By now you've surely heard at least one horror story about a major brand catching flack in social media--often because of tone deaf blasts to customers. Or, maybe they didn't respond well to a customer who complained on product review page or discussion board. Or, maybe your brand got hacked. In any of these scenarios, you need to figure out what people are saying about you online, so you can repair any damage.

When it comes to tracking your online reputation (or your competitors' reputations), many people think they need a social media monitoring tool. And while those tools are certainly handy, that's not the only way to find out what people are saying about you.

I'll begin with the most simple methods and take it from there.

1. Simple Searches. How often do you conduct simple online searches for your company or product brand names? Are you happy with what you find? Don't just perform a general web search. Perform a news search as well. Make a point to conduct these searches routinely.

2. Google Alerts. A simple but effective free tool, with Google Alerts you'll be notified by email as Google finds matches to your chosen query (like your brand name). You can control the frequency of these alerts as well.

3. Glassdoor. A jobs website, Glassdoor differs from similar sites with its "employee generated content," including anonymous reviews and ratings of a company and its CEO, written by employees and former employees.

As an employer, you should routinely monitor your Glassdoor entry. If your company doesn't exist in Glassdoor's database, it means that no one has submitted a review. Anyone, including the CEO, can submit a company review--they just need a verified company email address. And Glassdoor has launched new free analytics tools, called an Employer Account, designed to give companies more insight into who's viewing their profile and how their stats compare to competitors.

4. Social Mention. Enter your brand or product name into SocialMention and it will pull in results from across the web (blogs, Twitter, bookmarks, comments, events, images, news, video, etc.) and breaks them down by various analysis points. You can also sign up for email alerts, an RSS feed or download any query into a CSV file.


5. Rankur.  Rankur claims to process literally millions of blog posts, online reviews, and news posts, and analyzes public content from more than a million Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ users. It churns out charts, graphs and analysis--how much you get depends on if you go with its free or paid plans.

6. Viralheat. With a 14-day free trial and a Pro account as low as $9.99 per month, Viralheat is a popular social media monitoring tool for many SMBs.

In case this selection isn't enough for you or you're looking for more robust solutions, here's a list of 17 tools.

With all these options, there's no excuse not to monitor and defend your business's reputation online and off.