BusinessWeek’s Rachael King specializes in helping small businesses understand technology. Her latest article looks at the online reputation management industry and includes lots of great advice–including some from yours truly.
A number of free tools also can help you scout the Web, social networks, and online forums for mentions of your company, brand, or products (chart). Google Alerts, for instance, will send an e-mail each time your name shows up in Google () searches. "One of the most important steps is to do an audit of what people are saying about your business," says Andy Beal, a reputation management consultant at Marketing Pilgrim in Raleigh, N.C. He suggests doing a monthly Google search to see what shows up in the top 20 results, which might call up a customer’s comment or review on sites such as Yelp, CitySearch, or TripAdvisor.
You might be dismayed to see unflattering results high in your Google search. "Google is ambivalent to the tone of the results—it doesn’t care if it’s positive or negative, only if it’s relevant," Beal says. If you do see a negative comment, it’s best to respond as soon as you can, within the first 24-48 hours if possible. Use a nondefensive tone and ask for more information, offer to help resolve the problem, or offer your perspective or an apology if warranted. Then, to push those negative results further down in a search, create some new content.
If, after reading the article, you’re thirsty for more, you can pick up a copy of my book Radically Transparent: Monitoring & Managing Reputations Online.