People are using social media, email or other electronic tools to talk about your business. Are they saying good or bad things? Either way, you need to know in order to thank people for compliments or quickly fix problems.

Two powerful tools are available to stay on top of what people are saying in cyberspace: Google Alerts and Twitter.com/search.

Google Alerts allows you to search your name, business name, competitors’ names, and industry trends. To take advantage of this opportunity, create a search query called an alert. With that, Google automatically searches new Web pages, newspaper articles and blogs for the alert, emailing you whenever it finds a result.

To begin, create a Google account and then navigate to google.com/alerts. Type in your first search query and preview the results. Refine your query until you get the results you want. Use the Help section for tips that will make this a powerful tool for you.

As you complete the form for the alert, tell Google how often to search for what content. After creating this first alert, you can add additional ones via new queries.

Tweets, especially negative, travel lightning fast on Twitter. Search Twitter as well for your name and business name and respond to any tweets. Go to twitter.com/search to review tweets that are just minutes old. Use the Advanced Search to get better results. Simply click “refine results” on the search page results to get to Advanced Search. This lets you search an exact phrase and add a location to the search criteria.

You can search Twitter without an account. However, with an account you can save the search and use it again.

What’s the key to success on cyberspace? Know who is saying what about you and use that to improve your service and your online image.

by Barbara Moore Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York January 10, 2012