Free ways to monitor your online reputation: Social Media, Blogs, Forums and Groups, Google Alerts and Review sites.
In every sphere of life- be it in business, politics, religion or entertainment -has influencers.
Influencers are people whose opinion holds sway over a large group of followers.
How is this important in monitoring your small businesses online reputation?
It’s important to find out which online reputation management new york bloggers have followers in your target market or your local area and monitor what they are saying about your local business, your competitors or your industry as a whole.
If you don’t think bloggers are important, just remember that their glowing review about your local business can literally catapult your business growth while a damning blog post can destroy many years of hard work you have invested in establishing community trust.
How to Monitor What Bloggers Are Saying:
1. Use Blog Search Engines – these are search engines that get results just from blogs or search engines within blogs that aggregate content.
* Blogsearch.Google.com- this gives better blog search results than Google Alerts
* Bloggdigger – this site has a new “find bloggers in your location” feature
Many of these sites have toolbars that you can upload for easy use.
2. Subscribe to the blog- if you know about a particular blog related to your industry or local city/town area that regularly gives opinions about small businesses such as yours, one way to monitor their content is to become a follower. You can do this in a number of ways:
* Subscribe to their RSS feed.
* Follow them on Twitter
* Become their fan on Facebook
* Subscribe to their YouTube Channel
All these will give you instant notification about new blog posts, tweets, status updates and videos.
Of course, don’t use your business name or personal name when doing this. Instead use a simple alias name to maintain your privacy.
3. Find blogs using search operators- if you don’t know how to find relevant blogs, you can use search operators in your search engine.
Search operators are mathematical functions that help filter your search results much better.
For example, if you own a restaurant in Cambridge MA and want to find all blogs that discuss Cambridge MA, then you can type the following search operator into Google: inurl:blog “Cambridge ma”.
Or if you want to find all blogs that talk about anything related to Italian restaurants, you can use this search operator: inurl:blog “Italian restaurant*” and that will find all blogs containing Italian restaurants as the base word, such as Italian restaurant reviews, Italian restaurants in New York etc.
4. Alerts – you can also automate the process, by creating a Google Alert and selecting blogs as the alert source.
Forums and Groups
One of the most overlooked ways to monitor a business’s online reputation is in forums and groups.
Before social media entered the scene, forums and groups were the dominant places where people with similar interests gathered to share information.
And although social media may have overshadowed them, forums and groups are still alive and kicking.
Infact some forum and group users prefer them compared to sites like Facebook because they attract people who are more serious about the topic and they require registration and adherence to rules thereby creating a closed tight-knit community.
Forums and groups are popular among certain professional topics, hobbies and town/city locations so they are worth monitoring as a local business especially if you provide services or products to their members.
For example, if you are local golf shop it is certainly worth your time knowing what the local golf club forum finds interesting and what they may be saying about your business.
How to monitor groups and forums
1. Join Forums and groups that relate to your business and maintain an active participation in them.
In this way you can get first hand information about any positive or negative opinions voiced in the forum or group about your business and you will be able to respond when the need arises as an established member of good standing who will more likely get a fair hearing than if you were a recent newcomer who has never contributed otherwise.
Another advantage to joining online forums and groups is that your business can sponsor these sites, and that gives you much more leverage to not only monitor but build a positive brand image and engage with forum and group members.
2. Another way to monitor your small business in forums and groups is to use search engines.
* You can search Google Groups to look for groups that mention your company keywords. Just go to groups.google.com and enter your company keywords.
* You can also use Google Groups search engine to search for forums using the search operator:
Your keyword -inurl:groups.google.com
This looks for all forums related to your keyword by removing all Google Groups from the search results
* Another search engine resource to find forums and groups is Blekko.
This search engine uses simple slashes. For example:
This will find you all forums mentioning your keyword organized by the latest date.
As a small business owner with a limited budget to spend on online reputation management, you can take advantage of free resources that will help you monitor what people are saying about your business online.
Some of these resources are automated meaning that once you set them up, you don’t need to touch them again while others are more manual in nature.
One free automated resource that is easy to set up is Google Alerts which is a free Google service that sends you up to date email alerts anytime a particular subject matter is mentioned in any online media.
Simply go to google.com/alerts and go through these 5 easy steps:
Choose your search query- type in one of your business keywords such as your company name, your personal name, industry keywords etc.
Examples of keywords may be ‘Antonio’s Restaurant’, ‘Italian Restaurants in Maine’, ‘Antonio Lombardo’.
If you have more than one keyword, you need to create another alert for that extra keyword.
You can create as many keyword alerts as you want.
Choose a Result Type- this option allows you to choose what kind of online media results you want.
You can choose to get results from different Google sources such as news sites, blogs, discussion sites (groups, forums etc), videos and books. You only have the option to choose one or all result types.
It’s best to choose the “everything” option.
Choose How Often You want Alerts to be sent to you – here there are three options – as it happens, once a day or once a week.
You definitely want to choose the first option – as it happens- so that you can have instant results that will help you manage your reputation quickly.
Choose the quality of results sent to you- you can choose either to have all the results or just the best results.
Choose your delivery email address- you can use any email address you have. Just make sure it’s one you check on a daily basis.
Once you have chosen your preferred alert settings above, click the “create alert” button and you’re all done.
From now on, Google will send you the most relevant keyword alerts according to your specifications.
If you would like to modify your alert settings for a particular keyword, just click on the “manage alert” link in your emails.
Remember that if you want to get alerts about different keywords, you need to create separate alerts.
You can have all your alerts send to one email address or different ones. It’s probably best to create a separate email account to have all your Google Alerts sent to so that you don’t inundate your regular business email address.
Quite naturally, a lot of small businesses don’t particularly like reviews sites and who can blame them.
While customers can get an opportunity to publicly endorse and thank a business for a good job done, review sites tend to attract those who want to voice a negative experience at a business much more than those who had a great time there. In addition, review sites can be manipulated by disgruntled current and former employees and even competitors with false reviews.
So while review sites need to make changes to authenticate reviews, review sites are here to stay because they provide the much needed social proof to the general public about a business’s reputation.
How to monitor these consumer reviews is a critical component that affects any small business’s bottom line.
So how can a small business monitor what people are saying about it on review sites?
The best way is to actually set up your own profile.
This is because someone else can add your business to the review site so it is critical to build your official profile and control it.
Major Reviews Sites to set up your small business profile
Here is a list of major review sites you need to set up a profile on:
* Better Business Bureau
* Insider Pages
* Bing Local
* Yahoo Local
* Merchant Circle
* City Search
* Angles List
* Google Maps
Other review sites worth considering
While there are major review sites like Google Places and Yelp, there are also niche specific ones and location specific ones too that may be more relevant to your small business.
* Restaurants -FriendsEat,
* Medical physicans-MyDocHub.com, InsiderPages.com
* Travel /Hospitality businesses -TripAdvisor
By setting up a profile, you can use your profile RSS Feed to get Google alerts so that you monitor any profile changes such as the latest reviews when they are submitted.
In this way you can quickly respond to negative reviews and handle an aggrieved customer or thank those who posted positive reviews and include them on your website and other PR materials.
Without staying on top of your reviews, your company will be playing catch-up in damage control.
One of the most challenging online media for a small business to monitor their online reputation is social media.
The sheer volume of the number of social media users and the number of social conversations that take place is phenomenal.
However trying to monitor these conversations does not need to be difficult thanks to 4 easy- to -use free social media tools.
Tool #1 Twitterfall.com
This free resource helps you monitor what people are saying about your business on Twitter.
It provides results in real-time and has some great settings that are perfect for a small local business.
These settings include:
* Keywords- you can add one or multiple keywords.
Each keyword comes with a color so that a keyword’s tweets will be highlighted in a particular color for easy viewing.
* Geo-location- this setting is perfect for a small business because you can specify which location you want to gather tweets from, which makes more sense since most of the people tweeting about your local business will probably be doing so in your local area.
You simply add your location town/city and the number of miles around your location you want to collect tweets from (ranges from 10-200 miles)
* Language- you can choose a language setting which is helpful if your customer base uses a particular language apart from English such as Spanish or Chinese.
This free resources creates social media alerts for you, just the same way Google/Yahoo alerts work, but is tailored for social media activity.
Kurrently.com is a social media search engine that gets results from Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter does have its own search engine, though Facebook doesn’t, so by using Kurrently you can search both social media sites in one place.
This is a search engine that has a unique slash tag feature to filter results to a more accurate level than normal search engines.
So if you want to search for blogs talking about your company, you would type “company keyword/blogs”.
If you want just what’s on twitter or facebook, you would use “keyword/twitter” or “keyword/facebook”.
Blekko has its own slash tags but you can create your own, store them and share them with other people like your employees.
Now, you have a complete view how to monitor your online reputation, however, the golden rule is: “take care of your clients, they are your business, past, present and future”.