Reputation Management and
Online Customer Service

Reputation management helps ensure that the good reputation you have taken years to build won’t vanish overnight. The real-time nature of social media means the word can spread about your company in a heartbeat – good or bad.

Warning: even if you are not participating in social media, you are involved. Customers, competitors, former employees and others may be saying things about you that can help or hurt you.

You need to know what they are saying. That makes it imperative that you have a reputation management program in place. When you know where the conversation is taking place, what is being said and who is involved you can act accordingly.

Once you have a good defense in place you probably will find it makes a great deal of sense to use the same tools on the offense for online customer service. Then you will wonder why you weren’t involved in social media sooner.

Free Online Reputation Management Tools for Small Business

The Google Alerts input screen has only 5 lines to complete.

Google Alerts is a free tool you should be using right now.

It takes less than a minute to fill out the five-line form. Then Google starts sharing information it picks up about you (or anybody else) online. Try your own name or business name first.

Google will send emails or RSS feeds to you as soon as something appears. If you prefer, you can receive email updates daily or once each week.

Use Google Alerts to track news about whatever interests you. Note that this service delivers results only for content indexed by Google.

Social Mention: This free site searches the Web to find mentions of your search terms in blog posts and comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, Twitter and similar locations.

socialmention screen capture: socialmention scours the Internet to find social media mentions of your search terms.

You can do a broad search or specify the kind of results you want, such as news, video or blog activity.

In addition to search engine results (similar to Google search results pages) the left column of the Social Mention page offers data on:

  • sentiment (positive, negative or neutral mentions),
  • keywords associated with your mentions,
  • names of people who mention you,
  • hashtags used in Twitter tweets, and
  • sources used for the search results.

In the Sentiment area click on the words “positive” and “negative” to see how these terms are interpreted.

Negative returns may not indicate negative comments from others, but only words Social Mention’s algorithm considers negative in some sense. Knowing the sentiment of mentions can help you deliver better online customer service.

Addict-o-matic screen capture: Addict-o-matic provides a social media dashboard for real-time online reputation management.

Addict-o-matic addresses the same types of information as Social Mention, but with an entirely different presentation.

Type in your keyword or phrase and instantly get a dashboard presentation with results culled from sites such as Google Blog Search, Yahoo Web Search, Twitter, Friendfeed, Trueveo Video Search, Bing News and many others.

This screen shot is for a search for General Electric, which receives countless mentions. The results more than fill the screen.

Regardless of business size, you will get better results by placing the name you are searching for in quotation marks. Without them a search for something like “Stacy’s Furniture” will show lots of general “furniture” results.

Other Reputation Management Tools

A quick Google search for “reputation management” or social media monitoring” will return many more options. If your name or search term is mentioned frequently on discussion boards, then boardreader is a great free specialty tool.

If you want some help refining the information, trackur offers an affordable subscription service that includes filters to sort through the clutter, and a dashboard presentation to present the big picture.

If you outgrow these, a higher-end service from Radian 6, a leading enterprise-level online reputation management tool , may be the answer. Small businesses seldom have the need, nor the budget, for this level of service, but take a few minutes to browse their websites. You will get some ideas you may be able to use.

BuzzStream is a great tool to conduct social media marketing campaigns and build links. This service is more expensive than trakur, but the two are hardly comparable. BuzzStream has pro-active marketing features that make it a way to implement marketing campaigns, not just monitor reputation.

Combination Tools for Small Business Reputation Management

TweetDeck screen capture: TweetDeck is a two-way receive and transmit device for social media.

If your reputation is on the line you need to be able to join in the conversation. Whether the conversation begins on social media sites or elsewhere, you should have accounts with Twitter and Facebook, as a minimum.

Many companies respond to items reported in the mainstream news media with Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, as well as on their own websites.

To get the most out of these two sites you should use HootSuite or TweetDeck. Both are free and each enables you to see what is being said about you on Twitter and Facebook, and to respond without having to go to your Facebook or Twitter pages.

Once you have opened a Facebook or Twitter account you can begin using Tweet Deck or Hoot Suite social media dashboards. You can track multiple names and issues and manage multiple Facebook and Twitter identities with either service.

Reputation Management Is Not an Option

This has been a quick look at a subject that is growing more important to the health of your business every day. Some Internet thought leaders compare social media with web browsers and search engines for the impact they have on how we do business online.

If you currently are not using some kind of tool or service to see what is being said about you online, remember this: it is being said whether you choose to listen or not. Once you listen, you will find it very difficult – and unwise – not to join in the conversation.

For more about PR software please visit our Video Content and Website Content> pages, as well as the PR Software overview page.

Learn more here about how to build traffic-driving small business websites.