In the olden days, before there were iPhones, the internet, or even fidget spinners, word-of-mouth is what people relied on to make purchase decisions. Need a new VCR? Ask your colleague at work, cousin, or neighbor. It’s how most decisions were made.

Today, things are different. There are myriad sources of information to help you make a decision on what to buy.

But word-of-mouth marketing lives on via the amplified, consistently viral, and ever-evolving world of social media. And today it’s not just the people we know who influence us, now the tweets, reviews, and posts of strangers on social influence where we eat, what we buy, and how we vote.

Researchers at MIT even proved that when it rains in New York, people run less in Arizona. Why?

Because there are no social media posts online from the New Yorkers to inspire the Arizonans.

What people say about your company on social is really important -- and it’s why you need a plan to address comments, good and bad. Your social media customer service plan should help you with a few different things -- reactively solving customer problems and complaints, proactively providing customer assistance and delight, and cultivating a brand known for something positive and inspirational (instead of just complaints).

But before you can start executing on a killer social media customer service plan, you need to find the answers to a few key questions:

  1. How do you find comments about your company on different channels?
  2. How to do you go about finding comments and responding to customers?
  3. When you respond, what should you say? What should you not say?
  4. How will you measure and report on this effort?

I’ll help you answer those questions -- and come up with a plan for nailing the basics of social media customer service -- in this blog post.

The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Customer Service

1. How to Find Comments About Your Company Across Different Channels

Run an audit.

The first step to figuring out your social media customer service strategy is to figure out exactly where across social media platforms your customers are reaching out to you -- and in what context.

For example, you might find more of your customers are sharing questions and complaints on Twitter, while they’re sharing posts and tagging your brand on Instagram. To do that, you need to run a comprehensive audit of every channel on every platform your brand is associated with to analyze how customers are making contact with you. From there, you can determine your strategy -- and if you need to hire a social media customer service pro who’s dedicated to keeping up customer communications.

Set up monitoring streams.

Once you’ve figured out where customers are connecting with you on social media, you need to determine how you’ll connect with them quickly and efficiently when they do it in the future. An easy way to do this is by setting up monitoring streams -- something you can easily do using HubSpot’s Social Media tool.

Whether you use HubSpot or a tool like TweetDeck, you can customize streams and lists according to whichever segments you’d like. Here are a few streams we recommend setting up for social media customer service:

Positive and Negative Comments

Set up monitoring streams that include a mention of your brand and positive or negative words to keep an eye out for customer love -- or customer gripes. Think like someone on social media would tweet or post, and set up streams like “HubSpot + awesome,” “HubSpot + worst,” and “HubSpot + thank you.” (And don’t forget to set up streams for any common misspellings of your brand name.)

Questions

If someone is contacting you on social media with a question, they want it answered sooner rather than later -- so you should set up a stream so you can keep a close eye on responding to messages quickly. Most Twitter users expect a response to a query within an hour, and Facebook Pages get a snazzy badge at the top of profiles indicating if they respond promptly to direct messages. Set up a stream for messages containing your brand name, a question mark, and excluding your website URL (in some cases, question marks can appear in URLs shared on social media). This will help you get to customer questions faster to provide a better customer experience.

Blog Posts

If you share content regularly on your company’s blog, your social followers might engage with you about what you’re writing about on social media. This could be the responsibility of the content marketing team or the customer service team, but if your brand regularly gets a lot of responses to blog posts, a member of your organization should be responsible for acknowledging or engaging these comments to keep the conversation going.

Keep an eye on your mentions, comments, and replies.

This is the most important piece -- to set up a system for consistent monitoring that creates exceptional social media customer service. It’s important for the person in charge of social media monitoring and replies to be well-versed and knowledgeable in the space so they can stay on top of trending stories in your industry’s vertical that might impact how customers are reaching out.

Set up a system for hourly, daily, and weekly monitoring of the different streams, pages, and inboxes where people are connecting with your brand so you’re prepared to respond promptly to resolve problems for your valued customers.

2. How to Find Comments and Respond to Customers

Build a system to get questions answered quickly.

Now that you’ve set up a system finding questions, comments, and complaints from your customers on social media, you need to figure out how you’re going to respond when they come in. Whether you use one dedicated team member to reply to customer service social messages or segment responsibilities according to different social networks, find a system that works for your team -- and that gets messages replied to or investigated as quickly as possible.

Later this year, you’ll be able to use Conversations -- HubSpot’s new tool that unifies conversations with customers into a shared inbox across email, social media, live chat, and other outlets into one place. You’ll be able to use this tool to assign specific customer messages and interaction to different team members across your organization.

Consider setting up a dedicated channel for support.

If you notice that you’re responding to a lot of customer questions and complaints on social media, you might think about creating a social media channel that’s specifically dedicated to customer support -- like HubSpot Support or Ask Lyft, for example. This could be an effective way to segment customer service requests apart from your coworkers’ social media marketing efforts -- just make sure your social profiles point customers in need of assistance to the support profile for faster assistance.

If specific team members will be replying to customer messages, make sure they sign off on tweets, posts, and direct messages with their name or initials -- this will help the customer if they need to follow up, and it will humanize you and help foster more positive interactions.

If you go this route, it’s also helpful to indicate in your bio or in posts when customer service agents are signing on and off for the day so customers aren’t left hanging if they reach out during your off hours.

3. Determine guardrails about when you’ll respond and when you won’t.

Figure out what you’ll say when you do respond.

In many cases, customers might reach out on social media to complain or ask a question. But sometimes, people just want to “troll” your company or drag you into a conversation already happening on the social platform (this is common on Twitter). Make sure your team is on the same page about how to respond to negative social media posts and messages -- and about not feeding the troll.

If the customer’s message is something that you can help with, keep reading. But if you suspect someone is trying to troll you on social media with overly inflammatory remarks about pop culture, politics, or things otherwise unrelated to your product, service, or brand, we recommend you steer clear.

Build best practices about responding.

When you do respond to customer inquiries on social media, we recommend a few best practices to help solve problems in a way that’s quick and efficient and cultivates positive brand sentiment among your customers. After all, you’re not just solving your customers’ problems -- you’re trying to delight them and make them recommend you (and your stellar support) to their friends and colleagues.

1. Stay positive.

Keep things light and positive when you respond to customers on social media. Unless it’s obvious that they’re joking around with you, avoid sarcasm or humor -- at least until the problem is solved. But don’t be afraid to show your personality when you engage with customers on social media, either. Once the problem is solved, use emojis or GIFs to show your personality and make your customers smile along the way.

2. Be transparent.

Some customer complaints on social media will be easy fixes, and some won’t be. You don’t have to solve every single question a customer has with your initial response, but you do need to be transparent with them about the timeline it will take until they get a fix. Whether you need to file a ticket with your product team or you truly don’t know how long it will take to resolve an outage, be honest about it -- your customers will appreciate honesty more than having to ask you, for the millionth time, when you’ll solve their issue.

3. Know when to “take it offline.”

Some customer interactions can be solved with a quick back-and-forth, but sometimes, you’ll want to take the conversation offline to more effectively solve a customer problem. Invite customers to send you a direct message or email if they need to share their personal information for you to help them, or if the conversation is getting tense. That will minimize external visibility on the conversation and potentially solve the problem faster than waiting for a customer to tweet back at you.

4. How to Measure and Report on This Effort

It’s important to keep track of how many conversations you're having, the topics, and if possible, the sentiment analysis. Keep results of qualitative feedback on hand by tracking in a document frequently-occurring comments and feedback -- both positive and negative.

But you should also try and quantify your social media customer service efforts as much as possible. You could send customer satisfaction surveys to customers via email, asking if they were happy with the service they received via social media, and you could collect that data to advocate for more resources to offer even more assistance to customers on these platforms where they’re already spending so much time.

Do you have other suggestions for delivering killer customer service via social media? Share them with me on Twitter.

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Originally published Jan 11, 2018 8:00:00 AM, updated April 18 2018

Topics:

Social Media Customer Service