Monitoring Your Business’s Online Reputation Could Save It

By Ann Marie van den Hurk Lexington Herald-Leader

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Warren Buffett has said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." For women in business it is critical that you monitor your online reputation for your business's sake.

Lexington Herald-Leader

Online reputation management is essential for your business in this digital age.

Social media is word of mouth on a megaphone broadcasting customers' opinions to anyone who will listen or read or follow. A recent study found that 88 percent of consumers give equal weight to online reviews and personal recommendations. To add to that sentiment, the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that 65 percent of Internet users see online searches as the most trusted source of information on people and companies.

Managing your online reputation is as critical to your business as providing quality face-to-face customer service.

How do you begin?

The key to creating an online reputation management program is to listen. But before you undertake a listening or monitoring program, it is recommended that you conduct a communications audit to see how your business is communicating.

An audit includes any of your printed materials, the business website, e-newsletters and social media. You can start the audit by conducting a SWOT analysis, which involves listing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

When you conduct your audit, ask these three questions:

-Is this piece of communications meeting our business goals? -Why are we doing this type of communication? -Where are our customers getting their information?

Once you answer those questions and conduct your SWOT analysis, you can decide what key insights are important to your business.

There are many ways to listen to what is being said about your organization or business. Some very basic monitoring, with free tools, can be done with Google Alerts, Mention and Talkwalker. You set up alerts using keywords such as your organization's name, product or other topics. These tools monitor everything on the Web from blogs to news outlets. Both Mention and Talkwalker has free and paid plans. Social Mention is another good free site.

There are some platforms that provide budget-friendly pricing for monitoring and analytics. They have more features than many free accounts, and allow for measuring sentiment. Klear helps you visualize your social footprint. Another platform, Trackur allows you to check the health of your brand. Custom Scoop is another good comprehensive monitoring option.

ReviewTrackers is an option for businesses dependent on online reviews such as restaurants, housing, etc.

For more enterprise level software, there are some very strong platforms, which provide a complex analysis. Netbase provides in-depth monitoring and insight through a customized command center. Another option is Brandwatch. Pricing is tailored.

Critical Mention is a media-monitoring platform, which provides real-time TV and radio coverage about your brand.

No platform is foolproof. You should use multiple tools to ensure you are getting a complete picture of what's being said. You could use the search functions on the actual social media platforms.

As Warren Buffett has said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." Monitor your online reputation for your business's sake. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Ann Marie van den Hurk, an accredited public relations professional, is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations and author of "Social Media Crisis Communications." 

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