One of the things that many businesses fear about being online is that they will open the door to people publicly criticizing them, their products, or their services. But it doesn’t matter whether your business is online or not – if your customers are online, then people will still be talking about you!

I have seen businesses who didn’t have a Facebook page of their own discover that they had a Facebook presence in the form of either brand advocates who had created a group about how they loved the business, or brand haters who had created a group about how they hated the business. This post will teach you how to monitor your online brand mentions, turn complaints into compliments, and turn those with compliments into brand advocates.

How to Monitor Your Mentions Across the Web

The first thing to do to keep your online reputation in check is to monitor any talk about your brand or business online. Here are some ways to do this.

Start With Your Own Online Properties

Do you have a blog that allows comments, social media accounts, or local business directory listings? If so, then you already have several online properties that need to be monitored constantly as all of these allow people to post their thoughts about your brand in a public arena. If you are not already, here is what you should be doing.

  • Reviewing blog comments.
  • Checking your Twitter mention.
  • Checking your Facebook page notifications, timeline posts, and hidden posts.
  • Checking your Google+ notifications.
  • Checking your YouTube video and channel comments.
  • Checking your Google Places reviews.

Seems like common sense stuff, right? You would be surprised how often I come across businesses with spam in their blog comments, complaints posted right on their Facebook wall with no response from the brand, negative comments on YouTube videos, or a slew of bad reviews on their Google Places page (Google actually offers a simple guide on how to respond to reviews).

You can’t just create these types of online properties and let them manage themselves. If you are going to create them, you have to actively monitor them. A simple daily check will do – small businesses can probably get away with less than an hour a day to go through and respond to their notifications. Larger businesses might want to consider dedicating an employee or two to the task.

Search Social Media in Real Time

When it comes to social media, people’s discussion of your brand may not always happen directly to your social media accounts as Twitter mentions or posts on your Facebook wall. You might want to keep an eye out on the following for your business name, brand name, or product / services that are unique to your business.

  • Tweets about your brand not directed to your Twitter account. Do this by creating a Twitter search. Save the searches on Twitter itself or in a Twitter management tool like HootSuite or Tweetdeck.
  • Run a search on Facebook, and look at the results. Be sure to use the options to the left to narrow it down to pages, groups, public posts, and posts in groups.
  • Run a Google+ search and change the drop down from Everything to Google+ posts which will show you any mentions on Google+, regardless of whether you were tagged. You can save your searches on Google+ and run them anytime.
  • Run a LinkedIn search for brand mentions in user updates. If you scroll down to the bottom of the left sidebar, you can filter the results to just see mentions in shares (most of the time duplicated from Twitter), groups, profiles, and answers.
  • Run a YouTube search to see if anyone has been discussing your brand in their videos.

This will help keep you up to date of any mentions on the top social networks, regardless of whether your business’ account has been mentioned, tagged, or otherwise notified of the activity.

Google Yourself

Another great way to find out if you have any complaints or compliments online is to simply run a Google search for your brand, business, products, or services. This will help you find any pages or websites about your business that allow users to add their own feedback.

Review sites crop up every day, and many of them will automatically pull information from other public listings like the Yellow Pages. If you do find review sites, be sure to claim your business on them (if you can) so you can possibly be notified when new activity happens to your business profile.

If you’re curious about people who might be writing about your business in their blog posts, you can always use Google’s search.

Create Alerts

Not in the mood to keep performing searches? You can get some of the above mentions delivered to your email inbox regularly (instantly, daily, or weekly) using Google Alerts.

Even though there is an option for instant notification (as-it-happens in Google Alerts), keep in mind that this only means you will get notified when Google picks up the mention of your brand. They may not actually catch it for a few hours or a few days, depending on the update type. Hence the above search ideas for social are good if you want to keep a real time watch on things.

Turning Complaints Into Compliments

Now that you know how to find out who is talking about your business online, what can you do about it? You can respond. As I mentioned earlier, people will talk about your business regardless of whether you are around to respond. But if you do respond, then you will have a chance to do the following.

  • Change public perception about your brand. If you don’t respond, people will assume you don’t care what they think. If you do respond, some people will at least see that you do care, as a brand, and you are trying to make an effort. This can inspire brand loyalty and confidence.
  • Stop the snowball from growing. I always feel that if one person starts complaining about a business, it can have a snowball effect. More and more people will jump on board the complaint session, and then instead of having one complaint, you will have dozens, or maybe even hundreds. If the brand steps in and offers to help the person who started it, then the snowball effect seems to be lessened or even stopped in its tracks.
  • Turn things around. Let’s say someone complaints that they never received an order. Instead of letting that complaint stalemate wherever it is posted, respond to it. Ask the person (if there is no personally identifying information) to contact your business with their shipping information, and then ship them a new item or work with them to track it down through the shipping company. Two things will happen – you will satisfy the customer, or you will at least show other customers who come across the complaint that you are willing to help them immediately.

What do all of these responses have in common? They give your business the chance to turn a complaint into a compliment! Take the time to listen to each person’s concerns and either help them to resolve their issues or demonstrate to others that you are fully on board with reliable support and customer service. The latter will make a great impression on potential customers as well!

Turning Compliments Into Brand Advocates

Not everything you find online about your business will be a complaint. If you’re doing things right, you’re likely to find a lot of compliments as well. Be sure to reward the people who take the time to make positive mentions of your brand. It can be a small reward, like tweeting to the person from your business Twitter account to say thank you. It can be a medium reward, like asking a blogger for their mailing address so you can send a thank you card, t-shirt, or some other fun, branded gift. It can even be a large reward, like sending the person a credit to their account, gift card, or free product.

Another alternative is to ask the person for their input. People loved to be asked for their feedback, so thank them for the positive mention they gave and ask them if there is anything they would suggest or would like to see.

What will these kinds of rewards do? They will show the person who already likes your brand that your business appreciates them. This, in turn, will make the person even more likely to talk about you online.

Word of mouth marketing can be a powerful thing, and by creating brand advocates, you can ensure that the word of mouth marketing for your brand will be strong!