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You Don't Need to Be a Corporate Behemoth to Have a Strong Social Reputation

Follow these corporate brand reputation management tips for your own social brand.

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When you've put a lot of energy and time into painstakingly building your own social brand, it makes sense to guard your reputation. Yet, a surprising number of people and even businesses have no plan of action, and in today's world, things move fast.

Timothy Fadek | Getty Images

Related: The 7 Biggest Social Media Fails of 2017 -- So Far

Social media and the act of social branding has changed the equation virtually overnight as people discover their own individual personal brand power. Now an entrepreneur like you can be just as much a force of power as a large enterprise. But wait, large or even mid-market companies have plans and systems in place to develop and protect their online reputations because of their sheer size (and revenues). So, how can the entrepreneur or small-business owner apply these brand reputation tactics to their own personal brands? Let's learn and take action from the big guys.

Never has social customer care or social brand reputation monitoring and management been so important to the commercial airline industry as it is today. Business travelers and general passengers communicate directly with the airlines through social media for everything from purchase to tracking flights to alerts to jet card services to airline points and more.

JetBlue Airways was named No. 1 for customer satisfaction of low-fare carriers by JD Power 11 years in a row (although it lost its crown to Southwest Airlines in 2017). Just this past month, JD Power again shelled out an award to JetBlue for its loyalty program.

One factor might be that JetBlue has been planning for its social brand (and investing in it) since 2012, per a Stanford University case study. JetBlue today has over 2 million Twitter followers. So, how does the company do it?

Related: 6 Steps for Converting Loyal Customers Into Enthused Brand Ambassadors

Laurie Meacham, JetBlue's manager of customer commitment, told Spokal that JetBlue's Twitter team doesn't measure response rates on Twitter to encourage employees "to engage smartly, and for the conversations to be organic and natural. We look for opportunities to add value and connect with our customers, not just respond to every single mention that comes our way." Further, JetBlue welcomes all new flyers immediately and responds within six minutes maximum to any issues.

As an entrepreneur you can do this, too.

On the flip side of the equation, airlines like American have been faulted and lost customer loyalty by allowing bots and unmanned automatic responses to send tweets to complaining customers. British Airways was caught responding to lost luggage eight hours after the problem occurred. And as I personally witnessed on a recent business speaking trip, Delta's Twitter managers sent upset customers to an 888 number where hold times were up to one hour for delayed flight information.

In the social reputation world, you must act like a brand and act fast. With these airlines, you can see that quickness to respond and responding in a genuine way are critical to customer retention.

In general, I suggest you follow these social brand strategies daily:

1. Monitor your social media and search engine comments like a hawk.

If a bad tweet or response happens, you need to know. You can hire people to do this on a set basis, and the sophisticated ones can also find out what's going on in the blogosphere and on social media in general even when there's no crisis. If you do DIY it, make sure you not only implement a smart social media monitoring tool, but you know how to use it, and have it manned 24/7.

Related: What Factors Determine a Brand's Value?

2. Plan your response strategy beforehand.

Consider some of the standard customer complaint scenarios and picture your responses. Perhaps it's an accident happening because of your company's negligence, from a sidewalk accident to a faulty product. When England's Grenfell Tower fire tragedy happened a year ago, everyone from the architects to the outside cladding manufacturer to an appliance company that builds refrigerators had to make an immediate PR response. What this may mean to you is to review your company's products and services and determine where there could be any potential failures and write a document on how to respond that can be shared with any new staff.

3. Consider your answer carefully, but get it out soon.

In a crisis, or even in the case of a customer complaint on your Facebook page, it's vital to get a caring answer out as quickly as possible, before other consumers can add any criticism. It may seem like a small matter, but to a customer, the problem may be enormous. At the least, post a message of concern and a promise that you're looking into the matter and will respond with a solution once you know all the details.

Related: 3 Branding Goals I Know You Can Accomplish This Year

In my world, for example, many clients have launched a website or are moving sites to a new domain, which may result in broken links, error pages, Google penalties, links in disavow status, or even the site being down or disrupted. In these cases, it is critical that you continually update your social media profiles on the status of your site and content so that potential clients don't get the wrong impression of your professional online presence.

4. The customer is always right.

Try not to get drawn into a fight online. Be courteous, patient and understanding. Answer with a real name, and offer to solve the problem offline at a customer service phone number you'll provide.

During a five-day system outage in 2016, Southwest Airlines deployed emergency social media customer service effectively by utilizing its Twitter profile @SouthwestAir to get ahead of issues, sharing updates frequently on the situation and allowing customers to Tweet and DM directly to resolve problems and answer questions on flight changes and delays. 

In the case of smaller businesses, your reputation, especially in the beginning when you are growing your customer base, is critical to maintain. And so, you need to be 100 percent supportive of your customers and any potential online complaints. As with any security procedure, it's better to be prepared. You have invested in your business and your online brand. Some ways of handling negativity are much better than others, and dealing with people the right way can help get across that you care. That's as true in social media as it elsewhere.

If you have a story or a comment about your online reputation, I would love to hear it. Feel free to comment here or share your story with me on Twitter.

Related Video: Are You Losing Followers? Ask Yourself These Questions.

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