This article talks about some of the best free online reputation management tools that small businesses can use to evaluate their current reputation, manage it, and if needed, fix it, instead of ignoring the issue.
Whether you are a business or a celebrity, you need to be on your toes 24 X 7 to maintain your reputation online. Ignore or delay attending one negative review and you could end up with a PR crisis. See the below example where British Airways delayed responding to a customer’s tweet for just a few hours and the tweet ended up getting too many retweets and responses.
Almost every brand has experienced a reputation crisis at some point. The incidents have increased significantly in the past few years due to the growing popularity of social media platforms.
These days, people do not hesitate to post even very stupid and ignorable issues they may have. See the below example. Someone actually tweeted about the non-availability of trash bags instead of asking the supermarket staff directly when he was in the store!
Online reputation management is an extensive task
It is not as easy as responding to tweets and Facebook comments whenever your social media team has some free time in hand. It is about responding to reviews and feedback in real-time. You need to track reviews and complaints all over the web and not just on a bunch of social media platforms and search engines.
A lot of buyers these days prefer Yelp and ScamAlerts to get genuine feedback and reviews about a business. You need to respond to them in a way that makes you emerge as a sincere, customer-friendly organization.
If your reputation is already at stake or has already been severely impacted, you need to evaluate the current situation and come up with a strategy that helps recover the damage done and prevent any incidents of recurrences.
Small businesses do not often bother about reputation management
Big brands and well-established businesses can afford to hire a team of reputation management experts. They can also invest in a high-end, feature-rich reputation management tool for them. But, if you are a small/medium-size business, you might not have enough knowledge, time, and resources to take care of your online reputation.
A recent article published in Forbes claims that a bad online reputation can severely affect the business of a company, sometimes to an extent that it may have to completely shut down its business.
If your clients are complaining about poor services, frauds, bad behavior, etc., do you think anyone would ever want to do any business with you? It doesn’t matter if they are wrong. They have sent their message across but you are silent. You are not even trying to defend yourself or convince your dissatisfied customers that you care for them.
Small and medium-scale businesses need to worry about their online reputation more than the big brands do
Companies like British Airways and Walmart have huge sales and marketing budgets. Plus, they are market leaders. Some minor complaints here and there won’t impact their business significantly.
But, small businesses, especially the local ones, already have tough competition. You are dispensable; British Airways isn’t. People are slightly forgiving towards big brands but they do not hesitate to dump a local or a small business.
Don’t worry; you may not have to hire a brand/reputation manager. Some free online reputation management tools can help you get started. Since these are free tools, they may not be highly accurate and may not provide you with filtered information that you can quickly decode.
However, they are still a good option if you don’t have much scope online. When you are ready for something better, you can buy an affordable tool like Notifier (I will brief you more about it shortly).
Best free online reputation management tools for small and medium businesses
Google alerts-the simplest online reputation management tool available for free
To use Google alerts, you need to https://www.google.com/alerts and fill the search box at the top. Then, you need to customize the settings on how and when you want to be alerted and which types of websites you want to track. You can create multiple alerts and choose to get notified through email or through an RSS feed. You can create alerts for your brand name. Whenever someone posts something about you, Google will notify you, so you can quickly act and resolve any issue before it leaves a negative impression.
You can also create alerts for your competitors. Whenever someone leaves a negative review about them, you can gently introduce yourself and promote your services. You may not realize but this helps leave a positive impression on the minds of the readers and often helps get new business.
Sounds good, isn’t it? But, as you can see in the image above, it lacks filters. You will not get very precise results, so you may have to search through heaps of search results.
Twitter advanced search– an online reputation management tool meant exclusively for tracking Twitter
If you have an active Twitter account, you can use it to search for your brand mentions. You can set alerts for them to get instant/daily/weekly notifications. You can set alerts for your direct mentions, mentions of your competitions, mentions of the keywords relevant to your business, etc.
When alerted, you must respond to those tweets no matter how rude/senseless they are. You may have to brainstorm a lot and sometimes you may have to use humor instead of a defensive response. See below for an example.
As expected, Twitter advanced search doesn’t provide any filters so you may get overwhelmed with too many search results. Plus, it doesn’t provide you with sentiment analysis. But, it works best if you just want to track your brand mentions.
Notifier- Probably the most affordable online reputation management tool with almost no learning curve
Notifier is our tool but that’s now why we have included it in our list. This social media monitoring tool supports most of the user-generated platforms, blogs, news sites, and social media platforms. We are upgrading it further to help you search the ENTIRE WEB. Our tool uses Boolean search and Regex search; two key features that help you search the exact keywords or key phrases, so you get refined and the most relevant searches.
Being a small business, you may not really want to scan through numerous search results only to dig out a few relevant ones. You would rather want to spend that time on getting more business because that’s what matters the most. Affordable online reputation management tools like Notifier can save your time and effort. It can alert you whenever there is an activity that requires your attention. And, it will notify you faster than you may expect. I will be briefing you more about it soon.
Buffer– Free online reputation management tool for businesses that may want to go with the paid version in future
It is one of the oldest social media listening tools for small and medium businesses. Its free plan is pretty basic, as expected. But, if you just want to track your direct brand mentions on Twitter, Facebook, Google, TikTok, Instagram, etc. it can help you save a lot of money.
Buffer’s free plan lets you track up to 3 channels, which could be one account each on any of the three social media channels or two/one account on one/two social media. It is a user-friendly online reputation management tool, so even your interns will be able to use it.
Brand Mention– The most reliable but very limited free online reputation management tool
Just like Buffer, it is also a paid tool but it has a very basic free version that lets you track your brand mentions for up to 7 days. The searches are displayed in a very neat format with dates of publishing clearly mentioned. The search results are more accurate than what you can expect from the other free tools I have listed here.
The main issue with the free version is that the link doesn’t take you to the specific tweet. You can reach Twitter user’s pages though. After that, you will have to do some digging, something that you may not like. It, however, displays icons alongside the search results that help you learn the mood of the specific search.
Social Searcher– the most versatile free online reputation management tool
This is probably the only tool that lets you search for more than one keyword or mentions at a time. You can search for exact keywords by fixing or removing words to eliminate the irrelevant results. You can even choose the sources and the type of posts you want to track. It also lets you choose a specific language.
The results are displayed in clearly defined grids and each grid contains enough information to give you an idea of what it is all about.
Although it is a very versatile, feature-rich tool, it doesn’t always give you highly accurate results. See the below image for example.
Features that the free online reputation management tools lack
They do not help you understand the tone of the conversations happening around your brand
Most of these tools do not provide sentiment analysis i.e. they just notify you of your brand mentions but they do not tell you if the mention/conversation is positive, neutral, or negative. You have to manually go through all the notifications to figure out which ones are a priority. Paid tools like Notifier flag the negative mentions clearly so you don’t waste time dealing with heaps of notifications. Although you must respond to the positive and neutral mentions, the negative ones should always be a priority.
Free online reputation management tools have very few filters
If you are a small size, local business, you may not be getting too many mentions that require filtering. But, if you are a small/medium-size business that caters to a global audience; for example a SaaS provider, people may be looking for you. They may be asking for recommendations. Responding to those conversations can help you get some business. But, more than that, it helps you get some visibility, which will eventually help you get more business.
The more you participate in those conversations, the better reputation you will be able to build. And, to identify the most relevant conversations, you will need a tool that helps you filter out the unwanted/less important data and give you a very precise list of searches that make sense to your business.
Not all the filters that the paid tools have are necessary. Most of them are overhyped ones. Notifier, your budget-friendly online reputation management tools have only a bunch of filters but all of them are the ones that you genuinely need.
They do not provide accurate results
Wondering what that means?
If you search for tablets, you could end up getting results for laptops too. If you search for your brand name, you could end up with too many irrelevant results that have nothing to do with your business. Searching through the heaps of results can take up a significant amount of time. You might miss a crucial reputation fixing/ building opportunity.
That’s why it is worth investing in user-friendly and budget-friendly online reputation management tools like Notifier which is built using Boolean logic. It can help you search for specific phrases that matter the most to you. For example; you can search for ‘Tablet and not laptop’ and ‘Zika and dengue’ to get precise results.
Concluding words on free online reputation management tools
As I said at the beginning of the articles, these tools are pretty basic and not very reliable. They are only meant for small, local businesses that just want to track brand mentions and respond to them. These tools do not have much scope but if you are not in a situation to go for a paid one, they are at least better than not using one and not getting informed about what your audience is saying about you.
If you need a tool that can help you identify the opportunities that can help you build/fix your online reputation, invest in a simple yet smart (and affordable) social media listening tool such as Notifier. I have explained its features above. You can watch the demo video for more clarity. If you still have doubts, email me or try Notifier for free to get first-hand experience.