Prior to consumer generated content sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the hundreds of others community focused forums, a business owner or corporation was driving most conversations about his or her products while developing a brand message. Brand reputation was influenced by one way communications through various forms of traditional media channels such as radio, television, newspaper advertorials and print advertising. Often the Public Relations team and Marketing team owned the responsibility of reputation management. In this world of Web 2.0 where consumers have a very loud voice online, a negative opinion or irate customer can do severe damage to your reputation. A company identity can be built or dismantled in less time than it took to write the original media plan.
So the question is: Who is responsible for monitoring your company’s reputation online? Today’s business owner must be agile and sharp to keep up with some of the conversations. Often it is best to listen first rather than be too quick to respond. Businesses who recognize the importance of managing the company’s image online realize that this responsibility must be shared by a committee of loyal employees who understand the social networks, the need to collaborate, have the ability to recognize trends and who support the brand messaging in all their communications. No opportunity to build consumer trust can be wasted. Exceptional customer service should be at the heart of any response to a negative complaint.
The reality is that even though a company may choose to not participate in Web 2.0 media conversations; the conversations that have the power to make or break a business reputation will still take place. Therefore it is better to be aware of what is being said about your product or service and be prepared to act strategically than to turn a blind eye to potentially damaging remarks.
Where should I begin and how much will these monitoring tools cost me?
Set up a RSS Feed Reader
Here are a few free tools you can begin using to help you start the listening mode. The first step is to subscribe to a RSS Feed Reader or news aggregator. There are many although not all are the same. I am partial to the Google News app since I use Google products for almost EVERYTHING. Here is a list of RSS readers that you may wish to consider.
Set up an Alert system
Google Alerts and TalkWalker are probably the most no biased alert systems that will deliver keyword specific notifications to your RSS reader or to your email inbox as they are associated with a very comprehensive search algorithm. They can track blog posts, news articles, social bookmark comments and of course web pages. The search terms you set up to monitor are key to type of information it will deliver. Start with monitoring your name, your company name and perhaps a brand name and expand from there.
Social Monitoring Tools
Buzzsumo and Brand Mentions are two of the more popular Social media alerts systems that can scour a handful of user generated content platforms such as certain Blogs, Twitter, Flicr & YouTube. Facebook comments and postings still present a challenge due to many of the privacy concerns and the way information is shared. Most business pages are open to the public but most of the conversations about your business are happening in private groups or behind the “privacy door”.
Stay away from BlackHat Linking behavior
The last subject worth mentioning has to do with the link building efforts of your SEO program. Yes it is important to get backlinks pointing to your website but it is important to know that not all links are considered valuable. You company’s reputation is at stake and you should consider your linking opportunities wisely. Poorly ranked web directories more commonly referred to as “Link Farms” will do more damage than good for your business reputation. Often an association is made by the partners you are linking to or those that link to you. Link Farms are notorious for positioning your brand in “Bad Neighborhoods”. Guilt by Association can get you banned or blacklisted by the search engines. Know who is linking to you and how your SEO is building links. Stick with ethical White Hat link building efforts and your efforts will pay dividends.
When you’re first start observing various alerts and mentions it is wise to schedule your time managing your time and resources. Once a day or week will work for most small businesses, but I highly encourage those who participate regularly to pay more attention to their online brands. You need to be a bit more suspicious in the digital age in order to prevent negativity from spreading. Network with people who are talking about your topics of interest or thank people who have complimented you. It is important to engage the key influencers in your network.