Therefore, Web marketing experts say that any reputation monitoring strategy for the food service industry must encompass social media in all its forms, including video sites like YouTube , networking sites like Facebook and MySpace , and micro-blogging services like Twitter .
Fortunately, there are several tools and service providers food service companies can use to guard their brand image.
Do It Yourself
One of the easiest ways to get a general idea about what is being said about your business on the Web is to monitor the major online communities, mailing lists, and blogs-places where those looking to shape public opinion tend to congregate.
The quickest way to begin the process is to sign up for Google Alerts , which enables you to track mentions of your business name, including those on YouTube.
You will also want to set up a Twitter account, which you can use to monitor the posts there. Establishing an account will also prevent someone else-including a dissatisfied customer-from grabbing your brand name and masquerading as a company representative.
One caution: If a company representative does begin to post on Twitter for your brand, make sure he or she knows the neighborhood. You need to be transparent-you cannot be disingenuous. If your company rep is simply posting puffery, there could be a backlash. You only get one chance to be who you really are.
Meanwhile, blog posts can be tracked with the free blog watch service Technorati , which has been around since the blog phenomenon went large. The service monitors what is being said and keeps track of newly created blogs. And Boardtracker , a free service that monitors buzz on the countless Web discussion boards, is another essential do-it-yourself tool.
It is also a good idea to monitor anything that may be cropping up about your business on any of the podcasts or grassroots radio show-type productions that are beginning to emerge on the Web. PodcastAlley offers an excellent overview of what is going on in that space.
Other free reputation management tools to check out include:
- BlogPulse , which tracks blog posts;
- Keotag , which tracks keywords, including business names that are being used as info tags on the Web;
- SeekingAlpha , which tracks the postings of conference call transcripts on Web sites;
- Yahoo’s Upcoming , which tracks notices of upcoming new conferences, by keyword;
- Google Trends , which tracks the most popular keyword searches on the Web; and
- Compete , which tracks the top Web site referrals for any keyword search.
Reputation Management Service Providers
If do-it-yourself daily monitoring becomes overwhelming, services like BlogSquirrel by CyberAlert will automatically monitor blog postings containing your business name and/or other keywords and send you daily e-mail reports about those postings.
The service also offers tools to ensure that you will receive fewer alerts about posts you consider irrelevant. Plus, you will be able to maintain a “digital clip book” with the service, which you and any other appropriate member of your firm can refer to when necessary.
Webclipping , a long-established service, will also track what is being said about your business on the Web, keep you apprised of competitors’ activities, and send out alerts about copyright or trademark abuses.
And Nielsen Online will monitor blogs, as well as postings and activity throughout all social media forms, including discussion boards, YouTube, Facebook, and similar sites.
In addition, Nielsen Online combines the auto-monitoring of blogs with human analysis to help companies avoid potential public relations nightmares. One especially interesting feature: Its software is programmed to include “natural language” analysis so that you can find positive or negative posts about your business even if those posts are rendered in poor grammar.