How many times have you tried to contact a business only to feel like you’re not being heard? For many people, getting help can feel like a major ordeal. Contact forms and hidden contact information can be a huge barrier between customers and businesses.

Social media customer service can help to reduce that barrier. Because most people are familiar with the platforms, sending a message over Facebook or commenting on an Instagram post feels simple — almost like talking with a close friend.

When businesses are set up to deliver social media customer service effectively, they can create closer relationships with their customers.

What is social media customer service?

Social media customer service is the process of providing support to customers over social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. With more customers engaging on social media with the businesses they patronize, offering social customer service has become a necessity.

Last holiday season, Facebook found that 66% of people had messaged a business for more information about a potential purchase. Furthermore, 33% of customers use a brand’s response over messaging apps to decide if the brand is trustworthy and credible.

If you get it right, 71% of customers who have a good social media service experience say they’ll recommend your brand to others.

Your customers are already trying to engage with your brand over social media. Customers want you to respond to them, and doing so will build trust and develop meaningful relationships. The only question remaining is if you’re going to answer them … or leave them hanging.

6 tips for delivering great social media customer service

Offering customer service over social media can be challenging because it’s very different from other traditional support channels like phone and email. But that also provides a unique opportunity.

With social media customer service, you have a lot more tools at your fingertips, and the informal setting provides an opportunity to delight customers and connect with them over every interaction.

Whether you’re just starting to offer customer service over social media or if you’re looking for a way to improve your existing workflow, we’ve got you covered with the six tips below.

1. Adapt your messaging to social channels

There are two things to always consider when communicating with customers over social media. First of all, it’s public, so everyone who visits your page, feed, or post can see how your business interacts with customers.

Second, each social media channel has its own unique tone and style. Whereas Twitter replies tend to be short and to the point, Facebook Messenger is more like chatting with a friend or family member. Understanding the differences between channels will help your messaging feel authentic.

Wool and the Gang responds to questions on their Instagram posts with short, informal comments. These feel authentic to the platform because they use emojis and respond inline with other comments.

instagram customer support

The Wix Help team on Twitter provides quick replies, but they link to more in-depth articles on their knowledge base. This makes it easy for customers to get the help they need.

2. Take it private when you need to

Not all questions should be answered in the open. When customers have questions about their account details or they need to provide more detailed information for troubleshooting, it’s time to take it private. There are a few ways to do this in a way that makes it easy for the customer.

First, try to stay on the same channel through which your customer contacted you. If it’s over Twitter, direct customers to send you a private message with more information.

Twitter has even created a feature specifically for this purpose. When customers click the “send a PM” button, the conversation history will be included in their message. Twitter says that this feature increases the likelihood of customers continuing the conversation by 30% compared to tweets that do not include a link.

To add the private message button, add the following link to the end of a tweet: https://twitter.com/messages/compose?recipient_id=[your numeric user ID].

Find more information on using this feature in Twitter’s documentation.

On Facebook posts, you can respond to public comments with private messages using Messenger. The customer’s comment is shown with a note indicating that the company replied privately so other viewers know that they were helped elsewhere.

facebook private messages

You can also ask customers to email or call you, but be careful. It can feel like you’re simply deflecting the question to another team and putting the onus on the customer to chase down help. Try to be as helpful as possible on the original channel through which the customer first contacted you.

ClassPass has made this an essential part of their social customer service strategy:

“Our goal for every interaction is to make sure we are answering the question people are asking. We don’t copy and paste replies or pull answers from an FAQ kit. We read every Tweet that comes in, and we do our best to provide the best answer.”

3. Be quick about it

Customer expectations for response times over social media are extremely high. Convince and Convert found that 42% of customers who contact a brand on social media expect a response in under 60 minutes.

What does this mean for you? Responding to every mention or post that comes in as quickly as possible is ideal, but if it’s just not possible for your team, that’s okay. Just make sure you set those expectations with your customers. You can do this easily in your social profiles.

support availability message in twitter profile

4. Consider using a specific account for help

If your main account gets a lot of engagement, you may not want to add to the noise with customer service tweets. If that’s the case, consider creating a separate account for your customer support agents to use.

Restream does this really well with their @RestreamHelps Twitter account. They offer 24/7 support through this handle and provide status updates when there’s a product-wide issue. Customers who need information quickly can follow their help account.

5. Create a connection with customers

Facebook for Business’ guide to social messaging preaches the importance of expressing your brand over social media:

“Recognize the power of a brand personality by detailing your values. For example, reflect your community and social involvement on a Page and in your creative. By expressing what you stand for, you can build stronger, longer-lasting bonds with younger consumers who value authenticity in many aspects of their online and offline lives.”

Social media offers the unique opportunity to really engage with customers and connect over shared values. The questions that come in over social media can be wide-ranging and often more varied than what you’ll see in your email inbox.

customer facebook comment

The best brands are able to match their customers’ tones and respond authentically while still being helpful.

It’s not just about being fun and silly, though. Sticking to your values can help your business stand out and win over advocates. After learning about a brand’s values, younger consumers are more likely to encourage others to try the brand and to encourage friends to engage with the brand on social media.

lovepop instagram post

6. Use a tool that’s built for social media conversations

Using a purpose-built social media management tool provides a lot of benefits when you’re replying to customers:

  • You don’t need to log into each platform separately (keeping Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. all open in tabs of your browser).
  • You don’t need to share passwords between team members who need to log in to reply to customers.

Besides security and convenience, tools like the ones below also help you build a more effective workflow and can help you measure your impact over time.

Here are three tools that can help your team work better together and deliver great customer support over social media.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a social media management tool that includes features designed to help deliver great customer service. Teams can collaborate on replies, see past conversation history, and listen across multiple channels.

Sprout Social also includes detailed reports that provide insights into response times and message thread sizes.

Agorapulse

Help Scout’s social media team uses Agorapulse to engage customers. Agorapulse combines all incoming social conversations in one inbox so you can reply, review, and assign them to other team members.

Agorapulse integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and more, pulling in conversations from ads as well as messaging apps. Plus, you can easily see how your customer service team is performing with Agorapulse’s reporting dashboard.

Platform specific tools

Each platform also offers its own set of tools to help businesses provide customer service. Using these tools effectively can make a big difference in your impact on social media.

For example, ASOS has put Facebook Messenger to work for them by building a contact form. Customers are asked to select what kind of help they need before they are connected to an agent.

You can also see that they are “Very responsive” to messages sent over Facebook — a signal that is sure to build trust with potential shoppers.

asos facebook page

On Instagram, make sure that your profile is listed as a Business Account. This provides you with a lot more options when it comes to providing customer support.

Business Accounts can set up call-to-action buttons like “Contact,” “Call,” or “Message” that help direct customers on how best to contact you. You can also provide directions to a brick and mortar store or invite customers to shop on your website.

sephora instagram contact options

Getting social with your customers

Customer support teams are great at building relationships with customers, and social media is an amazing platform to have authentic customer conversations and build trust. When you put these two pieces together, social media customer service provides a new opportunity to get to know your customers better.

Sarah Chambers

Sarah Chambers

Sarah is a customer service consultant and the founder of Supported Content. When she’s not arguing about customer service, she’s usually outdoors rock climbing or snowboarding. Follow her on Twitter to keep up with her adventures.