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How to Use Social Media for Customer Support

Aleh Barysevich
Aleh Barysevich

Social media offers an easy way to engage with customers.

Customer support is the niche that's much more influential than it seems at first glance. Its responsibilities go far beyond helping the customer with the product. The consequences of good and bad customer support are enormous: customers leave the brand or stay with it forever; word-of-mouth attracts new customers or scares them away; brand reputation improves or worsens because of it. 

The demand for great customer support increases every year. With more and more companies making it their priority, and more and more small businesses choosing great customer support as a way to stand out of the crowd, the expectations are growing. Now, people expect customer support to be quick, responsive, effective and friendly. And of course, they expect it to be on social media. 

While for some calling or emailing is still a thing, and others are happy to speak to bots that appear on the website pages, for many, social networks are the channels for everything including communication with brands. They expect brands to be on social media, and their expectations from customer support on social media are also high. For example, 83% of people expect companies to respond to a social media question or complaint within a day and nearly half of people expect a response within an hour.

They also regularly point out that customer support on social media affects their attitude to the brand on many levels. In a report by Facebook, half of the people globally said that direct messaging a company makes them feel more connected to the brand. In a Zendesk report, 57% of consumers said customer support increases brand loyalty. And Twitter reported that 81% of Twitter users who don't get a response from a company will not recommend that company to their friends.

Yet, often companies neglect customer support on social. The 2020 Customer Rage Study published that as much as 49% never get a response to a social media complaint.

Never miss a customer support request

So the first and the easiest way to improve customer service is to make sure you never miss a customer support request on social media. I'm sure companies don't do this on purpose. Most likely, they miss half of the complaints on social media because the authors don't use Twitter handles, don't tag the brand, or make mistakes in brand names. And then, disappointed customers turn elsewhere to spend their money. This seems unfair.

The first thing social listening is usually used for is just that: to never miss a customer support request on social media.

What is social listening?

Social listening (also called social media monitoring) is the process of monitoring a brand name (or any other keywords) on social media networks, blogs, news sites, forums, and the web. Social listening tools (e.g., Awario , Mention, Talkwalker) collect all mentions of a given keyword or keywords from the specified sources in one place and then analyze them to show you how the number of mentions grows, how many people they reach, what the overall tone of the mentions is, where the authors live, which language they speak, what their demographics are, and so on. 

How to get started with social listening?

You have to complete only a couple of simple steps to set up a social listening tool so that it can start searching for brand mentions.

Step 1: Create an alert for your brand name, as well as its common abbreviations, misspelling, social media handles (if you have Twitter and Instagram accounts). As a result, you might end up with up to 10 keywords. 

Step 2: If your brand name is a common word or if there is another brand with the same name, add "negative keywords" ― keywords that signal that the post is not actually about your brand name, but about something very different. For example, for the company Amazon, the negative keywords will be "river" and "rainforest."

Step 3: Set up your search to only include social media networks. If you’re interested in customer support only, you don't need mentions from blogs, news sites, and other websites to crowd up your feed. 

Step 4: If you're a local business, specify language and location. However, keep in mind that some social networks don't reveal user locations (e.g., Reddit). To make sure you don't miss a customer request from such networks, choose the "unknown" location in addition to your main one. 

Step 5: Most social listening tools search for mentions in real time. However, some results might take a bit longer, so it's wise to leave the tool for a bit and let it crawl social networks in peace. 

Step 6: Look through the mentions' feed for customer support requests. If the tool allows you to, reply to them right from the dashboard. 

Doing this will help you make sure you never miss a customer support request on social media.

After the first setup, your social listening tool will crawl social networks 24/7 and fill up the mentions' feed with your brand mentions. You can open the app at any point and check if something requires your attention. You can also set up email notifications or push notifications to make sure you don’t forget about this part of the job. 

Get better at showing off the product

In addition to customer support requests, you'll see brand mentions in other different contexts, which might be useful for a deeper understanding of how your brand is doing on social media. 

You'll see praises and compliments directed at your brand, recommendations, and neutral feedback on some of your products, services, or features. You'll be able to easily spot common problems and the most popular things about your brand online. With the help of sentiment analysis and other social listening analytics, you’ll be able to see your brand health at a glance. 

Analytics results will be something to share with the marketing and PR teams. However, they will also upgrade the quality of customer support. You'll know what the customer is more likely to appreciate in a product and what they are likely to struggle with. 

Of course, you'll also know the customers better. Social listening will help you uncover their demographics, locations, and languages. You'll be able to sort the mentions' authors by the level of their influence, i.e. by how many followers they have so that you can reply to the more influential ones first.

Discover your competitors' customer support strategy

Customer support on social media is more art than science. It’s not always clear how to act, how to respond best, and what to respond to. In most cases, your responses on social media are also public. You have to decide on whether you’ll be talking to your audience like a friend or like a serious company representative. You have to decide on the tone: are you a funny one? A cool one? An expert? Do you make jokes while helping your customer or do you act like a soulless all-knowing machine? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Customer service strategy like any other strategy requires competitor research. It helps to look at what your competitors are doing ― and not just at the beginning, but regularly. To build an effective customer support strategy, you should observe the ones that are already in use, see how they change over time, what the trends are, and what their advantages and disadvantages look like. 

To do that, simply repeat the previous social listening workflow using your competitors' brand names as keywords. 

Social listening technology might seem like a bit of an overkill for customer support practitioners. But in fact, it's just a solution for what the society that is constantly online and on social media demands. And it demands a very simple thing: for brands to be constantly online and on social media, too.

Given that social listening tools are often affordable and easy to use, there is no reason not to try and live up to the customers' great expectations. 

Image Credit: Doucefleur/Getty Images
Aleh Barysevich
Aleh Barysevich Member
Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. Digital Marketer & Speaker at SMX, BrightonSEO. Author at Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, & more.