What is social media customer service?

Customer service refers to solving customer queries about your product or service. Social media customer service refers to assisting and engaging with customers on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and LinkedIn. 

These platforms allow for short, quick, and immediate communication, making them a fan favorite among customers, encouraging brands to build a presence on social media.

What is the difference between social media support and traditional support channels?

Social media

  • Social media responses are mostly public. This means that everyone can see how your company is handling customer issues. Bad interactions can catch public attention and quickly become viral.
  • On social media, shorter and more personal responses are preferred. Platforms like Twitter even have character limits, and it's important to be brief and concise while responding on these channels.
  • Customers expect short response times and don't like it when asked to switch channels to resolve their queries.

Email, phone, and chat

  • Customer service interactions via traditional channels like phone, email, and chat are private and unavailable to the general public unless customers decide to share these conversations on their own.
  • Long, formal and elaborate replies with step-by-step guidelines are preferred when it comes to traditional channels like phone and email. These channels generally do not have any restrictions on the length of the responses.
  • Customers are more patient and willing to wait to get their problems addressed on these channels.

Why is social media customer service important?

Evolving customer needs and expectations

Customers are slowly moving away from traditional customer service channels such as email and phone. They no longer want to write elaborate emails explaining their problems or wait for a long time to speak to a support agent over the phone. They want immediate responses, and quick action, and social channels like Twitter and Facebook give customers the comfort of timely replies in a personal and empathetic tone. So offering social media customer service is a must for improving customer experience.

Nearly every business has a social media account and they're simple to update and use for both owners and customers, making it the ideal place for quick Q&As.Victoria Zelefsky, a Forbes Communications Council Member 

Growing eyeballs

Due to its extreme popularity among millennials and Gen z, social media has also become an important medium for brands to communicate with their customers. However, the public nature of these interactions requires you to be there for your customers and show accountability when troubleshooting issues and resolving customer problems. One misstep in your social strategy can lead to angry customers, frustrating experiences, and endless rants. Moreover, this will affect how your brand is perceived by the public and can cause negative reviews to spread like wildfire. 

Impact on customer retention and business growth

Focussing on delivering the best customer service experiences on high-velocity channels shows that you care for your customers. Good social media customer care that is proactive and timely improves customer satisfaction and can help you gain loyal customers.

Establishing a positive presence on social media can also result in positive word-of-mouth. Why is word of mouth so important? Well, like negative comments, positive comments are also visible to your customers' social networks which could include your potential customers. This reach can help in building brand awareness and earning your prospects’ trust.

Brands will engage in ongoing dialogues with customers, establishing real-time rapport and, if done well, increasing customer loyalty. – Kevin Brown, the CMO of North Lane

Here’s an example of a customer tweeting about Sephora’s customer service  

Sephora's business growth through word of mouth

Best practices for social media customer service

Respond as early as possible

Like we’ve mentioned above, every response you send can be viewed not only by the customer who raised the request, but also by other customers and prospects. So acknowledge all comments, mentions, and posts as soon as possible and make sure to resolve everything within the acceptable wait time.

Showcase your brand’s personality

“Remember during your interactions that social media was made for people, not businesses” – Neal Schaffer, a leading social media author and speaker.

Whenever the right opportunity stickers, pepper your conversations with your brand’s personality. Social media is where you get to build your brand’s presence organically, so give your customers something to remember you by. Shopify maintains a fun and quirky tone on Twitter that its customers love.

shopify an example of displaying brand personality on twitter customer service

Don’t take all conversations to DM

Responding to all posts or questions with a generic canned response that says ‘sorry you’re facing this, please DM us with more details’ is not advisable – you could seem like you’re trying to get away from the public eye. Do this only if you’re going to request personal information. However, if it’s a bug or something still in the works, then there’s no harm in being direct. This way, you can also field further questions around this.

Don’t leave everything to a chatbot

While it may seem easier, or more economical to deploy a bot to handle social media reach-outs, responding with an automated response to a furious customer complaint reflects poorly on your brand. Your customers will be sure to call this out, so use a chatbot sparingly. 

Instead, use Twitter and Facebook’s native customer support features to improve the speed and efficiency of your responses. Twitter lets you greet users with a set of options that they can potentially get help with, every time they enter into a direct message (DM) conversation. This saves time and productivity for agents, and helps them get the context of the customer’s problem even before interacting with them. Here’s how Etsy uses the Twitter quick replies feature –

etsy - an example of quick replies on twitter

Decide your approach based on the situation

Sometimes, larger issues such as an outage of your website, or app could hit many or all customers at the same time, leading to an increase in repetitive social mentions. Replying with the same message on every tweet or post could make you sound robotic and take a toll on your customer service team. In this case, the best way to keep your customers informed is by sharing period updates publicly.

Frequently asked questions about social media customer service

It's essential to have a strategy to assist customers better on social media. From hiring a dedicated team to segmenting the different social channels, here's what you can do to strengthen your social media customer service strategy.

Should you hire a dedicated team for managing social media support?

Hiring a dedicated team depends on the size of your customer base and your team’s strength. 

Having a dedicated team handle social media support is an added advantage for companies who have a large customer base, and want to provide a more personalized approach to customer interactions. 

The social team can deal exclusively with conversations on channels like Twitter and Facebook, and ensure they’re in sync with the required language and tone. 

However, small businesses with lean teams that assist relatively fewer customers can manage support on social media without a dedicated team. To improve accountability and maintain brand personality, you could dedicate one or more customer service reps to handle social media support.

Do you have to segment different social platforms?

Different social channels have different etiquette and nuances that support agents should be aware of and able to adapt to. Keeping ground rules in mind, agents can focus on delivering relevant and concise replies according to the medium.

Twitter, for example, does not support tweet responses that are longer than 280 characters. On the other hand, LinkedIn is hardly used for customer support but provides an excellent opportunity to respond to influencers and partners who want to be associated with your brand. 

However segmenting different social media platforms can lead to breaks in customer experience. A customer who reached out on Twitter and Facebook about the same issue might receive two responses from two agents. To avoid confusion and duplication of effort, it’s best to use a help desk software that enables you to respond to customer queries across all platforms from a single screen. You can use help desk automations to automatically tag and assign conversations based on the platform for a more streamlined experience.

Helpdesk that supports social media channels

Should you use a separate tool for managing social media customer service?

If you’re offering customer service only on social media channels, then using a separate tool for customer service is advisable.

However, if you’re offering support on multiple channels, including email, phone, and live chat, then stick to a help desk that can aggregate conversations across all channels.

By using a customer service software like Freshdesk, your team can handle social media channels from a unified location. Customer inquiries from Twitter and Facebook are converted into tickets, making it easy for agents to respond to them quickly. Freshdesk even has intelligent AI-powered features that can scan through your Twitter feed and filter queries that need your attention the most.

Why is Freshdesk the ideal social media customer service software?

Stay on top of Twitter and Facebook queries with ease

Freshdesk enables you to engage in social media interactions on Twitter and Facebook right from a single screen, eliminating the need to hop between tools. Freshdesk automatically converts all relevant brand mentions, likes, comments, and direct messages from Twitter and Facebook Messenger into tickets that are easy to track and manage. Your customers will receive replies on the same medium they posted their questions, leaving no room for breaks in experience.

Manage social media customer service with ease

Prioritize and assign social media tickets to the right agents automatically

If you have an agent or a group of agents who handle social media support exclusively, you can automatically assign Twitter and Facebook Facebook to them. This way, you can ensure that the right tickets get assigned to agents who are skilled at handling that particular social channel.

Automatically assign social media tickets

Practice social listening effortlessly

Customers often tweet about your brand without tagging your official handle. Freshdesk helps you proactively monitor these tweets that are not directed at you but have mentions of your brand. This way, you will not miss out on customer questions, complaints, or feedback that otherwise requires manual effort to find. You can also follow topics in the areas of your interest and find out what your competitors are up to. You can also choose to convert such tweets into tickets for better social media monitoring.

Customized Twitter stream

Filter the noise from your Twitter account

Manually identifying and filtering the tweets that require immediate action requires a lot of time and effort. Freshdesk offers an AI-powered Social Signals feature that reads each and every tweet that mentions your company’s handle and automatically recognizes relevant tweets based on its inbuilt machine learning algorithm. These tweets are converted into tickets, and everything else is filtered out, ensuring your support team doesn't have to spend excessive time on irrelevant mentions. Social Signals also continuously learns from feedback provided to its predictions, and improves over time.

Facebook support portal

Resources to boost your social support strategy