Editor’s Note: This blog post originally appeared on January 2, 2013. It has been updated to reflect offering changes, as well as newly available tools and solutions.
The internet has proven to be a great leveler, allowing SMBs to compete on the same playing field as much larger competitors. Social media helps, as does a profusion of review sites like Yelp. But that reach can be a double-edged sword, as too many small businesses find out when they find themselves on the wrong end of a string of negative reviews or bad press.
If that’s your business — or if you’re thinking ahead to keep from becoming a statistic — what do you do? For a growing number of businesses of all sizes, online reputation management is a vital tool in their kit.
If you’re new to reputation management, trying to evaluate your options, or just trying to get a handle on how it works, the 20 sites linked below are a great starting point. As with any other decision impacting your business and how it’s perceived, you’ll want to do your homework before you proceed with a particular vendor. The same kind of research, in other words, that your prospective customers are doing on you.
BrandsEye: Touted as the “world’s leading opinion mining company”, BrandsEye goes beyond reputation management to include reputation analytics that give businesses of all sizes actionable intelligence on how your customers think — about you, your products, your competitors, and more.
BrandWatch: The social media monitoring company’s blog is as entertaining as it is useful, covering the intersection of pop culture with social media and reputation management. Theirs is a full-lifecycle approach to reputation management.
Complaint Search: Powered by Go Fish Digital, whose company blog is essential reading for anyone involved in digital marketing, Complaint Search lets you search your company name across dozens of complaint websites simultaneously. That’s especially useful given that for many unlucky businesses, those sites will be on the first page of your Google results.
Customer Lobby: You’ll find advice for generating more customer reviews and how to make the most of the kind of social proof your customers look for when choosing their next vendor.
Google Services: Google Alerts is one of the quickest and easiest DIY approaches to reputation monitoring. If you’re concerned about how your company or brand is perceived and what people are saying, setting up a Google alert can help you track the good, bad, and ugly. Bonus: you can also monitor your competition. Google Me provides similar services for those who want to monitor individual reputation (including their employees’ activities and mentions).
Hootsuite: The platform’s blog provides daily articles that focuses on social media strategy, advice, and tips. Hootsuite lets you monitor and control your social media presences from a unified dashboard. It’s especially useful for SMBs who don’t have the resources or personnel to devote to a designated social media contact.
If This Then That (IFTTT): One of the simplest IT rules is the underpinning of IFTTT, which uses a set of simple if/then rules to run applets that not only to set up rules for news and social media monitoring, but also setting up action sequences that are triggered with certain events.
Image Raider: A reverse-image search tool, it is useful to any business that’s highly visual in nature. Photographers, graphic designers, and agencies concerned with their intellectual property find it a natural fit. So too do businesses worried that their logos and other trade dress could be misappropriated.
Kissmetrics: A behavior analytics and engagement platform, Kissmetrics is typically known for their SEO and social media expertise, but their Definitive Guide to Online Reputation Management is a good primer for the uninitiated.
KnowEm: Both individuals and Fortune 500 companies use KnowEm to discover where their names, brands, and trademarked terms are available (or being misused) on social media networks. KnowEm lets individuals, SMBs and enterprises monitor their mentions and their presence across hundreds of social media, ecommerce, art, discussion, and blogging sites.
Lithium: A social media software solution that helps brands understand their customers more deeply through data. Lithium manages earned and paid social media from a single point, facilitating smoother customer contacts. That, in turn, leads to happier customers and less complaints, cutting back on the need for remedial action later.
LocalVox — Not all businesses have global, or even nationwide, ambitions. LocalVox helps localized businesses reach the right people in the right places, providing multi-channel marketing and reputation management that’s geographically targeted.
Main Street Hub: One of the biggest mistakes businesses and brands make is an inadequate response to customer feedback. The other? Overkill, responding in ways that leaves customers feeling devalued. Main Street Hub helps you avoid those extremes and arrive at better customer engagement.
reputation.com: As one of the industry’s oldest players, reputation.com brings years’ worth of experience to reputation monitoring for individuals and businesses. Their free resources include white papers, case studies, and an extensive blog.
ReputationHawk: ReputationHawk has provided reputation management services for a decade. While some of the articles on their site are a bit dated, many lean on timeless fundamentals that will serve your business well if you’re concerned with your reputation.
Reputology: A review management and monitoring platform, reputology provides the same services as many other reputation management companies, but with a twist: they specialize in multi-location businesses. This is particularly handy if you operate a chain, franchise, or other geographically-distributed business.
Social Studio: Part of SalesForce, the leading CRM, it enables businesses to leverage social media for lead generation. Social Studio also ensures that once customers are acquired, they’re kept happy. This helps businesses to respond rather than reacting. Their blog is updated weekly with tips for both B2B and B2C marketing campaigns.
Sprout Social: One of the leading social media management tools in the industry, both small businesses and agencies utilize their platform to plan, publish, and analyze content. It also provides advanced social listening tools so you can dive deeper into Twitter hashtags and keywords. The company’s robust blog provides expert insight into a range of topics that cover engagement, analytics, and advocacy.
Trackur: A social media monitoring tool designed to assist companies and PR professionals. While their blog hasn’t been updated in a while, the archives provide a great compendium of what to do — and what to avoid — to safeguard your online reputation.
Yext: Monitor your presence across multiple platforms to ensure your information is accurate with Yext. Just as helpful, it can alert you to platforms where you don’t yet have a presence so you — and not someone who might do your brand harm — get there first.
You’ve no doubt noticed that several of the resources above are only loosely connected to reputation management. There’s a reason for that: if you wait until your company’s next public relations crisis to start looking into reputation management, you may already be too late. As with so much else in business, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Sometimes the best reputation management tool in your kit is effective communication and customer service.
When the worst happens, it helps to have a working knowledge of the available reputation management tools and methods. Knowing the fundamentals may add to your workload, but at the end of the day it also adds to your peace of mind.
Don’t have enough time to dedicate to monitoring your company’s online reputation? Contact a top social media agency near you to ensure that your business is connecting with potential customers and maintaining current relationships.