Social Media Support: How to do it right
3rd July 2020
Social media support is where your business wins over customers and builds its reputation.
Doing customer support on social media requires a dedicated strategy. That's because there are several social channels, and your customers will use social media in different ways.
At the end of this article we've listed a few examples of great social media support from brands you're bound to recognize.
But first, our guide to giving support on social media.
Your ‘how-to’ guide to social media support
The above examples show us exactly how to do social media support. We can also more easily avoid social media customer service disasters, for example, when customers are never responded to, despite an angry tirade.
But how do you put all of this into practice?
The simplest way is to get an expert in your corner. Social media experts like ContentCal can help you with every bit of your social media strategy and management so that you achieve powerful results.
However, there are steps that you can take which will get you on the right track.
Your single biggest weapon is to simply be where your customers are. And they are on social media. Twitter is the most used platform for customer service interaction, but don’t forget the likes of Facebook and Instagram too.
There are various social media tools that can show you whether you’ve been mentioned on social media. These will make it considerably easier for you to track mentions and hashtag use.
These tools will also help you to identify where most of your customers are already hanging out. That’s where you’ll want to focus most of your attention.
It’s important to remember that your customer has immense power on social media. As several of our examples show, your customers have more say over your image on social media platforms than you do.
Customers will drive the conversation and push you into the passenger seat. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t navigate them.
Like, now. Social media users are impatient at best. They need you to respond to them quickly. If it’s something they are upset or angry about, be there to pre-empt what they want next. Long wait times could mean that customers spend more time pulling their hair out, and they could start researching competitors.
Don’t forget that some social media communications come with an indication of responsiveness. On Facebook, each time you directly respond to direct messages (or don’t), you affect your responsiveness rating which is put on your profile for everyone to see.
Customers expect a fast response, so give it to them. If you’re not sure how to respond to a message straight away, or you don’t have the time, send them a holding message in the meantime.
The best social media interactions are like an in-person conversation. Get it right and it can be immensely powerful.
But don’t sacrifice accuracy for speed
Get something wrong, in a bid to move fast, and could become viral before you know it. And not good viral.
Yes, respond quickly but don’t be afraid to say you need to get back to them.
Just make sure you do. Lots of the company examples above buy themselves time by moving the interaction out of the public domain in to direct messages. This way you can take a little more time to come up with the right solution. It can be worth going back to the original post to update it with a resolution message too.
Listen, and then listen again
Your customers are talking. You need to sit up and listen. Tools and services like ContentCal manage all things social, but always make sure you take the time to actively listen to your customers and what they are saying.
This is important in part, for a reason many don’t realize: your customer already thinks you’re listening.
That’s right, your customer thinks you have every resource at your fingertips to be sat there just processing everything they have to say, when they have to say it.
Social media is a wonderful illusion of ever-presence and you’ll need to play to it. Chances are, if your customer wants to be heard by you, social media is where they’ll go.
For this reason, it’s vital to analyze what’s going on and what’s being said, as well as what posts work and when they work. Understanding activity helps you to use it as a proactive tool rather than bat it away like a pestering fly which just won’t leave you alone. Again, this is where tools can really help you out.
You’ll want to look at a range of things. For example, how many comments crop up that are about praise, or technical problems or poor customer experience? How many times does the same question or comment come up? When are your customers active on your social media platforms?
This information will help you move forward with a workable plan for staffing and managing resource for your social media responsesand profiles.
Get tracking and use the information you have.
Every single interaction with your customer on social media needs to be spot-on in terms of your brand’s character. This means that whether you’re responding to a complaint, thanking someone for their praise, or sharing some product or service news, you need to look and sound like one person: your brand.
Nonetheless, manners matter. Yes, there is such a thing as social media etiquette. Be polite, professional but on point. And a bit cheeky sometimes.
Show you care
We all want to feel important. This is an important message with social media customer care. You need to show you care and that you actively value each and every customer.
A sure-fire way to fail at this is to ignore an interaction and let it fester. No matter how awkward, no matter how grumpy and keyboard-warrior-ish the customer is, you need to take it on the chin and respond – calmly and professionally. Honest, it’ll be the best approach. It puts you back in control.
Remember, you can always direct the customer to direct messaging, or to get information from you elsewhere (for example to a specific page of your website).
So look into how your customer seems to be feeling and show them that they are valued.
Social media can be your best friend and your worst enemy
When you manage it well, social media as a tool for customer service is invaluable.
However, when you don’t bother, it goes wrong. It can go wrong if you ignore customers, if you forget your brand voice, or if you leave your manners at the door.
Make it your best friend, not your enemy, and realize that social media support is a skill, and to master it you need a complete strategy that aligns to your LinkedIn goals.
Nike’s branding isn’t just about selling shoes and sports gear. They’re selling a concept, and a lifestyle, and they’re do it well. Look at Team Nike on Twitter. They run outstanding social media support, in seven languages, seven days a week. Wow.
It’s actually quite simple. Joe Bloggs heads to Twitter, uses the Nike handle and a team of Team Nike customer support reps are ready to pull out the tweets that need their attention.Take a look at this tweet as an example:
Here we have an example of a potentially frustrated customer. However, within half an hour, Team Nike have responded, said help is in the pipeline, and asked for some further info.
What’s particularly impressive about Nike on Twitter is that they are tweeted an insane amount each day. A quick look at their feed and you realise that they deal with every single Tweet with professional, brand-centered language and genuine intent to help. They do it quickly too.
What does this example show us? Just because you’re big it doesn’t mean you can’t be personal. Responding to customers quickly is a tool for engagement and brand loyalty that stops those small problems snowballing.
Check out this comment from Urban Decay – it doesn’t look like it packs much of a punch does it?
Well, yes, at first glance it looks pretty harmless. It probably doesn’t even need a response. However, what Urban Decay do cleverly is to take every opportunity to engage with their audience.
They don’t just respond when a customer has a problem. They also respond, totally true to their brand, whenever their audience touches base with them. In those four simple words (and an emoji), Urban Decay are saying, “Hey, you’re valued, we’re glad you’re taking the time to show us support, and we’ll do the same for you.”
That’s pretty powerful.
What does this example show us? Supporting your customers on social media isn’t just about responding to a complaint or thanking a customer for some praise. It’s about engaging them and showing them that they’re valued, just because. What’s more, that level of basic engagement was is totally on brand in terms of tone of voice, which strengthens the relationship customers have with the company.
It’s an oldie that went viral, but a goodie for learning a thing or two: Skyscanner’s 2016 47 hour layover recommendation.
Skyscanner is a handy airline search engine designed to find you the best and cheapest flight deal. User James Lloyd evidently wanted to travel from New Zealand to London. As happens with all automated software occasionally, Skyscanner sprang a leak and suggested – in a bid to get the best deal – that James Lloyd should have a whopping 47-year layover in Bangkok:
Instantly you think: “wow, what a disaster, the system doesn’t work!” That’s probably something along the lines of what James was thinking when he posted on Skyscanner’s Facebook page.
However, without missing a beat, in came a social media pro a who gave aviral response which gave the company incredible exposure. Jen, the Skyscanner responder, actually gave some pretty good suggestions of what she’d do on a 47 year layover in Bangkok with a good dose of humour too. She carefully balanced this with a genuine response to resolve the customer’s issue.
What does this example show us? This was originally a bit of a PR disaster. However, Skyscanner responded with appropriate tongue-in-cheek humour which led to this post going viral. Quickly heaps of people around the world were seeing what Skyscanner does, and started to view the company as lively and fun, without spending a pound on an advertising campaign.
Similar to Nike, Etsy have cleverly separated out their support and marketing personas. The result is two distinct social media tracks: Etsy Support and Etsy Success.
Take a look at their Etsy Support Twitter profile:
This is a clever distinction. Being an ecommerce platform with over 2 million sellers, it would all get a bit messy if they didn’t do something to break down these two personas. Tackling their social media approach as one giant beast wouldn’t.
Many large international companies will split their social media profiles based on country (which Etsy does too). But Etsy goes a step further. By splitting it again into Success and Support, they can handle complaints and problems without irritating their customers with upbeat promotional stuff when goodwill is running low.
Let’s look at how this works in action with an Etsy seller who’s having a spot of bother:
You’ll see here that there’s a bit of back and forth going on. It’s polite, helpful and to the point (and we’ll forgive the typo, Etsy!).
If Jo Cheung, frustrated and concerned by her lack of payment from a buyer, was simply faced with some promotional blurb, she’d probably feel a tad unheard and frustrated. Indeed, you see it on social media time and again when customers fruitlessly comment on promotional posts virtually begging for a response.
Instead, this Etsy customer has received a tailored and informative response.
What does this example show us? Break things down into nice handy chunks which give you a chance of being personal. It’s important to meet the needs of one specific audience at a time.
It’s no surprise that Starbucks has made our list of examples. When it comes to branding and marketing, Starbucks always makes the cut.
We shouldn’t ignore this fact. It’s because they understand that it’s their brand that is for sale, not just the humble cup of coffee. That’s why they nail it again and again.
Take a look at this dollop of praise from one Starbucks customer:
Check out their response. Starbucks are saying, in that simple question about which store the customer visited, that they care about passing on praise to their staff just as much as passing on complaints.
It’s most likely this kind of response which gets customers to share images on Instagram and Twitter and do a lot of the heavy lifting of Starbucks’ marketing. User-generated content is powerful, and it’s this sort of support response on social media which fuels it.
Don’t forget, Starbucks depends on its reputation for outstanding service so that needs to come across in everything they do.
What does this example show us? Whilst this particular example was praise-based there are plenty of similar responses when things weren’t as positive. It’s this welcoming approach to feedback and demonstration of success that helps Starbucks make Twitter a powerful marketing tool.
Let’s take a look at the Next UK Facebook site. Yes, there are some cute kids showcasing fabulous products. But right up there is a green swoosh telling the visitor that they are “very responsive” to messages.
But, if we take a slightly deeper look, it all gets a bit scary with some long-form complaints:
Yes, the customer is fuming. It could all get a bit emotional. However, the response from Next is quite cool, calm and collected. They diffuse the bad feeling with an apology and quickly direct the customer to private communications to get the issue sorted.
It’s not easy to let customers air their grievances in public on your social media. But customers will always find a public way to complain, so it’s important they feel heard, valued and as though they’re about to get a speedy response.
What does this example shows us? Social media support is far from all sweetness and light: support workers need skills in negotiating and deescalating. Don’t panic when the interactions with your social media aren’t positive, but don’t leave them without a response either. Instead, use the response to show that your customer service is top notch.
Netflix is the master of getting users to generate content and brand awareness on its behalf. How many times have you heard the phrase “Netflix and Chill”. Oh, you haven’t? Better not Google that.
Internet slang helps people self-identify as part of a certain crowd. You might be a #stan that says “OK, Boomer” (bear with me). This language, when used by brands, helps make them seem more appealing to consumers.
Using this lingo helps Netflix get people to share its posts. In the Netflix and Chill case, they didn’t even come up with the phrase, but they’ve gone full steam ahead on owning it.
This has really worked in their favour. Their tone is entertaining, surprising and challenging, reflecting the type of programmes they produce.
They aren’t intent on getting too serious, but they do make engaging their audience a priority, encouraging them to share, and spread the love.
What does this example show us? Language matters on social media. It’s a vital part of your branding so you need to make sure that whoever is manning your social media support can convey who you are, each and every time they put fingers to the keyboard.
Pizza Express may have a few cash flow problems, but it’s getting social media support right.
Head to their Facebook page and you’ll see what we mean. First of all you’ll come in contact with their chatbot, ready to help you book a table. If it doesn’t work, or doesn’t fit what you need, you can quickly get in touch with an actual human.
But as with many of our other examples, the real gold dust is buried within the comments.
Here we have a promotional video – singing the wonders of Snowball Doughball Day (yes, it’s a thing):
It’s straight up, clear cut promotional content. Yet, dive in to the comments and you’ll notice that along comes a customer with a social responsibility concern.
Now, this is nothing to do with those glorious Snowball Doughballs. But it has everything to do with the company’s corporate reputation.
Good job Pizza Express was monitoring this and got in there quickly with a chance to address this concern. They’ve seen what’s worrying the customer and have already got the solution in the pipeline.
The naysayer was clearly impressed and Pizza Express has just spread some positive news about itself.
What does this example show us? We all want to use our social media for promotional marketing and that’s often where we put a whole heap of effort, time and resources.
However, we also need to monitor those promotions and supportively reply to customers at the place where they show their hand, even when they are simply using our promotion as a platform to air grievances or have their say.
What’s not to like about Spotify? It basically stopped the music industry from disappearing into a pit of despair by shifting us from downloading to streaming.
But Spotify is also pretty cool when it comes to social media support, having won a Webby Award for it back in 2015.
Hop on to their Twitter and the first thing you see is an impactful statement directing you over to @SpotifyCares, where you’ll find support. Straight away Spotify is telling you what to do and where to go with your query, depending on what it is.
Then let’s take a look at this language:
You could say that Spotify is giving Netflix a run for its money by successfully using language successfully in line with its branding.
But look deeper. Spotify comes out to announce that there are issues with the platform before they get queries. It’s easy to ignore issues - users usually think that issues just affect them - but by owning the issues, Spotify are winning trust. Unsurprisingly, lots of users are responding to the Tweet with a fair amount of angst. However, SpotifyCares stays on point with its responses, staying true to its brand.
There are literally dozens of personalized replies, all unique and clearly showing each and every customer that they are valued and heard.
This is no accident. It’s clear that the people handling the SpotifyCares account are pros. This podcast gives us some clues. Basically, way before someone gets close to typing out social media replies and posts for Spotify, they learn the rules in the slower-paced arena of email. Here they can deal with issues which are less urgent and where customers expect a longer reply time.
These customer service agents aren’t just let loose on the all-important social media platforms until they’ve earned their stripes. And it shows.
What does this example show us? Spotify teaches us one big lesson: nurture your team and they will nurture your customers. Well-trained social media responders are clearly skilled and capable of delivering unique, individualized and consistent messages.
10.VirginVirgin is just one of many companies who use tools to monitor their customer service on social media. Not everyone who heads to a social media platform will use the correct handle or hashtag. Yet, have a browse through and you’ll see that Virgin succeeds in picking up on [social media mentions](/platform-features/products/engage/ "social media mentions") with success.
By using an analytical tool, such as ContentCal Respond, it’s possible to see and organise your mentions on social media and respond to them. This way your mentions which don’t flag up neatly, thanks to lack of handles and hashtags, don’t fly under the radar.
At Virgin this is really important for their branding. They need to pick up on mentions across social media to ensure a consistent approach across all their brands, e.g. Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Wines, Virgin Trains, etc...
What does this example show us? It’s worth using the tools available to us which make social media customer support an easier game. With so many channels, it can be easy to let your social accounts spiral out of control. Having one inbox to handle all messages brings clarity.
We’re bringing your attention to Walmart because they're a good example of a company who go ‘above and beyond with their customer service.
This is interesting.
Not only did those Harrodsburg Walmart employees go considerably beyond the call of duty on the shop floor, the customer response employee weighs in with a dose of compassion too.
This is an excellent example of a huge corporation proving that they can understand the individual. It’s humanizing and really lends supports their reputation as a customer-focused organization.
It’s also a pretty brave thing to do. Walmart gets and generates bucket-loads of tweets, but they can be personal at the drop of a hat. It’s almost the type of conversation you’d have talking to a family grocery.
What does this example show us? Walmart’s example shows us that you can’t be so big that you’re impersonal. No excuses, you need to show that you care about the individual customer. Social media is the perfect place to do this.
Head over to the Waitrose Facebook page and you’ll see some interesting goings on.
What we have here is an invested Waitrose employee chipping in, off their own back, to help with a customer. This is a store employee – they certainly aren’t required to manage the company’s social media!
However, what we know from Waitrose is that their employees do genuinely feel vested in and behind the brand and the business.
This is powerful stuff. It’s arguable that the words of a shop floor employee are more in-tune with the customer, and more authentic, than any marketing or customer support bod could be.
What does this example show us? Treat your employees well and don’t be afraid to let them speak on your social media channels. If customers can see that individual employees are behind the brand then they will trust you more.
Royal Mail run a huge logistical operation, and their social media account isn’t any different. Divided into different functions, Royal Mail’s social media presence cover bases from customer support to stamps.
Yet within the Royal Mail Help page you’ll find a constant stream of useful information. This is a vital part of customer support for a service based business. They cannot leave it to chance that customers flag up a problem before they do.
Although it’s an intense process for an organization as large and widespread as Royal Mail, it’s worth it because customers like to be kept in the loop. Royal Mail have a range of clients, from B2B deliveries to letters addressed to Santa, so a straightforward tone of voice here hits the mark.
What does this example show us? Lead the way in giving your customers information through the support function. They will be more likely to trust you.
Social media is, well, social. By its very nature it’s public. Yet frankly we can forgive brands for not wanting their dirty laundry aired in public.
There’s a fine line between responding in the public domain and using that to drive engagement and prove your responsiveness, vs taking things behind closed doors.
Debenhams manages this by splitting their responses to tweets into responses directly to the tweet and a request to DM. Take this example:
There’s an apology out there for the world to see, but the complaint itself is going to be handled out of public viewing.
This is clever stuff. Chances are Andrew Homer’s parcel genuinely has gone walk-about and Debenhams will simply reprocess it. But what if it gets a bit drawn-out and messy? What if Debenhams have reason to believe that all isn’t as it seems? Well, in those instances, the dirty laundry is best aired behind the scenes.
There’s nothing worse than appearing on 1,000s of people’s feeds with customer service complaints.
What does this example show us? This example shows us that we need to be savvy with how we respond to customer inquiries and complaints on social media. Make it clear you’ve replied (and show you’re not ignoring customers), but bring them over to private messages to fully handle complaints and disputes.
Selfridges show us how getting social media interaction off your page and into your inbox can be a streamlined process.
Want to message Selfridges? You’ll see this if you check out Selfridges on Facebook:
Sure, you can type your own message, and no doubt most people do, but this way Selfridges are enticing even the most time-poor to interact. That’s pretty clever.
Using this technique to filter messages and make short work of the responses is a good first step in managing vast numbers of DMs. Automated responses help to reduce the number of personalized replies. It’s easy to personalize because the customer’s name is shared too.
However, the proof needs to be in the pudding and how human interaction takes over from that point.
What does this example show us? Customizing and automating social media DMs helps to make customer service on social media more manageable. Don’t forget to get the humans involved pretty quickly though, or you’ll just frustrate a potential customer.
READ MORE: Social media planning 2020: The ultimate guide to key dates and events for the coming year.