By Tom Dorr
Director of the Center for Economic Vitality
If people were talking about you, would you want to listen? What if people were talking about your business, would you be interested?
In normal conversations and relationships, people give tidbits of information to each other to strengthen the bond between them. I’d ask a friend for a recommendation for a restaurant or movie before I’d believe a reviewer in the paper.
Most business owners know that word of mouth marketing is the most effective and least costly form of advertising available to their business. But, it can also be difficult to stimulate, collect and quantify. Owners cannot spend all of their time asking customers what they think of their business or searching the Internet for positive and negative reviews.
As a result, we spend thousands of dollars trying to harness and understand word of mouth marketing by having people recommend us, talk about us and provide us with feedback. Some businesses hire consultants and survey companies to elicit information from their customers; others use their website to capture customer compliments and complaints. In the context of today’s conversations, the same concept abounds online.
Let me introduce a simple, no-cost tool that allows you to locate and listen to the conversations that are occurring about you, your business and its competitors. Google Alerts are web-based “flags” you can setup to notify you when a particular word or phrase has been mentioned anywhere on the Internet. Google will send you e-mail updates on any of the latest relevant Google results based on the words or phrases you choose in your notification. For example, if you created an alert for the name of your business, you would receive e-mails whenever it was referenced in a social media conversation, blog, discussion board and even other websites.
We use Google Alerts to track when the Center for Economic Vitality (CEV) is mentioned by the media, talked about in online forums or blogs, and recommended to business owners. I personally use Google Alerts to track instances of my name being referenced online, so I can follow what people are saying about me — whether positive or negative — and how it might be linked to the CEV.
Why should your business use Google Alerts? Simply put, if you’re listening to the conversations being had about your business, then you can respond to what’s being said. If you are not listening, then you will be unable to:
• Thank people who are talking positively about you
• Identify the aspects of your business that people value and those they do not
• Correct, apologize or respond to negative criticism written about your business
Regarding this last point, with the proliferation of online business reviews, industry-themed blogs, and discussion forums such as Craigslist rants and raves, it has become increasingly important for businesses to proactively involve themselves in the conversations being had about them.
Finally, Google Alerts offer powerful means for collecting competitive intelligence that can inform your marketing strategy. For instance, if you realize that your business is mainly talked about on a certain blog, then you can tailor your marketing efforts to that audience. In other words, Google Alerts can help you efficiently — not to mention cheaply — advertise your business.
So how do you get started? Easy. Our website has a two-page handout on how to setup and use Google Alerts. The sooner you begin, the sooner you can listen to the conversations about your business.