By now, most businesses have some sort of social media presence. Some have just claimed their profiles and hoped for the best, while others have gone all-out in an effort to generate more brand awareness, more site traffic, and more potential revenue. But social media is useful as far more than a simple funnel for your web traffic—it’s a platform with great potential to build your brand’s reputation and increase loyalty amongst your followers.
One of the best ways to take advantage of this is somewhat unconventional. In addition to using social media as a straightforward communication and syndication platform, you can—and should—turn it into a full-fledged customer service platform.
There are some vulnerabilities in using social media for such an application, or at least perceived vulnerabilities. Social media is sometimes viewed as a fad or an arbitrary medium because of its rapid growth and the rise and fall of multiple individual social channels. However, digital social media platforms are going to be around for the long haul, and there are far more advantages to using it as a customer service platform than there are disadvantages.
It’s a fresh idea, and one that not many companies are taking advantage of. Simply implementing a social media customer service strategy is going to differentiate you from your competitors, and mark you as a thought leader in your industry. The idea is still new, but as it starts catching on, some customers may opt in as followers simply because of your customer service options. Of course, this is partially dependent on your industry as well as which social profiles you choose to make the focal points of your strategy.
Using social media as a customer service platform can facilitate instantaneous responses. Instead of getting trapped in a series of phone transfers or held up in a pool of email requests, your users can pose a question and see it immediately posted. If you can answer that question immediately, you’ll give your users instant gratification, and they’ll love you for it.
A Chance to Demonstrate Brand Personality
Social media platforms lend themselves to a more interactive, personal experience. Rather than getting a formulaic email or listening to someone read through a phone script in the customer service call center, they’ll get to see a personalized message on a social media platform. You’ll have to ensure that all your social media managers are working from the same brand voice (to ensure a consistent brand experience), but the extra points for personality will be worth it.
Using social media for such a purpose demonstrates a willingness for transparency. Today’s consumers are skeptical and untrusting of brands, so the more internal workings you can show them, the better. Every bad situation you can turn into a good situation is going to do wonders for your reputation, and it’s going to prove that you aren’t trying to hide anything from your customers. Potential, not-yet-convinced customers will see these types of interactions, and as long as you’re handling each situation appropriately, you’re going to move them one step closer to a commitment.
A Chance for Follow-up
Social media also grants you the opportunity for immediate follow-up with your customers. If you respond to a question of theirs, you can immediately ask if your answer was satisfactory, and if there’s anything else they need. You can also follow up with your users a few days later in the same thread, ensuring they’re satisfied with everything.
When a user has a positive customer service experience with your brand on social media, they’ll be far more likely to share that experience with their own friends and followers. Repeat this a few dozen times, and you’ll gain instant visibility and credibility with an extended network of hundreds or thousands of new potential customers. In the modern era of social marketing, individuals carry more credibility than corporate brands—so use this to your advantage!
Your first step is to build a strong, loyal following that will serve as your introductory customer base. If you already have a following, you’re all set—you can move on to step two. However, if you have a strong social media strategy and you’d prefer not to interrupt it with additional customer service messaging, you can create an entirely separate presence dedicated exclusively to answering customer questions, such as “_____ Support.”
Claim Your Profiles
Your first step is the easiest one. All you have to do is lay claim to your social media profiles. For most businesses, Facebook will work best as a customer service platform due to its widespread popularity and easy management interface. However, you may wish to claim a Twitter account or other profiles as well, depending on your customer demographics and personal preferences.
In order to gain attention and build a reputation, you’ll have to start posting often. That means several times a day, every day. Post useful content or helpful links if you aren’t receiving any initial inquiries from your customers.
Engage with Your Users
Make it a point to respond to every point of interaction your customers give you, especially in the early stages of building your following. If a customer leaves a comment or sends a message, respond personally and publicly (when possible). Over time, you’ll build a community, and new followers will be more likely to join your platform.
Next, you’ll want to take steps to publicize the fact that your social media presence is doubling as your customer service portal. Make sure your profiles call attention to this fact, and use your main website (preferably a Contact or Help page) to announce and link to your social presence. You can also make a formal announcement using advertising mediums like email blasts, PPC ads, or banner ads.
If you sell products, one of the best ways to introduce your new platform is to include a message with every order, such as an index card that instructs customers to bring any issues or questions to their social account of choice.
You might be nervous to start things off, but the best way to learn is to hit the ground running. Start handling your requests individually, remaining personal and in brand voice with every interaction, and if you make any mistakes, try to learn from them and move past them. Chances are, even with a strong following, you’ll start off with a small number of inbound requests. Over time, as you increase your social reputation, you’ll see those numbers start to grow, and you’ll earn more respect and more customers as a result.
Setting up your social media profiles as an additional customer service platform won’t take you much time, and it will take some getting used to if you’re unfamiliar with the medium, but the long-term benefits for your brand visibility and reputation make it all worthwhile. It’s still a good idea to maintain outside lines of customer service communication, especially a working phone number, but keeping social media at the crux of your customer service strategy is a sound move.