26 Free Tools for Monitoring Your Brand’s Reputation

Are you listening? Do you know what people are saying about your brand?

If you have customers, odds are they’re talking about you to their coworkers, to their friends, and to anyone else within earshot — including those on social networks. Isn’t it in your company’s best interests to be engaged and  take part in the conversation so you know what’s being said and can respond appropriately?

As brands get going with social media, they find that understanding who is talking about them online, what they are saying, to whom, and where is a great advantage. After auditing your current brand footprint, you’ll be armed with the data you need to start weighing what’s important to your audience about your brand and where you should have a presence.

Build a list of keywords and terms about your brand, customers, company, and market, then use some of these free tools to get a clearer view of what people are saying — with this knowledge in hand, you can begin to really develop a social-media strategy:

  1. Addict-o-matic: Allows you to create a custom-made page to display search results.
  2. Bloglines: A Web-based personal news aggregator that can be used in place of a desktop client.
  3. Blogpulse: A service of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, it analyzes and reports on daily trends in the blogosphere.
  4. BoardTracker: A useful tool for scanning and tracking forums conversations.
  5. FriendFeed Search: Scans all FriendFeed activity.
  6. Google Alerts: Target keywords that are important to your brand and receive streaming or batched reports­.
  7. HowSociable?: A simple way fto begin measuring your brand’s visibility on the social Web.
  8. Icerocket: Searches a variety of online services, including Twitter, blogs, videos, and MySpace.
  9. Jodange: Tracking your brand or a product is one thing, but turning that tracking into a measure of consumer sentiment about your brand or product is something else entirely. Jodange’s TOM (Top of Mind) tracks consumer sentiment about your brand or product across the Web.
  10. Keotag: Keyword searches across the Internet landscape.
  11. Facebook Lexicon: What are people talking about on Facebook? Lexicon searches Facebook walls for keywords and provides a snapshot of the chatter volume around those terms. [3/27/13: This service has been discontinued.]
  12. Monitter: Everyone is talking about Twitter, but what are people talking about on Twitter? Beyond the integrated search of Twitter apps like Seesmic and TweetDeck, Monitter provides real-time monitoring of the Twittersphere.
  13. MonitorThis: Subscribes you to up to 20 different RSS feeds through one stream.
  14. Samepoint: A conversation search engine that lets you see what people are talking about.
  15. Seesmic: Monitors multiple Twitter accounts and enables keyword searches and tracking.
  16. Surchur: An interactive dashboard covering search engines and most social media sites.
  17. Technorati: Search engine and monitoring tool for user-generated media and blogs. Billing itself as “the leading blog search engine,” Technorati has been helping bloggers and those with their fingers on the blog pulse stay informed for years.
  18. Tinker: Real-time conversations from social media sources like Twitter and Facebook.
  19. Trendrr: Want to know how your brand or product is trending compared with others? Trendrr uses comparison graphing to show relationships and discover trends in real time. Use the free account, or move up to the Enterprise level for more functionality.
  20. Tweetburner: In the world of Twitter, URL shortening is the key to effectively connecting with the public. Tweetburner also lets you track the clicks on those magically shortened links, giving you some hard numbers.
  21. TweetDeck: Not only a great way to manage your Twitter account, but the keyword search means you can see what people are saying about you.
  22. Twendz: Public relations firm Waggener Edstrom’s Twitter-mining tool that monitors and highlights user sentiment in real time.
  23. Twitter Search: Twitter’s very own search tool is a great resource. Can be subscribed to as an RSS feed.
  24. UberVU: Track and engage with user sentiment across FriendFeed, Digg, Picasa, Twitter, and Flickr.
  25. wikiAlarm: Alerts you to when a Wikipedia entry has been changed.
  26. Yahoo! Sideline: A TweetDeck-esque tool from Yahoo. Monitor, search, and engage with the Twittersphere.

Listening and making sense of how your brand lives on the Web is only part of the calculus — the next step is how you leverage that information to engage with your audience.

Are you listening and monitoring your brand online? Have you tried any of these tools?

Enhance Your Brand: Create a Facebook Page

A large and growing number of some of the most valuable demographic groups are devoting more of their attention to Facebook versus other media channels. With 300 million active users and counting (plus 500,000 new users every day), Facebook is no longer just a virtual community for college students to share photos and news with their friends. Adults and professionals from around the globe have embraced the platform, including 90 million in the U.S.

This has businesses large and small asking themselves: Will Facebook really help my business? Does my company need a Facebook Page?

Why is Facebook Important to Marketers?

Facebook offers a unique marketing opportunity for businesses. More and more people are migrating to social networks, and that’s where they’re choosing to research companies, products, and services. Marketing on Facebook has a viral effect, as it does on most social media sites.

Microsoft’s recent partnership with Facebook to integrate Facebook updates with Bing paves the way for more real-time search results. Google likely will do the same with Facebook in the near future. So having an understanding of Facebook can open up new ways for marketers to reach out to their audiences and brand themselves.

Consider some of the benefits of using Facebook as a business branding tool:

  • Customer acquisition: As people become fans of a company’s Facebook page or post comments on it, they get a notice posted on the wall of their own page — where their networks see it. This increases visibility, and the viral aspect often leads to new fans. Facebook pages can also be linked to other social networking sites, increasing a brand’s reach.
  • Customer interaction: Facebook provides a forum for dialogue between a brand and its customers. This enables companies to build better relationships and to demonstrate to their customers that they care about what they think.
  • Reputation management: Direct contact with customers via comments and feedback helps companies gain a deeper understanding of  how their brand is perceived online and offers an avenue for brand enhancement and, if need be, damage control.
  • Traffic generation: As traffic increases on a company’s Facebook fan page, traffic to the its Web site increases, too. Facebook Pages also appear in search results.
  • Targeted advertising: Facebook ads enable businesses to advertise an event, a Web site, a product – any content, really. Companies can target the reach of their ads by gender, age, interests, and location. With custom filters, Facebook automatically updates the count of people who fit the criteria and gauges the size of the target market on Facebook.
  • Increased exposure: An important reason to invest time in creating an engaging page is that all the activity of your fans (from becoming a fan to posting a comment) is shared with a greater network.
  • Branding: In addition to a company’s Web site, a good Facebook Page can create brand awareness for new audiences and reinforce it for current customers by sharing valuable information with its fans and emphasizing the company’s position in its industry. Developing and nurturing an active community enhances a brand.
  • It’s free: What’s not to like about using a new, viral channel for customer interaction without paying a cent?

Here are some brands that have embraced the Facebook Pages platform and successfully leveraged it to engage their audiences and create a real community for their fans:

Coca-Cola (4 million  fans)

Starbucks (5 million fans)

Pizza Hut (1 million fans)

Sears (148,000 fans)

Best Buy (1 million fans)

Walmart (55,000 fans)

Nutella (3.3 million fans)

Pringles (2.8 million fans)

9 Things to Think About As You Create a Facebook Presence For Your Business:

  1. Start with a strategy: Just like any kind of marketing, having a solid strategy in hand from the beginning is key. What is your message? Who are you targeting? What’s in it for them? How will you reach them?
  2. Be creative: You need to have a strong creative execution. What is exciting or interesting to your customers/friends/fans? How does your page content add value? Creative execution includes sharing photos and videos, running contests and promotions, having lively conversations with members, and doing things that are just plain interesting that will keep your fans coming back.
  3. Engage with your fans: Many businesses create a fan page, invite people to join, and then seemingly forget that the page exists. Active fan engagement is the key to an effective Facebook presence. Have a content plan in hand that’s engaging and germane to your target audience. What will you post? When will you post it? How will you inspire your fans to participate? Don’t just create a page – create an engagement plan.
  4. Communicate consistently and frequently: The most successful and fruitful social media campaigns promote a strong message that is repeated often and is consistent in voice and tone. This increases brand awareness and sales potential by keeping your brand messaging top of mind with your target audience.
  5. Own your fan page: Some company fan pages are created and managed by an actual fan instead of the company. Fans expect company pages to be run by the company itself, and they want the company to play an active role. Issues around having a fan own a company’s page might not immediately present themselves, but not having control of a brand’s messaging might cause problems down the road – even if the owner is the company’s biggest fan.
  6. Monitor discussions: It looks pretty bad when a business is inactive and doesn’t respond to its fans. It’s important to monitor your fan page for activity and respond to relevant questions and comments. It’s a good idea to have someone who is dedicated to this effort and empowered to engage on behalf of the company.
  7. Pay attention to analytics: Facebook fan pages offer analytics and insights, so you can learn how engaging your page is. These great tools will help you understand what is and isn’t effective, aiding you in your efforts to constantly improve and refine your page.
  8. Don’t focus on the number of followers/friends/fans: Many businesses focus on the number of fans they have. This measure lacks relevance, since it’s not difficult to get followers or fans. These numbers shouldn’t be used as a key metric – what matters is how you engage your followers. A balanced approach measures what’s really important based on your strategy.
  9. Be transparent and honest: The importance of establishing integrity, honesty, and transparency up front cannot be overstated. Once credibility is lost, it’s very difficult to get it back.

The Takeaway

Facebook has quickly morphed from a fad into a highly effective business tool. If you have the time to devote to building and using social media for marketing, Facebook may have potential for your company. It can be a powerful avenue for establishing and enhancing a strong online brand identity.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

6 Ways Social Media Can Enhance Your Business

Social media is the new face of the Web. Just as the Internet revolutionized information sharing during the 1990s, social media is radically altering how people communicate and share information today. If you want to succeed on the Web, a solid social network presence is required. Search engines like Bing and Google have recognized the power of social media, opting to include updates from Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites in their search results. Optimizing your business for social media is quickly becoming a must to gain top SEO ranking.

Here are some of the ways the power of social media can help your business:

  • Understand your audiences: Social media facilitates direct one-on-one interaction with your target audiences. This can help you better understand their needs, enabling you to develop more effective, targeted marketing strategies.
  • Enhance brand awareness: Social media can help you communicate your brand identity and create awareness among your audience. The more that people have a credible image of your brand, the more likely it is that they will keep your business top of mind when they evaluate products and make purchase decisions.
  • Promote your products and services via word of mouth: Social media is the new word-of-mouth marketing channel. Because of the personal nature of the communications between individuals, it’s generally true that product information communicated in this way has an added layer of credibility. If one happy customer makes a favorable comment about your company or its products and services, many other people will notice and are likely to share the information with others.
  • Keep your audiences up to date about your company: People probably don’t visit your Web site every day, but they definitely engage via their social networks on daily basis. To keep your audience updated about the latest events and happenings in your company, it’s important to make the information available on social networks in addition to updating the news/current events section of your Web site.
  • Manage your reputation: You can track social media channels to see what’s being said about your company and its products and nip potential problems in the bud. (See #2 in 5 Steps to Developing a Meaningful Social Media Strategy.) The nature of the back and forth dialogue on social networks enables you to engage and turn around negative reviews and comments — this communicates that you listen to your customers and value their input, and acts to enhance your reputatuion.
  • Share your content virally: When you share something on social networks, it’s not just your immediate connections who read it. If they like it, they will spread it to their networks as well, which increases your reach to a much larger audience. From sharing a link on Twitter, posting a a story of Facebook, or bookmarking on Digg, Delicious, or Reddit, social media has the power to spread your content on massive scale.

How are you using social media to enhance your business and drive its growth?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday Social Marketing Round-Up

Here are some must-see posts about social marketing for your weekend reading pleasure:

234 social media marketing examples
Image by Pete Kim via Flickr

Do you make these Top 11 mistakes with your social media?
Social media can be seriously profitable for your business. “It’s the secret low cost marketing weapon used by the leading entrepreneurs. But, it can go horribly wrong if you make these mistakes…” explains today’s 30 Days of Social Media contributor, Meredith Collins. She identifies 11 mistakes that you don’t want to make.

Social media marketing: In search of an opt-out
Lines are being drawn between email and social media marketing, but not all elements have obvious correlations. Here’s why the unsubscribe doesn’t directly translate to social media.

Social Marketing Is Rooted In The Brand
Your brand is something that lives in the hearts and minds of people out there, and in that sense social marketing is the purest expression of branding.

Utilizing Social Media for Exposing Your Business Website
Social media is a wonderful way for business owners who already have great content on their websites to expand their reach further with marketing their products.

A quick check-up for your social media marketing plan
This little quiz (which you technically can’t fail as we have not devised a scoring system for it—yet) should help you identify the areas where your organization/team is strongest and weakest with respect to social marketing.

Introducing Google Social Search
Google Social Search plugs into your Twitter and FriendFeed accounts and sifts through content based on what people have been talking about. This seems like another function that’s moving you closer to Google Wave, with everything happening seamlessly in one window of information.

Google Social Search Introduces New Opportunities Within SEO
Google has launched a new experimental feature in Google Labs that searches your social circle in addition to your regular Google search results.

Is Social Media Marketing a New Requirement of SEO?
Here’s an interesting question worth a minute of pondering for any SEO practitioner: “[I]s it now a necessity for an SEO to have practical social media skills?”

Strategies: Which social networking site is best for your small business?
In the olden days – say five years ago – it was enough for a small business to market its services with advertising and public relations. But in the last few years, an avalanche of new opportunities has cascaded on the Internet in the form of social networking sites. These sites give entrepreneurs more opportunities to get the word out about their companies, but they’ve also made many of us feel overwhelmed, trying to keep up.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

5 Steps to Developing a Meaningful Social Media Strategy

Many businesses have yet to embrace social media. Why? For all its benefits — an inexpensive way to get the message out (and to more people),  improved branding and customer engagement, speed of feedback/results, etc. — it is very time-consuming. Unless you have a lot of hours to devote to it, or a designated employee, it can swallow you up without achieving any results.

Social Media Brand Engagement Curve
Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

Here are five steps to help you get going with a social media strategy:

1. Set Goals and Define Your Target Audience
You need a real understanding of what you want to accomplish and who you want to reach. The best strategy will come from clearly setting your goals. These might include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Managing your reputation
  • Improving your search rankings
  • Getting more relevant site visitors
  • Increasing sales

2. Listen to What People are Talking About
Find out who is saying what about your brand and where they are saying it. Here are some free tools that give visibility to conversations about your company or brand:

  • Google Alerts monitors millions of news sites and blogs. It’s easy to set up alerts for keywords that are important to your brand. You can choose to receive batched or streaming reports.
  • Alltop is an online news aggregator. It scans blogs, forums, and news sites  to  collect the headlines of the latest stories on a topic.
  • TweetDeck and Seesmic are desktop applications  that combine search with Facebook and Twitter monitoring. They are highly configurable, making it easy to track conversations and brand mentions.
  • BackType is a real-time, conversational search engine. It scans the Web to find out what  people are saying about topics and Web sites that interest you.
  • Monitter enables marketers to listen to the Twitter conversations taking place about their brand in real time. Enter the keywords you want to search, and all tweets with those keywords are at your fingertips.

3. Make Contact and Engage
You need to demonstrate your company’s commitment to developing online relationships. Go where your customers are — build a community on Twitter, create a Facebook page, comment on blogs, upload images to Flickr, create videos for YouTube — all to further the discussion and create positive WOM.

4. Use Offline Events to Support Your Online Community
Nothing beats face-to-face communication. You can build stronger relationships with your online community via trade shows and other offline events. Organize a Tweetup, offer a special session with your CEO, give exclusive access to new product launches, all to cement the bonds you’ve built with social media.

5. Measure Your Success
To begin measuring social media success, you need to answer some more questions:

  • Did we learn anything new about our customers?
  • Did our customers learn anything about us?
  • Were we able to engage our customers in new conversations?
  • Do our employees now have an effective way to monitor external feedback and reputation management?

Trendpedia is a blog search engine that enables tracking and graphing of topics and term comparison. It can help benchmark your company vs. your competitors by running the same search and parameters before and after the beginning of your engagement campaign.

Companies that embrace social media are reaping its rewards. By creating a dialogue with key stakeholders, they are able to get a better sense of how they are perceived by their target audiences, and their customers are empowered to talk with them, not at them. If implemented thoughtfully and correctly, this engagement can be instrumental in achieving your goals.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]