently under development by LinkedIn in conjunction with Twitter, using a similar search on discussion 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, search for your name and company without the filters box checked. This is particularly useful for product launches or branding efforts, to see if there is buzz on LinkedIn among professionals. Unfortunately, the search box appears to have no Boolean capability to add multiple search terms separated by commas or modifiers 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 particularly advertised by LinkedIn, and has a limited universe of professionals (those in LinkedIn who allow public view of their conversations) and will tell you more about trending topics than give you a total 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 bulk of chatter.
Now that you’ve set up ways to more easily 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. In the meantime, post the tools you use to take the online pulse about your company.
By the way, setting up alerts on when your part numbers come up is a fantastic way to dig up prospective customers looking for what you sell. This strategy is particularly helpful for factor reps.
Originally published: Sep 18, 2011