I usually like to focus on the up-side of social media marketing for business. After all–it’s free, not too difficult to learn and manage with proper training and a great way to build and maintain relationships with customers. So what’s the “other” side? Reputation management. In a nutshell, businesses need to think about what they could be losing by refusing to participate effectively in social media. I have a bit of bad news for those businesses–just because you decide you don’t have the time or inclination to participate in social media doesn’t mean negative comments and conversations aren’t happening. Odds are, they’re happening…and you don’t even know about it.

Don’t believe me? Let me share a few examples I personally encountered within the past day–these are people I know who shared less than positive experiences online, publicly.

I was checking my Twitter stream when I saw a post from James Tudor, a local business person in Valparaiso, Indiana where I live. I saw that he posted a link to his blog entitled, “Is Courtesy More Important Than The Almighty Dollar?” Knowing James as I do, I wondered what was up–he’s normally a pretty easy going guy, but something obviously had his dander up. I read the whole article and found that he had experienced some frustration with Menard’s (a large hardware chain) during a recent shopping excursion. A bonus surprise ending was that in reading James’ post I learned that he planned to contact my husband’s company, Boardworks, and ask their help with the project instead.

Did Menard’s hear James’ story? If they had set up a Google Alert, they would certainly have known about it and hopefully taken the time to respond to the blog post with a comment. I use Google Alerts myself and consider myself lucky that so far, no negative comments have come to light; it is still a useful tool to learn of a mention and to be able to comment or otherwise respond. By the way, there is no charge to set up a Google Alert. Take a minute and do it today.

Another tool I use to keep track of important topics on Twitter is SocialOomph (formerly known as Tweetlater.) It is a multi-faceted productivity tool that can be used in conjunction with Twitter as well as a number of other social media platforms. One of the things it lets you do is set up key words and/or phrases of importance to you or your business and send you alerts when these words or phrases are mentioned on Twitter. There is a geographic radius function you can utilize as well; so if you only care about instances of the key word or phrase within a 30-mile radius for instance, you can set it up that way. SocialOomph has a free version that is quite powerful; users who require its full utility may wish to subscribe to the paid version. They typically offer a test drive of the paid version so you can try it out and get a feel for whether you would benefit from it.

Next example…

Richard Orelup works for mu studios, a web development company in Valparaiso where I live. Richard is whip smart and has given me technical advice on several aspects of social media technology. I respect his opinion.

I was taking a look at mu studio’s blog and found an article called “Review of the Hannon Hill Cascade Server CMS.” The review is not all that positive. I am not now and probably never will be in a position to purchase the above mentioned product, so his negative review won’t influence me directly; however, because I see that it is important enough for Richard to write about, this name will stick in my awareness and I may be likely to cite it to others if and when it comes up in conversation, online or face to face.

Why did Richard take the time to write this post? Well, I won’t spoil the surprise for you–read his post and find out. In my experience with Richard, he is always looking for a way to make technology work better–he’s the one taking the lead in a group and suggesting changes for improvement. In short, he’s not a whiner–he’s a perfectionist and a doer. Big difference. His post is extraordinarily detailed and provides excellent feedback for the product developer, should they care to receive it. Most people wouldn’t take the time to offer such valuable information.

Again, these are just two examples from people I know personally that came to my awareness within the past day. (And I wasn’t really looking for them.) Can you afford not to learn what’s being said about you and your business? In a presentation by e-storm on Reputation Management: The Why, The How, the following statistics were stated:

A London School of Economics study showed that a 2% reduction in negative word of mouth press showed a 1% increase in sales growth.

A Dell Computer study on word of mouth advertising showed:
– An average consumer is worth $210 to them.
– An average detractor costs them $57.
– An average promoter generates $32.

What is your online reputation worth to you?