Your customers are on social media, and they’re talking about your brand. If you want to turn that into a two-way conversation and shape the narrative, you need to be there waiting for them.
These days, replying to customer inquiries via chat, phone, and email is not enough. It's non-negotiable that your brand is available on social media channels, both from a brand perspective and for customer service needs.
In this article, we’ll cover all of the ins and outs of getting started using social media (specifically for ecommerce) as a legitimate customer service tool.
Table of contents
- How is social media used in customer service?
- How social media customer service differs from traditional customer service methods
- How to utilize social media as a customer service platform: 4 strategies
- Must-have social media customer service tools
- Real-life examples of social media customer service
How is social media used in customer service?
Social media can be used as a way to further connect with your customers and potential customers in the spaces they’re already in. Creating dedicated social media pages can show customers that your brand is available whenever they have an inquiry, further building a trusting relationship. In fact, 69% of Facebook users in the U.S. who message businesses report that it makes them feel more confident about the brand, according to Meta for Business.
Beyond answering direct messages from customers on social media platforms, maintaining a brand presence on social media can also help you keep tabs on mentions of your brand, as well as engage and provide customer support via comments or threads.
For many businesses creating a dedicated Facebook to communicate with customers makes the most sense, but it may also make sense to explore how Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or TikTok could be useful for your brand. To determine this, you’ll want to think about things like who your target customer is and which social media platforms they frequent.
How social media customer service differs from traditional customer service methods
For a customer, social media feels like direct access to your brand. It provides a more personal feel than sending a contact form into the helpdesk abyss. Because of this, however, when a customer reaches out to your brand on social media, a timely resolution is expected — similar to live chat on your website.
Additionally, social media is often much more casual than standard customer support, so your social media customer support reps’ tone should reflect that. Long, robotic auto-responses won’t work in this case. Customers want short, quick communication that makes them feel like they’re talking to a human.
Customer support via social media also differs greatly from traditional email or phone support because it’s public, so your customer support team members’ responses are on display for others to see. While emails or phone calls are handled privately with the customer involved, Instagram comments or public tweets are displayed for your entire audience. The way your support team handles these situations could influence sales from other prospective customers who may be watching.
The “public forum” of social media is especially apparent on Twitter, which is why Twitter requires specific best practices.
How to utilize social media as a customer service platform: 4 strategies
Now, let’s get into the steps necessary to create a social media customer service channel. There are four major strategies you should use in order for your social media support to be as successful as possible, so let’s take a closer look at each one below.
1) Have genuine conversations with your customers
As mentioned above, social media is casual and customers will reach out on social media instead of a traditional method because they want a genuine answer without the formalness of an email. Use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok to build relationships with your customers by having engaging conversations.
When a customer feels that your brand is being genuine they are more likely to trust you, become a loyal customer, and write a review or recommend your brand to their family and friends. This can lead to an onslaught of new customers because 60% of consumers believe customer reviews are trustworthy, according to HubSpot Research. Even more, SuperOffice finds that 86% of customers are ready to pay more if it means they get a better customer experience. What all of this means is that building relationships with each and every customer will lead to the further success of your brand.
Pro tip: Know when to move to a private conversation (in the DMs)
When you’re replying quickly to a lot of questions, it's sometimes easy to forget that you’re essentially in a public forum. Make sure you have systems in place to prevent customers’ personal information like phone numbers, shipping addresses, or order numbers from being viewed by the whole internet. Additionally, in the event of more complicated issues, you can comment publicly and ask the customer to private message (DM) you to help them resolve their issue. This shows that your brand is responsive to customer comments, but also that you value your customers’ privacy.
Pro-tip: If you’re using a helpdesk like Gorgias, you can send and receive DMs on Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger from right within your helpdesk. you can create a Macro for moving public social media conversations to DMs. Here’s an example for Twitter:
2) Share self-service style content
Another great use for your brand’s social media account is sharing self-service content. Oftentimes, customers ask the same questions over and over again. To help them get their questions answered quickly and efficiently, it can be beneficial to track which questions are very common and put together a document or self-service page to direct them to.
Information that can be common to include in this type of document is contact information, return policy information, shipping information, and location information if your brand has brick-and-mortar locations. This practice also helps keep customer support freed up for the more complicated, in-depth customer inquiries coming through social media.
If you’re interested in setting up a self-service customer service page, consider working with an ecommerce helpdesk platform like Gorgias.
Pro tip: Consider sharing your most popular FAQ page on social channels
Though it can be extremely beneficial to direct customers on social media to a separate webpage that allows for self-service options, consider sharing your most popular FAQs on social channels. This will create more ease of use for customers and potentially get their questions answered even quicker.
3) Create a handle specifically for customer service support
Depending on the size of your business, it may be a good idea to consider creating separate social media handles dedicated to customer support. This can be especially helpful for customers who have specific support needs. You can cross-promote your two different social pages on both accounts for ease of use. This way customers will be able to identify where to go for the quickest answer. In the event that a customer contacts the wrong social media account, it is important that a customer service rep responds to them from the correct account. This way, they’ll know where to reach out in the future.
This practice can also be beneficial for your internal teams, if you have two different teams within your organization managing social media. For example, your marketing team may be running ads and posting content, while your customer success team is sifting through comments and messages to tend to customers’ needs. Having two separate accounts can make it way easier on your internal teams, as well as keep everything more organized.
Pro tip: Consider multiple handles
Beyond having your main social media page and your customer service social media page, consider creating multiple handles — marketing, sales, and product updates, to further enhance user experience.
4) Reply quickly to exceed customer expectations
As mentioned previously, quick responses are vital to a great customer service experience. This is especially true in the context of social customer service. Social media moves extremely fast, and customers expect speedy replies. The longer a customer service agent waits to reply, the less likely the customer will be satisfied with the support you provide. It can be a tricky balance to respond quickly while also maintaining quality. Check out this article on how to write the perfect answer to social comments.
Your customer service team members’ ability to respond to customer inquiries on social media quickly can directly relate to how likely the customer is to buy from your brand again or recommend you to someone else.
If you’re first starting out with customer service on social media, it may be helpful to understand what your customer base expects. To do this, you can consider asking them to fill out surveys. Surveys can also be used to continuously track customer satisfaction.
Pro tip: Respond within 15 minutes (if possible)
This can be difficult outside of business hours, but if you have customer care team members who already work at night or on the weekends, this could help immensely. You can also dedicate space in your social profile’s bio to business hours and typical response times. This is a great way to manage expectations if you have a smaller team or are in an extremely busy time period.
Must-have social media customer service tools
Now that you have some solid social media customer service strategies, the next step is to understand how to streamline the process through social media customer service tools. Below we’ll cover how Gorgias, Chatdesk, Gatsby, ShopMessage, and Octane AI could help your brand.
Gorgias is an all-in-one customer service platform built specifically for ecommerce brands that seamlessly integrates with your entire stack (Shopify, Shopify Plus, BigCommerce, and Magento). Through the platform, you can manage all of your organization’s customer service channels in real time, from live chat to email to social media. When it comes to social media specifically, there are many integrations Gorgias has that can allow your team to transition to social media customer service while keeping sales flowing and without slowing down support.
The first app integration within Gorgias we’d recommend is Chatdesk, a social media monitoring app that allows your customer support team members to manage social moderation across Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. It also integrates with email and chat.
Gorgias’ Chatdesk integration could be perfect for your brand if you strive to respond quickly — and around the clock — to all your Facebook comments, Instagram comments, DMs, and more. The app even allows for in-depth response personalization for your U.S.-based super fans.
The next tool within Gorgias that will help your brand with social media customer care is Gatsby. Gatsby is a type of social listening app that allows your customer success team to view and track insights specifically on Instagram when responding to tickets, as well as track mentions and engagement for your brand. This tool can also be used to automate ecommerce influencer workflows.
Here’s how it could work for you: With Gorgias and Gatsby integration, the tools can help you identify influential fans among your customer base. So, if someone is reaching out to support, you’ll be able to see if they are of “influencer status” thus, taking into account how they should be prioritized. This information can also be extremely valuable if you’re running customer engagement or customer satisfaction surveys.
If your organization is heavy on Facebook Messenger — or if you’re hoping to expand in that area — ShopMessage could be a worthwhile tool you can integrate within your already-existing Gorgias platform. This tool sends messages to customers that can drive sales. It can contact customers via Facebook Messenger about things like abandoned carts, browser abandonment, welcome communications, upsells, shipping notifications, and custom Messenger menus.
ShopMessage also has the capabilities to help your customer success team with Facebook Messenger Marketing by making it simple to set up automatic, personalized messenges to your customers.
Lastly, we want to highlight Octane AI, which works as a messenger bot platform to help you and your team automate your brand’s conversations on social media channels. It works like this: When a customer sends a message to your brand via social media, Octane AI will automatically create an open ticket in Gorgias. This means it’s simpler than ever to respond to your customers as quickly as possible. Having all your messages from various social networks in one place will also help prevent any from slipping through the cracks, thus creating an amazing customer experience.
Real-life examples of social media customer service
Finally, to complete your understanding of social media customer service, we’ve rounded up some real-life examples of companies using social media for customer service. We hope these leaders of industry can inspire your future strategies.
Nike currently has 9 million followers on its main Twitter page, @Nike, and about 202,000 followers on its customer service Twitter page, @NikeService. Nike is a perfect example of a brand utilizing both types of social media accounts to its advantage. For example, the brand often receives complaints from upset customers on its main Twitter account, but responds to the customer with its @NikeService account.
Here’s an example of a recent Twitter exchange where Nike handled a negative comment from an unhappy customer with ease and professionalism.
This post is a truly stunning example of responding quickly in the public eye but directing the customer to a DM in order to understand their situation in more detail.
Technology company known for its action cameras, GoPro is another great example of solid social media customer service. The brand doesn’t have dedicated customer service accounts on social media, but is highly active and quick to respond to customers posing questions in the comments on their Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages.
For technology companies especially, it’s highly beneficial to have customer success reps who can answer customer questions with precision and accuracy. However, regardless of the industry your company is in, quality should always be a priority when responding to customers on social media. This also helps signal to other customers that you take your social media seriously, thus making others feel more comfortable to reach out there if they have a question or concern.
Here’s one recent example of an in-depth response to a vague GoPro customer inquiry.
Beyond staying on top of customer inquiries and troubleshooting on social media, the opportunity social media presents when it comes to building customer loyalty and brand identity can’t be overstated. Starbucks is a great example of a brand that is doing just this. The company has a distinct voice on all of its social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok) as it interacts with customers on a daily basis. Even something as simple as a heart emoji on Instagram comments, or a quick, sweet encouragement when a customer comments about how much they love a signature Starbucks creation can do a lot to create a brand that customers want to interact with. This also helps customers feel more connected to the brand.
Starbucks also takes this approach further when it comes to responding to customer suggestions. For example, the Facebook post below shows a concerned customer sharing their ideas about creating more accessible Starbucks stores after the brand shared a post about its commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. Starbucks responds promptly and thanks the customer along with more information about how the company is sticking to its inclusivity and accessibility goals.
Online home decor and furniture retailer Wayfair is another brand with standout social media customer service chops. Though the brand doesn’t have separate customer service social media channels, it is constantly keeping up with customer comments. Wayfair currently has 78,000 followers on Twitter, over 7 million likes on Facebook, and 1.7 million followers on Instagram.
Through its social channels, the company displays another great way to interact with customers on social media about its products. Because the brand sells home goods, many social posts are interior design photos featuring their furniture, which elicits a lot of customer questions about which pieces are which, and where they can purchase them. Wayfair does a great job of responding to customers’ product questions with clear and concise information. Take a look at one example below:
Lastly, we want to highlight the video game console company Xbox. The worldwide success of the company means there are also a lot of customers who have questions and want their voices heard. Xbox does a great job responding to customer complaints and questions via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, however, the brand also makes it a point to have some fun with their responses, too — further connecting with customers on a personal level.
It can be really challenging for massive brands to show personality and remind customers that there are people behind the scenes who actually care and like to have fun, but social media is the perfect channel to make this fact known. The brand recently launched a marketing campaign featuring actor Andre Braugher where he is promoting Xbox’s new All Access monthly subscription service. The video was posted to all of Xbox’s social channels, and the brand took the opportunity to connect with customers in the comments. Here are a few snapshots of how they are doing it:
Enhance your social media customer service with Gorgias
From troubleshooting customer issues and answering their questions to simply showing off your brand's personality, social media customer service can be an extremely effective avenue to explore to boost your company’s customer experience quality.
Jumping into social media customer service for the first time can be exciting but also a lot of work, so to help make the process a bit easier, we recommend checking out Gorgias for an all-in-one solution for your customer service team that also has standout live chat tools and amazing integrations.