Reputation Management: What are people saying about your organization?

Rating sites, blogs, forums, Facebook and Twitter have made it easy for your customers to share their product or service performance thoughts, customer service experiences, and overall satisfaction level. Are you listening to what they have to say?

The internet has become the ultimate platform for consumers to share information about every imaginable company, product or service-- and usually they tell all. Good or bad, it all comes out. Many companies have embraced internet communication as an opportunity to speak directly to customers and advertize their brand. Businesses work hard to find brand advocates that are willing to share their positive experiences through social media, comments and customer reviews. But what happens when the power of these open mediums turns against you?

The first step is to monitor what is being said about your company and your products or services. Using broad search tools such as Google (and its own search engine variants such as Google Video, YouTube, Google Images, Blog Search, News, etc.) makes it easy to find and follow postings that mention your organization or its brands. In fact, services such as Google Alerts can be configured to send daily emails with links to newly posted content containing your specified keywords or keyword phrases.

Twitter’s incredibly powerful search engine is another valuable tool in your quest for awareness. It allows you to monitor what people are saying about your brand in real-time. The easiest, most effective way to follow conversations on Twitter is by setting up a dashboard like TweetDeck, HootSuite or Seesmic. These programs offer multiple, simultaneous searches for keywords or brand names.

Facebook’s advanced search engine should also be one of your primary monitoring tools. Searching on Facebook itself will return people, places, groups, etc. - all potential sources of conversation about your brand. Unfortunately much of this information can not be seen by the public, but it’s still beneficial to see the highest level pages to know whether or not you need to dig deeper.

Perhaps the best opportunity to manage your online reputation is to be proactive, rather than reactive. Seeking reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers, educating consumers, creating positive conversation among online supporters are just a few of the ways you can bolster your online credibility. Having a substantial amount of positive online customer interaction and support helps potential customers feel more comfortable about using your products or services. Also, a large amount of positive feedback will keep one bad blog post or negative review from carrying as much weight.

Overall, reputation management is about more than just the protection of your brand. It’s about finding online locations where people are discussing your brand and finding ways to engage with them. After all direct contact with existing customers or potential clients gives you the opportunity to help with concerns, provide value added customer service, or simply tell the story of your brand. The correct story!