What Are They Saying About You Online?

Whether you like it or not, people are talking about you, your brand, or your organization online. Right now. Do you know what they are saying? Do you like what they are saying?

Two People with Megaphones Yelling from a Laptop - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/YanC, Image #5946391

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/YanC

As I have outlined previously, one important component of a social media strategy is building an “outpost.” This is a sort of intelligence agency or “listening station” that allows you to monitor online conversations. Anytime someone says anything about my company—or me—online, I know within minutes.

For example, last week, one of our retail partners wrote a blog post, complaining that a shipment he had received from us was damaged. He was frustrated because it included some special order items that he had promised to one of his customers. As a result, he was put in the awkward position of having to call the customer and explain why his shipment would not be delivered as promised.

Because of my online monitoring system, I was notified within an hour of his post going live.
I was then able to go to his blog and comment on his post. I apologized and promised to solve the problem as soon as our office opened. (I also used this information to double-check our shipping procedures and see if we needed to make adjustments.) The salesman in charge of his account also contacted him and offered to overnight the damaged books.

This kind of interaction has at least four benefits:

  1. It allowed me to solve our customer’s problem.
  2. It gave me immediate market feedback about our service.
  3. It demonstrated that we are listening and responsive.
  4. It provided me with an opportunity to attach a response to his post.

This last point is particularly important. What is said on the Internet stays on the Internet. If you don’t enter into the conversation, then it makes you look arrogant, incompetent, or both.

For example, because my system checks for every mention of “Thomas Nelson,” I also get alerts for Thomas Nelson Community College. My company, Thomas Nelson Publishers, is in no way affiliated with this school. It is amazing to me how many negative comments they get on Twitter.

Even though the college has a Twitter account (@TNCC), it doesn’t appear that they use it to interact with dissatisfied customers (i.e., students). Like many companies, they apparently see social media as simply another broadcast channel for promoting their organization and making occasional announcements.

They haven’t asked for my advise, but if they did, I would suggest that they take the following four actions:

  1. Sign up for Google Alerts. It’s fast and super-easy. Best of all, it’s free. Once you do so, you can enter the names of those you want to monitor. I suggest you start with the following:
    • Your personal name and it’s variations
    • The names of your key executives
    • The name of my company or organization
    • The names of your more important brands, products, or services
    • The names of our key competitors

    Now decide how you want to be notified. Although you can choose to be notified via email, I use the “feed” option. (I get too much email already). This means that the notice automatically shows up in my RSS feed reader.

  2. Use Twitter search. You can use this handy little tool to also monitor for the same names you used with Google Alerts. You can then subscribe to an RSS feed for this query (upper right-hand corner) and have these delivered to your feed reader as well. I personally use Google Reader
  3. Engage into the conversation. If someone says something positive, you may want to thank them. If someone says something negative, you definitely want to respond. Otherwise, their side of the conversation is the only one “on the record.” You can do this in the same media the comment was originally delivered.
  4. Solve the problem. You will get some credit for listening. You will get even more credit for responding. But your job is not finished until you follow-through and solve the person’s problem. Granted, you won’t be able to satisfy everyone. But you should try. And whatever you do, don’t blame the customer for the problem.

Again, people are talking about you online. The only question is whether or not you will participate in the conversation.

Question: How are you monitoring what they say about you online?
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://www.seedmin.com James Castellano

    I never thought about until now. I just signed for goggle alerts. Thank you for the post, god bless

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Thanks for some great insights, Michael. As someone with a popular name, it's a little harder to filter by my name, but my website is pretty easy to track. With some of the advanced Twitter tools, it's amazing to see where tweets end up. There are some pretty famous John Richardson's including a special effects producer for many of the James Bond Movies, an English actor, along with a famous art historian. I'm sure you are probably mistaken for someone from the Hyatt hotel chain. It was interesting to see that there is a famous female actress named Michael Hyatt, spelled the same as yours. Small world I guess.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You can actually filter out some alerts with your name. For example, I filter out “Thomas Nelson College.” However, that’s not fool-proof, because if someone mentions “Thomas Nelson” without the word “College,” I still get it.

  • andreykr

    Thanks! Alerts is a great thing.

    PS. I read that article to Tommy and wondered if there will be a response from his parents. Well done, Mike!

  • http://twitter.com/SkipsMKGirl @SkipsMKGirl

    Thanks for the practical tips on monitoring this. I've had companies and my college come through and respond to my frustrations online when direct customer service 'avenues' failed.

  • http://www.pomnet.org Diane Stortz

    This is great advice. I don't have "customers" to serve in the usual sense. But my Google alerts for my name and for "parents of missionaries" have allowed me to offer help or encouragement to some wonderful parents of missionaries and also to find reviews of my book for POMs.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This points out a use of Google alerts that I didn’t mention. You can use it (as you are doing) to monitor anything you have an interest in.

  • WKevinG

    As always, Michael, excellent, practical information for those interested in making their online presence count. I'm constantly amazed at the wealth of information freely given here on your site and definitely consider you to be a "distant" mentor. Thank you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your kind words. I am honored.

  • http://www.MassEstateTeam.com Mass Estate Team

    I'm begining to get clear on the "Social" part of Social Media. Thanks to Bob Cargill for pointing to you & this content http://anewmarketingcommentator.com/

  • http://keithjennings.typepad.com/keitharsis Keith Jennings

    Great, actionable post, Michael. This is especially important for professionals and businesses.

    Beyond your hit list of Google alerts and Twitter search, the site http://www.socialmention.com can find interesting results. I've had good experience with the company, Meltwater, as a paid service. Their platform allows businesses to track everything written about them, and it includes real-time email alerts.

    Also, David Meerman Scott has a new book coming out the first of November on "Real Time Marketing." I've previewed his book and the tips and tools he offers are both broad and deep on this topic. As a matter of fact, the example you share is exactly what he's focusing on these days – real time customer service and communication using new media. If you don't know him, you two would make a great thought leader pairing, given your overlapping foci.

    Hope this helps anyone in the market for higher powered social mention tools.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      He was pleased to see that David commented below. I will have to check out his book. Thanks!

  • http://missionalmamassoul.blogspot.com/ Amy

    Thanks! This is helpful!

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

    Michael, I appreciate your continued contributions to helping others balance their online business with leadership character. Thank you for sharing. I got the idea for Google alerts from you before and make regular use of it now. In addition, I find the following tips helpful:

    1. Customer Service Representatives: Social media and online communication is another channel that CSRs should be familiar with and expected to monitor, not unlike answering phones and email. Because of it's particularly public nature though, special training and attention should be provided. Once prepared properly, these team members can be a great contribution and spread the word and support of your perspectives online.

    2. Streaming Tools: I found TweetDeck a particularly useful tool for streaming updates. For example, whenever there is a discussion about one of your brands or products, that feed will likely start streaming more quickly and raise your awareness to a potential issue. I keep TweetDeck up on my second screen most of the time, with columns for brand names, product names and key words relevant to our industry. If you provide a similar tool to your CSRs, they will be able to monitor in real-time, multiple relevant conversations.

    Thank you for sharing Michael.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I use HootSuite for monitoring my name and company name on Twitter. (My wife uses TweetDeck, so you are in good company!)

  • novelteen

    Mr. Hyatt,
    I have several Google Alerts. But as a fiction author, I've stopped responding to negative reviews. I find that these people simply want to engage me in debate. And I don't have time to be debating people when I'm under a deadline. I've also found that negative reviews have the power to ruin my day, so it's better to avoid them. How do you feel an author should use Google Alerts?

    By the way, I met several of your staff at a recent ACFW conference. I've always been impressed with Thomas Nelson as a company, based mostly on your product. But after having listened to Allen, Ami, and Natalie in a few workshops, I'm even more impressed. You run an awesome company. :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I can certainly understand why you would avoid these. Maybe you could confine them to one day a week. The insight can be helpful, but the emotional toll can definitely hurt your creativity and confidence.

      Thanks also for your kind words about Allen, Ami, and Natalie. They are an awesome team!

  • http://twitter.com/mholloway49 @mholloway49

    Great information sir. Thanks for looking out for us. Your posts are always useful. Thanks for taking the time for us.

  • http://www.chrisshaughness.com Chris Shaughness

    Google alerts have been immensely helpful for marketing my book. I have a very niche subject so when I get an alert, I'm able to go to the blog and post a comment or contact the site with my information. It's very time-consuming but well worth it. I've received a couple of book reviews and invitations to speak as a result.

    And I completely agree that engaging in the conversation shows that you care about the customers. Ignoring problems by putting your head in the sand implies indifference. Thanks for another great post!

  • http://www.webinknow.com/ David Meerman Scott

    Hi Michael – Great post. Keith Jennings alerted me to it.

    I started using my full name – David Meerman Scott – professionally ten years ago because without my middle name, I was getting tons of false hits. Now I'm unique on the Web.

    In my new book coming November 1 (Wiley) I talk about exactly what you say here. We're on to something. Happy to send you a copy.

    I got my start on a bond trading desk. Nobody in the financial markets would dare trade without real-time information. Yet so few businesses outside the financial markets use real-time data.

    Take care

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I’d love to see the book. You can click on the Contact link at the top of this page to get it to me. Thanks for the offer!

      • http://www.webinknow.com/ David Meerman Scott

        Will do Michael. And thanks. Book releases November 1.

  • Lynn Rush

    Great stuff here. I've used Google Alerts for a couple years now and have been able to find people who've mentioned me and comment on their blogs. It's a great tool.

  • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

    God has blessed you with great wisdom and insight. Thank you for alerting me to the great use of Google Alerts! I already use Social Oomph which helps a great deal with Twitter posts organization. I've used the alerts before and was swamped, so I'll be a little more focused on the alerts. This is great!! Thank you!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I use Social Oomph, too, primarily for scheduling tweets. It’s a great product.

  • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Very good point. The Internet never forgets!

  • http://livehealthierandhappier.com duong

    Great Post Mr. Hyatt. We had a discussion recently about sites that censor comments and delete them rather than respond to them and solve the problem…can be a PR nightmare when a brand ignores or deletes comments. Is there valid reason when a brand should delete a comment that's negative??

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think this definitely takes discernment. I have deleted a handful of comments through the years. Usually, they are when they become a personal attack rather than a problem. This ultimately led me to write a My Comments Policy, so that I could think-through what I would let stand and what I would delete.

  • Brad

    Great post Great post Michael.

    We use all of the techniques you mention above, and I find that Tweetdeck is a great monitoring tool if you are watching Twitter/Facebook for mentions of several things at once. For example, you could set up columns for "Thomas Nelson", "Michael Hyatt", etc. You already mentioned in the other comments that Hootsuite is a great alternative to this.

    There are also paid services that allow you to monitor things even more deeply. For example, Raven Tools is one that we use. It allows us to track our brand online, plus the activity of our competitors, our performance on search engine result pages (SERP), etc. We get an aggregated dashboard that tells me what our overall sentiment is online. Right now, for example, our brand has an overall 92% positive sentiment across all online channels. For an organization who relies heavily on web-based brand reputation and messaging, I'd say that these third-party tools can easily pay for themselves.

    Lastly, I would also reference that folks go back and read Michael's earlier post on how to deal with critics: http://michaelhyatt.com/friends-critics-and-troll…. This is a great handbook to reference when you do get the inevitable negative feedback online.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great input, Brad. I will have to check out Raven Tools.

  • stephen

    as a pastor, I was told not to do this, especially when what you're doing is making waves among hard-line folks – the internet gives an anonymous pulpit to people who don't care who they hurt – do you still recommend this approach in this instance?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think it depends. King David, for example, did not respond to the criticism of Shimei (see 2 Samuel 16:5–14). Jesus did not defend Himself when he was maligned (see 1 Peter 2:23).

      I think you have to discern whether or not it is a spiritual attack or a simple customer service problem that can be resolved by you entering into the conversation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MisssionsBibles Annissa Peavy

    I am shocked to read this from you today. Do you have any clue what is going with your style 1652 Bibles?Can you tell me Mr Hyatt, what I should tell my customers? a note to my Nelson rep: Hi ,Are you going to ship my two back orders direct from the DC to my two customers?I really need to know when so I can keep them informed on a date. WE DO NOT NEED SLIPCOVER PACKAGING ON THEM.. JUST PLEASE SHIP THESE!!!! please/The PO 09012010 for 2 case / 48 ct order customer is leaving to go on a mission trip to Mexico and they need these yesterday to get these packed well between them so customs/ border patrol will not seize them. The other order is for 4 cases / 96 count PO # 090610BB So far I have lost 5 other orders for these … grand total of 17 cases because we are out.Unprofessional the way Nelson is handling this. I have lost at least double that on the discontinued KJV 1542's they should have kept these until the replacement 544 style HC were printed.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Annissa, I was not aware of this problem. I apologize.

      I have emailed our VP of Customer Service. He will follow-up with you in the morning.

      In the meantime, could you please email me the name of your sales rep? I will follow-up personally. I have sent you an email, so that you can simply reply. Thanks.

      • http://www.MissionsBibles.com Annissa

        Thank you Mr Hyatt for your prompt attention and follow through. I am being serviced in more depth than I was (my rep and nelson staff were already trying, things were beyond there control) and issues being further addressed with one already solved above and beyond my satisfaction. I am very blessed.
        Have a great day in our LORD,

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Awesome. I am so glad to hear it. Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

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  • Jadell

    (On another note, thank you.) I received Outlive Your Life at Don Miller's story conference. I've never read a Max Lucado book, and don't know how far I'll get through this one. But I just now read the frontmatter fable–a divine appointment for me, as God is weeding out of me gnosticism, i.e. teaching me to see his salvation within earth's messy history (as detailed in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson). In fact, I came to my chair by the window to pray and think more about what God is trying to say to me. And he spoke to me through that fable. I thank you (and Max Lucado and Don Miller) for the book. (Feel free to email me, as I don't follow your blog, and won't see any question about or response to my comment.)

  • http://www.hirebetterblog.com/ Gina

    Fantastic tips to monitor ones online presence. It is so important now more than ever to be aware of what is being said about your organization online. If you are able to jump on a problem and fix it – before it gets out of hand, it can turn a PR nightmare into an opportunity to show potential customers/ clients how you deal with things as they arise. Things will happen- it's how you deal with them that shows your true colors.

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  • http://www.jjude.biz Joseph

    'Solve the problem' is a mindset that need to be cultivated within the organization. Without that there tracking doesn't really help. Also as you have mentioned in the other comments, personal attacks need to be separated from the real complaints.

  • http://1buenaidea.com Fabian

    Hello is my first visit to your blog and I was very impressed. I find great advice, I will implement for my marketing. On the other hand if one does the same things right, even though there are disadvantages if corrected immediately concerned, that speaks well of you.

    Thanks regards.

  • http://lovedoesntletgo.blogspot.com Israel Sanchez

    Thank you so much for your suggestions. I've been writing in my blog in a consistant manner for a little over a year now, and like many who read your entries, I'm trying to be a best-selling published author. Thanks for all your insights.

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  • http://twitter.com/stacey29lincoln @stacey29lincoln

    I am a new follower Michael and already I have learned so much! Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom with the ordinary citizen like me!

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  • http://sarahwalstonsblog.wordpress.com/ Sarah Walston

    …had a really great experience with the Sr. VP of Quest Diagnostics via same sort of monitoring platform… within HOURS of my online complaint Mr. Cartier called me personally and had already fixed the problem reducing my bill from $2600 to $100. I blogged about this, too. And several other families have been helped from what appears to be a very serious problem with Quest Diagnostic’s billing policies as handled by their local branches (which might be franchise stores – don’t really know the internal structure of the corporation.) So kudos to you for being on top of it – it really does make a huge difference for the consumer to know that our voice is heard.

    On the other side of that coin I also got banned from a Christian Home School Book Fair once b/c I published a blog post about how much I disliked the book fair I was going to attend (long story – but I was only going to keep a friend company.) The Christian Book Store hosting the book fair had google alerts set up and w/in HOURS of posting we got a call and was informed if I showed up I’d be escorted out of the building. HAHAHAHAHA So. Yeah. That kind of backfired.

    Or not.

    I didn’t have to go to the dreaded book fair with said friend. But it did embarass HER. I actually found the whole thing amusing. Took my “inflammatory” post down (at their request) and replaced it with REM’s Losing My Religion video. :)

  • http://www.mactonweb.com Web design London

    If you don’t know him, you two would make a great thought leader pairing, given your overlapping foci. 

  • http://www.mactonweb.com/ Web design London

     I have a very niche subject so when I get an alert, I’m able to go to the blog and post a comment or contact the site with my information. It’s very time-consuming but well worth it.

  • SpecialDee

    I check http://whostalkin.com/ every now and then.