A survey by the e-tailing group, an online consulting firm, shows that 92 percent of Internet users read product reviews written by other consumers, and 89 percent say those reviews influence their purchasing decisions. While positive reviews can help a company, negative reviews, whether true or not, can be devastating. That’s just one example of why executives must pay attention to how the company is discussed online.
Those discussions can occur in many places on the Internet, including reviews, blogs, and other social media sites, any of which may contain mentions of a company’s brand and products, along with detailed information (which might be inaccurate). Management can learn a lot from studying all of this data. In addition to gathering intelligence, companies also need to be on the lookout for counterfeits hawked online. And, of course, they must look more broadly at anything that can affect their reputation on and offline.
There are services that can help companies with these challenges, among them Trackur, MarkMonitor, and RepTrak.
Trackur. “Social media is free market research. It really allows you to put your finger on the pulse of what your customers and business partners and competitors are saying,” says Andy Beal, CEO of Trackur, an online reputation monitoring tool. Beal is also coauthor of the book Radically Transparent, which outlines how businesses and individuals can manage their online reputations.
There are “all kinds of reasons for using social media monitoring” to protect a company’s reputation, Beal says. “Reputation monitoring is really inexpensive for what it provides for a business because it can be tailored for everything from crisis communications to competitive intelligence to product improvement.”
Trackur allows the user to choose keywords to plug into a Web interface that works as a platform for reputation management. Trackur then monitors review sites, social media sites, and blogs. Trackur allows customers to add customized RSS feeds for sites that the tool does not normally monitor.