These days, your reputation can be boosted or destroyed in just 140 characters.

As you make the transition online and increase your brand presence on social networking sites, your name becomes increasingly important to protect. Luckily, there are ways to track and measure what people are saying about you and how well your brand is performing on the social web.

To get started, you need to first discover who is talking about you (both as an individual and a branded advisor) and then listen to what they have to say. This will allow you to learn, collaborate and engage with the people that can help contribute to growing your social web presence.

We've selected the top five free tools you can use to easily monitor your name and brand on the web and social networking sites 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 also have the option of creating 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. Input 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, you want to monitor industry news or you want to track competitor activity.

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 websites 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.

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. 

In addition to listening and joining conversations, you'll also want to measure your brand performance. While monitoring was all about managing your brand reputation, measuring your brand is all about metrics and statistics.

Measurement tools will help you understand what needs to be done in order to stay on top of the social media trends, how you can make your product more attractive to potential clients and how well you are benchmarking against your competitors. Tools like SocialTALK or Viralheat allow you to segment how your clients and prospects rate your different products or services on the social web. Another analytics tool to help you understand your social impact is Backtype. 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 the particular page. Create an account to see even more Twitter analytics. These tools provide valuable insight into how conversations are contributing to your internal goals and ROI targets!

If you keep an honest and transparent approach when assessing your social media presence, you will likely turn the social web into a virtual asset for your business. Remember, your ability to respond quickly to negative comments and benchmark your success over time is vital and should be a top priority when defining your social media strategy.

Ms. Craveiro works in the Online Marketing department at Advisor Websites where she manages social media accounts and helps financial services professionals gain a better understanding of how to increase their online presence. Connect with Lisa on Twitter: @lisacraveiro or by email: