Online reputation monitoring: What it is and why it’s important for business

It’s no stretch to say that reputation management is more important than ever for brands today. Because modern buyers aren’t shy about unfiltered criticism, praise and feedback. But if you only factor direct mentions and reviews into your monitoring, you’re missing out.

There are countless places for consumers to sound off. From shout-outs to call-outs, brands need a pulse on many channels to keep a clean reputation. When done right, monitoring can uncover low-hanging ways to improve your overall business. Below we dig into the key steps involved in online reputation monitoring and why it matters.

Table of contents:

What is online reputation monitoring?
How is online reputation monitoring done?
What are the benefits of online reputation monitoring?
What are online reputation monitoring tools?
Reputation monitoring software to try
What features to look for in a reputation management software

What is online reputation monitoring?

Online reputation monitoring is how brands oversee and analyze their digital reputation. The “monitoring” piece looks at actual feedback from your audience. This feedback can identify customer sentiment (positive or negative), trends and more.

Although reputation management is synonymous with review sites (think: Yelp! or G2), it goes far beyond that. Monitoring your digital reputation involves a wide variety of channels, including:

News and earned media
Forums (especially Reddit and Quora)
Social comments and discussions
Videos (think: YouTube)
Third-party review sites and review aggregators

How is online reputation monitoring done?

Although we might think of “monitoring” as a passive process, it’s honestly anything but.

The reality? Monitoring requires active listening and timely action. In fact, this applies to your big-picture reputation management strategy. Planning ensures that you don’t miss crucial conversations among your target audience.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to monitoring, here’s a breakdown to get you started:

Identify the platforms to monitor

Reputation monitoring goes far beyond your owned channels.

Most brands are already watching their social mentions, review listings and direct feedback channels. These are all priorities but they aren’t the be-all, end-all of your online reputation.

So much of online reputation management means monitoring channels where you aren’t active.

For example, B2B brands focused on LinkedIn or G2 may be oblivious to discussions on Reddit. These are the candid conversations that are eye-opening but often fly under the radar.

Don’t make assumptions when it comes to where you think your customers hang out and talk. Consider how many platforms people bounce to and from on the path to purchase. Translation? Online review management involves taking a holistic view of the platforms you track.

Scope the terms, hashtags and keywords to monitor 

No surprises here. You can’t actually do reputation monitoring until you figure out what you want to watch for.  For most brands, this means analyzing a combination of phrases and hashtags including:

Branded searches (ex: “Sprout Social” or #sproutsocial)
Product-related keywords and phrases (ex: “social media management software”)
Industry and product-related terms (ex: “social listening”)
All of the above as it relates to competitors and alternative products

But with the stakes so high, these are not words and phrases you should guess.

Through social listening, brands can see firsthand what people are actually saying. This includes specific terms and language. You can likewise look at your SEO strategy to find additional terms to monitor. When in doubt, consider talking to your sales and customer success teams as well. These conversations can reveal timely and trendy terms used by your audience.

Analyze your reputation over time

Pop quiz: does your brand have the reputation of an industry leader? How do people feel about you versus your competitors? What do you do well and where could you improve?

These questions can all be answered based on conversations that are already happening.

Granted you’re monitoring them.

Again, monitoring requires being both attentive and proactive. Tracking conversations relevant to your brand needs to be consistent and scalable. A consistent approach provides an up-to-date understanding of your reputation and ways to improve it.

This is where something like social media sentiment analysis can really save the day. For example, Sprout Social identifies conversations and key terms illustrating how your audience feels about you. The good, the bad and everything in between.

Linking it all together with a reputation monitoring tool

Realistically, businesses can’t track each and every digital conversation manually. There are too many channels and opportunities to miss crucial touchpoints with a DIY approach This speaks to the need for dedicated online reputation monitoring tools for your tech stack.

What are the benefits of online reputation monitoring?

Keeping a pulse on what people are saying about your brand might be a no-brainer.  However, the value of comprehensive reputation monitoring can’t be overstated.  From positioning and messaging to your content and product, there’s so much to gain by leveling up your monitoring being direct mentions. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits below.

Increases brand awareness through listening

The more people shouting you out, the better. The more data you can gather, too.

Integrating reputation monitoring in your marketing strategy is about more than just keeping a pulse on your brand. It also fosters a culture that encourages more conversations about you.

This represents a sort of snowball effect. More mindful monitoring means more conversations which translates into more brand awareness. This is especially true for brands that take the time to authentically reply and engage with their audiences.

Think about how brands frequently respond to reviews and feedback in public. These interactions do double-duty of building visibility and putting your brand in the best light possible.

Effective monitoring enhances customer relationships

This is the big one.

Online reputation monitoring isn’t all about “me, me, me.” Not by a long shot.

For starters, effective monitoring can uncover strengths and weaknesses when it comes to how you serve your customers. This might include lag times in customer care or figuring out that your customers at large might not understand a feature of your product.

You can likewise uncover new opportunities to delight your dedicated customers (see below).

Gain a competitive advantage by tracking trends

Reputation monitoring is invaluable for the sake of competitive analysis. Tracking relevant industry and product-related conversations can help you understand:

Product features (or new products) that outshine that of your competitors
Areas where you could be more effective (think: customer care, onboarding)
Shared frustrations and pain points among your target audience
Terms associated with your brand and product to feature in your marketing messages (think: “easiest” or “fastest”)

For example, the word cloud generated by sites like G2 can be eye-opening. These pros and cons could inspire future content, product features and more.

Brands quite literally can’t afford to just watch customer feedback roll in and not react. This applies to both positive and negative sentiments alike. This is an example of how effective reputation monitoring can uncover actionable ways to boost your business.

Avoid and prevent social media crises before they take off

Monitoring involves a lot of sifting through noise. Done right, you can see trends that point to bigger-picture issues and opportunities.

For example, a sudden flood of negative reviews could be a sign of a total social media PR crisis. Being able to monitor these issues before they have a chance to snowball is massive.

This drives home how online reputation management involves action in addition to listening.

Empower the rest of your organization with timely data

The benefits of a strong reputation trickle down to the rest of your team (hint: not just marketing).

Illustrating positive sentiment via reviews makes it easier for your sales team to actually sell.

Likewise, your custom success team can gain insights to understand who’s happy and who might need additional support.

What are online reputation monitoring tools?

Online reputation monitoring tools help brands aggregate and analyze brand-related conversations. Review management software is among the most common tools in brands’ stacks for monitoring reputation.

But again, conversations relevant to your reputation go far beyond managing Google reviews.

All publicly available data is fair game. Comments, forum posts, podcast mentions, you name it.

And so all of the above should factor into your reputation monitoring.

Why do businesses need software to monitor online reputation?

Reputation monitoring should be integrated into your marketing stack, plain and sample.

However, no brand should invest in a tool “just because.”  Let’s look at reasons why so many brands are upping their investment in reputation tools.

There’s such a wide variety of networks to monitor 

This bears repeating! Tracking social platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook is just the beginning. This doesn’t account for forums and other places where crucial conversations happen.

Monitoring every corner of the Internet “by hand” isn’t realistic. Gaining the most complete perspective on your brand’s reputation requires a tool to gather, source and analyze that data.

You need to consolidate your notifications and alerts

Anything you can do to keep yourself from bouncing between platforms is a plus. Having cross-platform alerts and notifications in one place can do the trick. Ideally, your reputation monitoring tool should integrate seamlessly with the rest of your tech stack.

You need to identify trends based on actual data

With the right online reputation management tool, you can turn qualitative information into quantifiable data. Marketers are rightfully obsessed with metrics and numbers related to reputation are among the most actionable for brands.

For example, brands can course-correct with confidence by analyzing an uptick of negative sentiment. On the flip side, you can boost messaging and marketing based on positive sentiment.

Reputation monitoring software to try

Consumers are spoiled for choice when it comes to providing feedback about brands.

And similarly, brands are spoiled for choice when it comes to reputation monitoring software.

That said, the abilities of any given monitoring tool vary greatly from app to app. For example, many free tools are able to highlight mentions but don’t provide in-depth sentiment analysis.

To illustrate a few options, check out this quick list of reputation monitoring software solutions.

Sprout Social

Sprout’s suite of reputation management tools makes it a cinch to both gather and analyze feedback related to your brand. Powerful social listening combined with a consolidated, collaborative inbox means you never lose track of those crucial conversations. Meanwhile, in-depth reporting and analytics via social listening are a treasure trove of insight.

Social Mentions (by BrandMention)

Free apps like BrandMention’s Social Mentions tool can serve as an introduction to reputation monitoring. The app’s results are more focused on mention volume and sources but also offer basic sentiment analysis.

SentiOne

AI-powered listening tools like SentiOne can help marketers understand sentiment from social media, YouTube comments and beyond. The platform specializes in insights and reporting related to large data and improving customer care.

Birdeye

Birdeye takes reputation management a step further by analyzing positive comments and also automating outreach messages to turn those comments into “official” reviews. The tool can also identify trends and provide a competitive analysis of your company versus others based on sentiment analysis and key terms.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is arguably among the most basic but also easy-to-use tools for monitoring online reputation. The platform allows you to set up real-time alerts for specific topics and aggregate mentions over time to deliver via email or RSS feed. 

Online reputation monitoring features to look for

The monitoring features that makes the most sense for your brand largely depends on your needs.

That said, reputation management tools are most effective when they seamlessly integrate with your existing marketing tech. Juggling multiple monitoring apps doesn’t make sense for the sake of saving time. You likewise risk getting a fragmented understanding of your reputation.

Below we highlight the must-have features for reputation monitoring software in general.

1. Collaborative workspace

Again, reducing platform-hopping should be a priority for brands. Having your reputation analysis side-by-side with your other marketing tools makes it easier to make interventions. This includes responding to a social shout-out or a negative review. The ability to collaborate in one space means that your team can also work swiftly to intervene without stepping on anyone’s toes.

2. Reporting and analytics

Reporting is crucial for marketers in the era of accountability. Putting your customer feedback into context ensures that you’re tracking relevant activities and customer phrases. The ability to conduct regular sentiment analysis is especially important to understand the impact of your marketing efforts.

3. Multichannel notifications

When responding to hundreds (or thousands!) of reviews, a review management tool that offers various notification settings is key. Bonus points for software that provides the option of delivering notifications in real-time and across channels.

4. Integration with your CRM

Chances you or your teammates are already doing a lot of heavy lifting in your CRM.  Review monitoring goes hand in hand with your pipeline and revenue tracking to create a unified hub for managing customer and prospect activity. Not to mention improve your customer care strategy.

5. Artificial intelligence and automation

Like it or not, artificial intelligence can play a crucial role in reputation management. Automating activities including sentiment analysis and social listening provides a deeper understanding of pain points and customer needs than is possible manually.

How to take your online reputation monitoring to the next level

Maintaining a strong online reputation starts with monitoring and taking action.

Social listening and review management should be top priorities for brands of all sizes. This is especially true as social media becomes the go-to place to conduct product and brand research.

With an in-depth tool that aligns with your existing martech, you can understand and analyze your brand’s reputation with confidence. If you haven’t already, test-drive Sprout Social and its suite of online reputation tools that can help.

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