Negative feedback is one of the only constants of the small business world. If your company deals with people, you can bet that some of them will be unhappy, no matter how hard you try to please them. If your brand has a sizeable online presence, you can bet that a lot of this criticism will be on the internet, where just about anyone can see it. Even worse, competitors often leave negative comments about competing businesses to give themselves an advantage. You need to know what is being written about your small business on the internet so you can control it—but how?
Luckily, there are a variety of ways to keep tabs on your small business brand. Some of the options on this list are free, while others cost money, but what they all have in common is security for the small business brand you have worked so hard to create.
Work the blog circuit.
People routinely mention companies that they deal with on their blogs, and this can be positive or negative. You can monitor buzz on the blogosphere in a variety of ways. First, you can get a Delicious account, which is completely free. This will allow you to easily see what others are blogging about you. Second, you should register both your personal and corporate blogs on Technorati, which is basically a blog search engine. This website, which is also completely free, tracks “blog reactions” and other vital information being shared about your company.
Get search engine alerts.
Search engine alerts tell you when new information has been posted anywhere on the internet for a given search term. We recommend that you use these to see what is being said out there about your small business. Google Alerts and Yahoo! Pipes are both free tools that notify you when you are mentioned on the internet.
Monitor social networking.
More and more, social networks are where people speak their minds to friends and family. Unfortunately, many of these comments are viewable and searchable by just about anyone. Twitter is easy to monitor thanks to Twitter search, but you can also get updates from TweetBeep and similar Twitter monitoring services. Social Mention will give you similar information from almost all social networking sites including YouTube and Flickr.
Get updates on discussion boards.
Discussion boards, just like blogs and social networking accounts, are a place where people openly discuss their opinions. This means that you have an opportunity to see what your customers really think. Boardtracker.com is a free tool that instantly alerts you when you are mentioned on a discussion board.
There are many programs on the internet that will monitor your brand image through a variety of channels and sift through the results to find ones that are significant. The best known of these are Buzzlogic, Radian6, Trackur, and Reputation Defender. These are all good, legit companies, each with benefits and drawbacks. However, they all cost money, from nominal amounts to pretty substantial sums. As your business grows, you will have to decide how much time and money monitoring your reputation is worth and implement plans that fit your needs.