It only takes moments to post a comment or photo online, but erasing our “digital footprint” can prove almost impossible. Many job seekers and college graduates have already found out the hard way the importance of their online reputations.
Companies have a similar problem in this age where reputations are increasingly defined by Google, Facebook, and other online tools. With so much information freely available, it’s never been harder to monitor exactly who is saying what about your business. It can only take one negative article or blog post to seriously undermine customers’ trust.
There’s no doubt the Internet has provided unprecedented opportunities and opened new markets. But the downside is the speed with which misinformation and rumors can spread, making reputation management an extremely tricky business. Throw in a multilingual aspect, and you have even more to consider.
Make Use of Google Alerts
Thankfully there are a number of tools you can use to simplify the process. One of the most useful is Google Alerts, which will inform you via email or RSS feed whenever your keyword appears in Google's search results. Use your brand name as keyword and you'll be able to track the online conversation about that brand.
You can choose the frequency of alerts, and even select different language settings, allowing you to monitor mentions across different languages. The list of supported languages is not exhaustive but it ranges from Afrikaans to Vietnamese. Google says it’s adding to these all the time.
Don’t Forget Other Search Engines
Google is the single most widely used search engine worldwide and is usually the most important for Western businesses. But remember other local competitors have greater shares within certain markets. Baidu is the market leader in China, for example, while Yandex is the most popular choice in Russia.
Most major search engines have similar tools to Google Alerts. Tools like Monitor This can even look for mentions of your keyword in a number of different search engines simultaneously.
BoardTracker and Similar Tools
Forums and message boards are prime sites for online conversation - and somewhere, they could be talking about you! Services such as Boardtracker and Boardreader specialize in trawling the boards for searchable keywords so you don't have to.
There are also a number of services that allow you to monitor and manage different aspects of your online reputation. Repvine allows you to collate and display references, while others specialize in searching blog posts. Some charge while others are free. A quick search will help find the one that’s right for you.
Social networking sites are growing in popularity around the world, providing a great way to connect with existing and potential customers. Major players like Facebook and Twitter have high profiles worldwide, but – as with search engines – it may be worth researching the local competition for major markets you're active in.
The more profiles you have, the harder it is to keep track of new posts and activity. But social media aggregators such as Microsoft's Spindex or Hootsuite allow the user to easily manage multiple profiles.
Use Automatic Translation to Get the Gist
It's one thing finding mentions of your company name or brand but it's a little pointless if you can’t understand the language. Automatic translation programs such as Google Translate and Yahoo Babel Fish offer a quick and easy way to get the sense of any piece of text. Simply copy and paste to get a decent working translation.
Reply Using Native Speakers if Possible
Automatic translation is fine for a rough and ready translation, but even the best programs are prone to contextual errors. They also tend not to deal well with slang, colloquialisms, abbreviations, and the “text-speak” that often crops up online. The best solution for getting your message across is to use native-speaking translators if budget and the situation allow, helping you to appear as professional, personable, and as “local” as possible.
Monitoring your online reputation is only half the battle. Managing it requires effective communication. But a proactive approach can pay dividends when it comes to establishing and maintaining relationships with your customers across geographical and linguistic barriers.