These days, your reputation can be boosted or destroyed with just one comment or 140 characters. Luckily, there are ways to keep track of what people are saying about you as you increase your presence online.
Here are the top six free tools you can use to monitor your name and brand with just a few clicks.
1. Tweet Deck. Download this application to your phone or desktop to monitor what people are saying about you on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Google Buzz. It sorts your @replies, DM's, friends and more into organized columns and you can create your own customized columns of information.
Use if: You have lots of followers (300+), multiple social media accounts, and lots of conversations on the go.
2. Google Alerts. Put in specific keywords and Google Alerts will send you emails with the latest news, blogs, videos, and discussions around your specified search terms. In addition to monitoring your brand name, use Google Alerts to follow financial news stories and your competitors. Tip: If you see people mentioning your brand/name, try emailing them and asking them to include a link to your website.
Use if: You think your name might be mentioned on a website, or you want to stay informed and monitor industry news and competitors.
3. Social Mention. This tool searches and compiles user generated content from over 100 social media platforms. You can track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, or a particular topic. Just like Google Alerts, you can also receive emails with the latest mentions of your brand name within social media networks.
Use if: You use social media frequently and regularly engage in conversations, or your business has a large presence online.
4. WhosTalkin. Another social media search engine that searches for conversations about you from over 60 different social media platforms, including blogs, news, networks, videos, forums and tags.
Use if: You want to cover all the bases (as there will be some overlap if you use all of these social media tools). Also good to use if you want to build natural looking links that will increase your search engine rankings.
5. IceRocket. An Internet search engine that searches the web, blogs AND Twitter for conversations on your topic of choice. This tool also provides a traffic ranking system that tells you which web sites are the most popular and what is "trending" at the moment.
Use if: You don't want to be sent email notifications, and would rather search for the content manually whenever you want.
6. Backtype. This is an analytics tool that helps businesses understand their social impact. Type in the URL of your blog or website, and see how many impressions your site received on Twitter, as well as the conversations and audience for this page. Create an account to see even more Twitter analytics.
Use if: You want actual data to measure your success and have built a large social presence on Twitter.
There are plenty of other tools out there, and which ones you use will depend on your objectives and the amount of time you have. Do you have any other tools you'd recommend?