Managing Your Online Reputation
There is a multitude of ways to get alerts when your business or products are mentioned via social media or other web content. Given the ability of anyone to shout out their dissatisfaction as well as their positive experiences in ways that reach thousands of internet users, monitoring and managing your reputation makes sense for all businesses; large and small. With that in mind, we at DesignWorks thought it would be a good idea to do some research on various solutions, and share our results as well as some thoughts on the topic.
Free tools are available, but they may not provide all the bells and whistles of paid solutions. But, they can provide some basics. We found that with a little time and effort to learn the tools and a commitment to build an effective process, some free tools may meet the needs of a lot of businesses. They especially may be good enough if you take to heart the following premise – offer an easy way for customers to provide input directly through your own website and monitor it for opportunities or problems as the foundation of your reputation management strategy.
List of free tools:
- Google Alerts – allows you to fill in information about your organization and you will receive alerts as they happen, once a day or once a week. You can see what is happening across the web and social media to identify a problem with an unhappy customer.
- Social Mention –enter your company or product name and the application is supposed to search across the web universe. Our experience was that a great deal of irrelevant content showed up and we thought making it useful might be in the “too hard pile” until improvements are made.
- TwitterBeep – with most social media content finding its way to Twitter these days, using the search and alert capability of this tool allows you to respond quickly, almost in real time to brand activity. It is limited to Twitter content and thus, does not cover other social media.
- MonitorThis – we found this tool a bit confusing as there is little helpful documentation on the site. It may work for those who are familiar with RSS feeds and have an outlet either on their company website or on social media for subscribing to the search that is created from the MonitorThis website. It is also our opinion that getting the exact right search phrase may be difficult and you could get a lot of irrelevant content.
- Complaint Site Search – you can do your own monitoring of various complaint sites where customers sound off with little accountability for being unnecessarily harsh or stretching the truth. You can also use a little app from GoFishDigital that will consolidate across all of the major complaint sites. We found the output easy to follow and with some practice with specifics, we got content that was on target to brand reputation.
Company: Merchant Centric; website: www.merchantcentric.com
Merchant Centric provides a dashboard approach to the basic metrics for your web presence in terms of reach and reviews compared to other local competitors. Basic service may cost as little as $50/month with no contract requirement. For this fee though you will still be on your own to interpret and respond to what your see in the dashboard. And while you may be able to sign up for alerts and respond to reviews from your Smartphone, if you are getting a lot of reviews and alerts, you may not be able to respond or take a strategic view of what you are hearing. The company offers additional assistance at additional cost.
Company: ReviewInc.; website www.reviewinc.com
ReviewInc, has only been around since 2011 but has a pretty strong pedigree of successful ventures and executive talent. The focus is all about reviews – getting them and managing them. With reviews as the focus, you may not be receiving full monitoring of your reputation from a wide variety of web sources as is offered by other options. Basic service is in the $50/month range without a lot of perks, and there is a set up and consultation fee even for basic service. For services such as review capture and adding integration to websites, a business is looking at a minimum of $2000/year. Multiple locations and products for an enterprise rather than single business will cost more and include additional consulting and support through an account manager.
Company: Mindshare Technologies; website: www.mshare.net
Mindshare Technologies is geared toward total customer service and appears to be built on the “voice of the customer” philosophy which came out of MIT years ago. Certainly starting with customer requirements and building quality products, service and organizations are important to business success. We at Designworks consider this option one for a long term commitment and large marketing budget as we found no pricing information on their website. However, if companies are looking for high end consulting and desire to collect and breakdown reputation tracking into feedback that focuses on accountability for your individual employees this may be the right option.
Company: ReputationRanger; website: www.reputationranger.com
Like other paid online reputation management this option has both monitoring services and can also provide services that respond to reviews and web content to maintain and/or improve reviews and customer feedback about products and services. Their graphic interface is high quality and easy to understand. The basic service is around $100/month with a subscription that includes an app that drives reviews to a specific interface. A couple of notes from our rearch, they also directly solicit SEO consulting on their website. It also appears to us that the review interface, Review this Biz badge, might be aimed at branding their service similar to a seal of approval. ReputationRanger also specializes in certain industries with highlights on auto dealers and service as well as contractors and hospitality businesses.
Whether you’re considering a free or paid solution, we’re of the opinion that the number 1 place to start managing your online reputation should be to encourage immediate customer feedback via a simple link or direct user interface that requests reviews on your own website. By monitoring the input that you solicit through your own website, your company will have the best control over your reputation. The positive content is available and can be readily shared through your social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. And, the negative experiences and content will come directly to the source so that you can respond quickly to correct or improve the customer’s view of your company.
We also identified business process attributes to consider in finding a solution. Depending on your specific circumstances, look at this list of attributes and evaluate your needs in each area. At that point, you can look at the options available and see what will be the best solution for you.
- Consolidation of reputation content across web and social media content
- Metrics/statistical summaries of activity
- Alerts about reputation activity that has occurred online
- Sharing/marketing using positive reputation content
- Responding appropriately to negative information
- Comparative data related to competitors (nice to have – harder to come by)
In summary, we encourage you to look at your reputation management strategy first, and then look at the tools. In our opinion, every strategy should include collecting and responding to reviews to show that you care. Whatever strategy is in place, we’ve learned that the activities must include a deep rooted involvement of your company or a very close partner, because no one tool is going to be able to interpret information and respond without close, personalized human contact. If you want assistance or would just like to bounce around ideas for monitoring, managing, and/or improving your reputation, we’d be happy to help.