If someone was talking behind your back, would you want to know who and what they’re saying? Of course you would.

In the online world, of course, this happens every day to organizations and businesses. In the past, most businesses would scan comment boards on the web to see what others are saying about them. Unfortunately, this is unreliable. Most comment boards are really just hatchet-job ‘review’ websites. You know the ones, where disgruntled people and ex-customers fill space with comments slagging a brand. These boards offer a skewed view.

So, do you really want to know about a brand and its customers? Go to Twitter and search a brand. See what people are saying unfiltered in real time. It’s much better. And, chances are you’ll see how the brand is handling it all.

And, if you’re an organization you can respond and immediately be part of the conversation, rather than reading about it weeks from now when the damage / issue / problem was first mentioned on social media.

Imagine the power of social media for consumers:

  • They can scout organizations and their ‘voice’ before making a donation
  • They can complain about a product or service
  • They can make purchase decisions based on what they read and see
  • They can instantly log on in times of a crisis, breaking news, or human interest stories in traditional media that connect or affect your organization and company and how you’re being part of the conversation. (Never forget, social media is the digital age’s ‘news wire’, constantly humming with updates and reaction!)

As a consumer, I was reminded of these powerful opportunities this week while researching a service I was preparing to buy.  Naturally, the comment boards showed a mostly negative view. But a quick scan of Twitter showed me instant communication between the company and its customers as it was happening. I saw issues being raised, resolved and generally excellent customer support. I was impressed. It was like eavesdropping on phone conversations. I liked the exchanges I was reading between customers and the company. So I purchased the company’s service.

Even if you’re not signed up to use Twitter and tweet yourself, it’s a must-have social media tool for monitoring real-time conversations. And it’s not just for organizations wanting to ensure they are protecting their reputations online. It’s a powerful consumer education tool, too.

If you use Google Alerts to receive email notifications whenever a certain word or name appears online, you’ll definitely want to start using TweetBeep. It’s the Google Alert of the Twitter world. Best of all, it’s free. And you’ll receive email notifications that keep track of any discussions involving products, brands, organizations or companies you’re interested in.

Start monitoring the conversation online. Or protecting your reputation online.

It’s no longer optional…. If you want to stay informed.