In the media driven culture that is modern society, the most important currency your small business can trade on is the equity built by your company 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 and 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. Business worldwide both large and small duel every day 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 with our blogs, videos, and shopping carts that have 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 Wikepedia 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, Google. That means controlling what keywords you use to market your webpage and be found, trying to mirror what people are searching for and in a unique enough way to minimize 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 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 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 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 (CHECK THESE DETAILS OUT KARL). 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 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 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 is 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 discussions 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 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 terms 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 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.