How do you make sure you’re ready to use social media as a customer service tool?

Besides having a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, adequate staffing and the right social media monitoring tools are the first steps. You will need someone to not only respond to questions, but also to lurk on these sites and learn from your followers.

  • How do your followers interact?
  • What kind of language do they use?
  • How savvy are they with social media and other technology?

Some communities may have distinct traits depending on your company and the products and services you sell. In order to connect better with your followers, you need to understand them at the most personal level possible.

Often social monitoring tools will keep track of all previous interactions with a user. Capitalize on prior communication. You probably don’t remember each of your followers, but they most likely remember every interaction with you. If you mention something from a previous conversation you’ve had with a follower, you are going to stick out in their minds.

Tips for Using Social Media as a Customer Service Tool

  • Don’t sound automated. Even if you receive a lot of the same questions over and over, change up your answer to each person. If someone contacts you on social media, they are expecting a “social” or friendly response.
  • Be quick. Use social monitoring tools to help you stay on top of questions. One study showed 25% of social media users expect a response within one hour and 6% expect you to answer within 10 minutes.
  • Know when to move the conversation offline. If you offer one customer 10% off publicly, you may soon have 50 more people asking for the same deal. Keep in mind your followers contacted you online, so try to keep the conversation there whenever possible. Utilize Twitter direct message and Facebook private messages.
  • Be consistent. If you tell one customer something today and next week you tell another customer something completely different, you may have angry customers on your hands. Make sure your information is correct.
  • Update incorrect information. If you’re giving quick responses, you will likely make a few mistakes. That’s okay, you’re human; but it’s important to own up to your mistakes. Send new posts to correct previous errors.
  • Coordinate with your team. Do you have more than one person responding on social media? Make sure you are on the same page and understand who is in charge of what. Miscommunication can slow down your response times.
  • Use brand mavens to your advantage. A maven is a trusted expert in a particular field who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. You’ll often find these people are posting and interacting most with you and your other followers and will answer questions posed to your company before you even get the chance. People like information that comes from other people like them. It’s easier to trust this information because it’s not masked in branding. Reach out to these people to use them for other content, such as a guest blogger.

Use Social Sharing to Drives Sales

Now that you’re making everyone happy on social media, you can further capitalize on those happy customers by encouraging social sharing! Research firm Booze & Co. predicts sales of physical goods through online social networks will grow by 93% per year in the U.S., reaching $14 billion by 2015. A big driver of sales from social networks is social sharing. According to a study done by eMarketer, 63% of Facebook users have alerted their networks to products. The same is true for 25% of Twitter users and 22% of Pinterest users.

So how do you get your users to share your products? Make it easy! Have social icons on your product pages, but make sure they are the right ones. While having a “Like” button for Facebook or a “Follow” button for Twitter is great for building fan count, what you really want people to do is share because it promotes your products and drives sales. Make sure your site is set up to share products in the right way. What thumbnail image will show up for a Facebook share? What text will default in the window when someone tweets your content? Test this and make sure the shared images are compelling and the text includes calls to action that will influence others to click.

When used well, social media is an excellent form of customer service that builds community, encourage engagement and shows your great customer service to a wider audience.