Reputation management is more important today than it ever has been in the past. In years gone by what somebody thought of your business in the next city over mattered as little as what somebody on the other side of the globe thought about your business. Today things couldn’t be more different. The internet is written in ink, not pencil and anybody, anywhere in the world can share an opinion about your brand that could potentially cause serious harm to your business.
We shouldn’t be too pessimistic, but it’s important to be truthful about the potential that the public has to control the perception of businesses in this day and age. With such a large risk hanging over the head of every business it’s important that we be as proactive as we can be with our reputation management. Rather than waiting for a hashtag about your company to be trending, take control of the narrative a few minutes after it first appears on the web.
Reputation management works the other way around too. By spotting positive brand mentions quickly, you can reply to them, boost them around the web and allow them to have a far larger impact than they originally intended. If you’re smart about it, you can even search these positive mentions out in a time of crisis and use them to drown out the negative press that you’ll inevitably get on a regular basis as a successful company.
You don’t have to look far to see how online messages can tarnish a brand reputation. Take Uber for example who has repeatedly struggled with unsafe and occasionally criminal drivers who have hurt or stolen from their customers. These incidents might be incredibly rare, but it doesn’t seem that way when they trend on Twitter go viral online.
As a result, Uber has joined the rest of the worlds biggest companies in using a social listening tool to monitor their reputation actively and to nip problems in the bud before they start. Similarly, they’ll be able to use it to boost positive mentions and hopefully spin the narrative of their business in a beneficial direction.
What is a Social Listening Tool?
A social listening tool allows you to see what people are saying about you or your business on the internet. These tools are powered by a network of scrapers which crawl the internet in hopes of finding mentions of your brand name or whatever keywords you typed into the tool. When they find them, they show them to you in the dashboard, giving you the ability to react to them far before they get out of control.
The majority of these tools started by only showing your social media mentions, but the most advanced tools like Awario have progressed to showing your comments across the web, including on websites. This is far more powerful because often reputation issues can start before social media and although it might not seem this way, Facebook and Twitter are only a fraction of the internet content that is published on a daily basis.
Awario: The Leader in Social Listening Tools
The standout leader in the field is Awario, an enterprise-level software that is available at a consumer price. Awario gives you the ability to scan the entire web, not just social media so that you can see when somebody writes a comment on an obscure blog that tarnishes your brand name, or when there is a Reddit post about your company.
It’s believed that Awario scans far more pages than any of the commercial alternatives, processing over 13 billion web pages each day to ensure that you never miss a mention. The crawl rate of a tool is incredibly important because the faster the crawl rate, the earlier you’ll see a comment, giving you potentially days more to think of a response and to get a handle on the situation.
Competitors to Awario offer only a fraction of the daily crawl rate, making it far more likely that you’ll miss a mention and be blindsided by negative press. Awario is a leader in the industry because their technology is far more powerful than the competitions, giving you the ability to see a larger percentage of all of the messages about you on social media and across the web.
It’s not just their backend that impresses either. Their frontend customer dashboard is incredibly intuitive, prompting you to type in keywords that you want to monitor, as well as giving you the ability to select advanced options including negative exclusion. This feature is imperative in a social listening tool.
Let’s say you’re monitoring the word “Honda,” you don’t want to have to scroll through thousands of “for sale” posts. Which is why you’d probably exclude keywords like “sale,” “buy” and “cheap.” Awario makes this incredibly easy, which is why they are the go-to social listening tool for small businesses through to enterprise level customers.
Once you’ve set up your keywords, the tool will start searching the web, and within a few seconds, you’ll have thousands of recent mentions to look through. With their simple dashboard, you can scroll through the mentions in a tab on the left and see them in more detail on the right. Plus, if you only want to monitor a certain part of the web you can filter for a specific social media or type of post by clicking on the icons above the mentions feed.
Awario has three separate packages to choose from, starting at less than a dollar per day for small businesses and startups, though to an incredibly powerful plan for enterprises. Regardless of the power that you need, with 13 billion pages crawled on a daily basis Awario gives you clairvoyance, preventing you from missing a mention ever again.
Google Alerts: A Free Alternative
Although Google Alerts comes with only a fraction of the features that Awario has, it’s completely free and is a useful tool for small businesses and startups who are strapped for cash. Where Google Alerts falls short of Awario is that it only tracks the web pages that Google crawls, which means that you miss out on social media comments, Tweets, and other replies.
This is less than ideal, but for a free tool, it’s hard to complain. But for mentions outside of social media, Google Alerts is almost certainly the most powerful tool available. No other company comes close to Google for the number of pages they crawl on a daily basis. It’s quite literally what sets them apart from their competition in the search space, and therefore you’d expect that their alerts tool would be equally well-fed with new information.
For business owners who care about social media mentions a tool like Awario is a clear choice, but for monitoring websites and blogs, Google Alerts does a fantastic job. While you can log into its dashboard, most users choose to have any mentions sent directly to their email each day, making it quick and easy to track what people are saying about you online.
While Google Alerts isn’t packed with features, for many people that’s a benefit. If you’re searching for a simple, intuitive and smooth social listening tool that’s free of charge, it’s going to be hard to beat Google Alerts. There are free alternatives available, but crawling this many web pages is expensive, and therefore no free service is going to compete with commercial software like Awario or a free tool by a data company like Google Alerts.
Mention: Scan the Web
If Awario doesn’t impress you for some reason but you’re still in the market for a commercial listening tool that scans both the web and social media, Mention is a great alternative. While it only crawls an estimated 1 billion pages daily, 1/13th of what Awario does, it’s got a beautiful interface that could make it ideal for larger companies.
The businesses that lose out from a smaller crawl rate are small and medium-sized businesses. Large enterprises like Honda and Ford are typically getting mentioned on the biggest websites in the world, while Tim’s Local Bakery in Boise, Idaho might only be commented about on a local blog.
Search tools like Mention are likely to direct the majority of their crawl budget to the biggest websites because this is the most efficient way for them to get information. However, the smallest businesses are the ones who miss out. As a result, Mention is a great choice for larger businesses, but smaller companies would probably benefit from using Awario instead.
Similar to how Google Alerts works, Mention gives you an intuitive dashboard to log into where you can export your data in PDF or CSV where you can analyze it and manipulate the data. But if reputation management is only part of your job you might prefer to opt to have Mention send all of the previous days mentions directly to your email address.
This convenience factor can’t be overstated. It’s not unlikely that many days there will be only one or two messages that are worth responding to and having to search through a list in a dashboard isn’t the best use of your time when they could be emailed to your instead.
TalkWalker Alerts: The Bare Bones
There is a niche group of people who prefer not to use brands like Google and Microsoft because of their data collection tactics and for these people Google Alerts is a no-go. One free social listening tool that is a worthy alternative is TalkWalker Alerts. While it’s impossible that they’ll ever have a similar amount of data as Google, they do a fairly good job considering the service is free.
For a small local business who might only be mentioned infrequently and for whom a large PR scandal is incredibly unlikely, a tool like Awario or Mention might be overkill. In this case, TalkWalker Alerts is a wiser choice because it’s available free of charge and it gives you the option only to be emailed about the best mentions.
For a one-person or small team, this feature is invaluable. Rather than wasting your valuable time looking through hundreds of mentions, you can only hear about the most critical ones, allowing you to focus on your efforts and have the biggest impact. For this feature along TalkWalker Alerts is worth considering if you’re only searching for a free social listening tool.
Reputology: Monitor Your Reviews
The previous few tools that we’ve discussed have all had a similar approach to social listening. Either they scrape the entire web in hopes of finding every mention of your brand, or they crawl the main social media platforms to give you an insight into the mentions, comments, and tweets that you have. Reputology is slightly different because they focus their attention on the most common review platforms like Yelp and Google Reviews.
Reputology’s customer base is probably completely different from Awario. While Awario serves businesses who are mentioned across the web, Reputology is ideal for local businesses whose most likely PR problems will occur from bad reviews on Yelp and other platforms. Every local business knows how harmful a single 1-star can be, especially if you’ve only got a handful of reviews and therefore it can greatly impact your average.
The fantastic thing about quickly seeing bad reviews is that you as a business owner still have the opportunity to change that negative review into a positive one if you act quickly. As a restaurant owner a customer might have had a terrible experience the night before, but by acting quickly, giving them a refund and offering them a free meal, you could even get that negative review removed.
But without being able to see the reviews as quickly as possible and act rapidly, it’s unlikely that you’ll have any impact. After all, are you likely to take a company’s response seriously if it comes a month after the problem? Probably not, but if they reply the same day or the next morning, your response might be different, especially if they appear sincere and apologetic rather than combative.