Social Media has moved from a personal tool to a business tool, the discussion in companies is shifting from whether to use social media to how. Social Media as a business tool tends to focus on either customer service or marketing campaigns. But there’s an emerging use of social media for reputation management.

Successful reputation management starts with listening. For a company, particularly a complex multinational company that means using some tool – there’s no way you can read the millions of tweets, hours of video, millions of facebook updates, and blog posts which are published every day.

We chose a monitoring tool that would give us real-time monitoring, sentiment analysis, multiple languages, and local support. In all the reviews and analysis online that we researched the same companies came out in the top group. The company we’ve chosen, Radian6, is invariably in the top three.

It takes some thought and work to set up any monitoring tool, and the setup is even more complicated if your company’s name is also a generic word. Eg; monitoring UPS picks up postings with setups, situps and grownups.

But you must listen wider than your own company’s name. You should be adding a list of key words that includes brand names, tag lines, key personnel and product names. And always always watch for combinations with the scary hashtag #FAIL.

Listening is step one, but you must also decide on when and how you’re going to take action; our general approach is to respond when we can be helpful, and ignore but monitor when we can’t. For a more detailed diagram of how to respond the US Airforce has shared theirs, it’s in the form of a decision tree and it’s fantastically simple.

What does this mean for individuals making critical posts? Be aware that companies will be listening more and more often, and it’s not just companies that are listening governments are also developing social media monitoring. The Department of Homeland Security recently released a list of their keyword terms, some of which seem remarkably innocuous but in combination may indicate an emerging issue. Although it may make you think twice about posting how sick you feel since straining at a lot of exercise at the power gym.

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