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Social media support

The last and newest channel is social media support. Social media has come about over the past twenty years and taken the internet by storm. Starting with MySpace and blogging sites in the early 2000s, and continuing on to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram today, it feels like customers want to engage everywhere.

Social media support

And, hate to break it to you, but wherever they want to talk, your customer support representatives should be available. So, why social media and where do you go?

It’s possible that you don’t need to use social media at all if your audience isn’t asking for it. As you’ll see in some of the insightful metrics below, there are a few demographics that actually don’t want to use social media as a method for communication, and a few that want it to be the only channel that they have to use. So, the first step in determining where you should be offering support is knowing more about your users and where they are spending time. After that, this list of metrics, and some pros and cons of social media support as a whole should help get you clear on what the best tactics for your business will be.

  • Between Q2 and Q3 of 2017, the number of social media users skyrocketed by 121 million.
  • Mature users aged 55-64 are more than twice as likely to interact with branded content than their younger social media consuming counterparts.
  • We spend a lifetime average of five years and three months on social media.
  • 80% of Instagram users follow at least one business profile, and 200 million of those users are consistently checking in to see what their favorite brands are up to.
  • You better be on your toes. 53 percent of Twitter users expect a response from a business in less than an hour. But, if they’re upset or have a problem, that number rises to 72 percent.
  • 80% of Twitter users access the network from their smartphone.
  • Consumers that land on your site through Pinterest are 10 times more likely to complete a purchase than visitors that have come through other referrals.
  • They also spend more, with an average spend of $140-$180 compared to those coming from Facebook that spends an average of $60-$80.

So, depending on what you are looking to accomplish with your social media presence and providing support, there are a few different platforms that could be useful for you to invest in. Now that you have some of that knowledge under your belt, here are the pros and cons of social media that you should consider before jumping in:

Pros & Cons

Social media offers much greater customer engagement. Facebook has over 2.2 billion users worldwide, for example. With such a huge reach you have the possibility of reaching immensely large audiences. For marketing, for example, if you post something that captures your audience’s imagination, it can be shared by anyone it resonates with, giving you a chance for it to go viral and increase its audience exponentially.

Additional resources may be needed to manage your online presence, especially if you have a particularly small or scrappy team. While the software tools and cost of entry may be inexpensive, the cost in terms of time is significant. To successfully employ social media both in marketing and support, you need to invest substantial amounts of time over a long period to see good results and customer feedback.

It grants you greater access to international markets. If your support team is capable of supporting multiple languages or your product is offered in multiple countries, it can be useful for you to be able to reach all of your customers in one space. Social media allows for that!

Social media is immediate and needs daily monitoring. If you don’t actively manage your social media presence, especially if you’ve set precedence for providing social media support, your customers might grow angry.

It offers a huge opportunity for customer feedback. Because social media is a 24/7 communications channel, you will get instant feedback on your marketing campaigns, product releases, and any other new changes from your company. That means that you’ll know about bugs almost instantly, or be able to update and fine-tune your marketing posts in the moment. It can also provide you with an immediate and honest assessment of your products or services as well as the content you are putting out. For better or for worse.

Using social media causes you to run the risk of unwanted or inappropriate behavior on your social media profiles, including bullying and harassment. It can also lead to things like negative public criticism, information leaks or hacking.

Social media is a huge opportunity to conduct market research about your customers directly. There are many simple, free or low-cost monitoring tools for social media that allow you to learn basic information about the market you are in. You can also gain intelligence on competitors, prospects, and clients, and get insights into your company, products, and services.

With social media, the rules are constantly changing. From the algorithm used by Facebook to pick which of your posts to display, to the length of tweets, to the user interface in LinkedIn, it feels like sands are always shifting underneath our feet. It can easily become a full-time job just to keep up with the latest trends and best practices. New social media platforms are launched daily and others die. You have to keep reviewing and revising your strategy on an on-going basis in order to continue providing the best support you can.

You are afforded improved networking opportunities with customers and other businesses by using social media. You have a completely different kind of relationship with your prospects and customers on social media than in any other channel: it’s a two-way conversation that allows for a much deeper, quicker level of engagement. As a form of communication, it is about as close as you can get to holding a conversation with someone while not being in the same room as them.

While other forms of support allow you to tightly control the message and its distribution, making sure that only that message is communicated and nothing else, social media pushes everything out of your hands. Once you release your message you also relinquish control as it is shared, commented upon and added to. Similarly, with peer to peer social networking, customers, prospects and anyone else that wants to could be talking to each other about your product, service, brand or company and you wouldn’t even know.

It’s low cost. You do not have to pay anything to offer support on social media. Both Twitter and Facebook, for example, have just started offering specific messaging for like Buffer, that allows you to manage all social media in one place.

It’s easy to mess up. Social media is more casual and more open. But, with the sheer volume of posts and constant conversation, it can be easy to take your eye off the ball and make public something you shouldn’t have or post something that is open to misinterpretation. On the flip side, its very nature of informality and openness, also means that it is much more forgiving.

With the pros and cons, as well as the list of metrics above, you’re probably about ready to get started using social media for support. We’ve collected a series of tips, both for you as the company, and for your employees, that will help you get started, or turn pro if you’re already using social media to help your customers.

Tips on social media support for the company

  • Pick the best platform for your business. While it can be tempting to just jump on board every single platform where you have customers, do your research and making sure your spending effort where it will be best rewarded. Social media is very time-consuming, because of the effort that it requires to respond quickly, so going with fewer rather than more will mean you have more effort available to provide excellent experiences for your customers.
  • Monitor social media mentions, and don’t forget to look for the less obvious ones. While many customers will directly mention your company or tag you in a post if they need help, others may be less direct. While monitoring mentions on social media, also make sure to look for variations of the spelling of your company name. That way you can be sure to address issues that may have gotten lost otherwise, especially if the person forgot to tag you directly mistakenly.
  • Consider setting up a dedicated channel for support. Many companies choose to have separate accounts for their support team from their marketing team, and it can be very useful. Not only does it keep your support responses from showing up on what is effectively an advertising machine, but it also keeps so many cooks out of the kitchen. When you have multiple support employees and marketing team members working in one or two social media channels, it can get to be a lot if there is something like a launch or an outage. Consider separating the two out, if you get a lot of traction.
  • Build best practices about responding. As a company, you should have policies for how you respond to specific types of tickets. For example, if a customer is talking poorly about another company, in favor of yours, should you like the tweet or just ignore it? If you are being trolled, do you respond, or leave it alone? These are important things to draw lines on early on, as they set the tone and the public face of your company over social media.
  • Choose the right hashtags. Try to find hashtags that work for your brand and for your support, if you’re trying to draw attention to it. Similarly, don’t just spam all of your hashtags on every single post — it doesn’t make sense and may lose your audience members.

Tips on social media support for the support representative

  • Speed matters. Pay attention to how quickly you are writing back. If you don’t already have macros or snippets set up for things that you say frequently, consider doing so. Giving yourself the option to use a quick canned reply can shave a few seconds off of your response time as you power through the queue.
  • Use the right tone of voice. Just like in email, it’s important to be able to read a customer and respond to them in a way that makes sense for them. For example, if a customer is very serious and angry, you should likely be using very toned down language. If a customer is funny or jokingly flirtatious, you can respond in a way that is reciprocal without being inappropriate. As long as what you’re saying falls in line with your brand guidelines, you’re good to go!
  • Take things offline when necessary. Some issues are not the best to solve publically via social media, or even via social media direct message. Some examples of these are issues where you might need personal information from a customer, or credentials to log in to a specific site for troubleshooting. Other issues that might be better solved in another channel (either email or over the phone), may be advanced troubleshooting problems that need to be escalated to another team or team member. If it becomes evident that you’ve got a case like that, direct them to email into your team (or call, if that’s where you’re going), and then keep an eye out for their message so that it doesn’t go missing. The worst thing that you could possibly do would be to tell them to reach out elsewhere, and then make them wait to get a response.
  • Use your knowledge base to make things easy. Explaining things over social media, especially if there is a character limit, can be super hard. Luckily, you’ve probably got an amazing knowledge base that you can pull links from and send to customers to make explaining easy. Use your knowledge base liberally when providing social media support. Also, pay attention to documentation that you wish you had so that you can go back and create it later. Chances are if you want it, your customers want it too.
  • Choose how you react. Using the guidelines provided by your company, choose carefully how you react. Know ahead of time whether you would like, respond to, or ignore something. If you aren’t clear on that or don’t think that your team has a lot of clarity, it might be time to have a conversation and get it defined. Without alignment, you run the risk of doing something off-brand in a heightened social situation that could easily be shared or taken out of context.

Suggested Tools

Social media can be one of the most versatile ways to provide support. There are so many different channels, and the audience members on each have different expectations and preferences. One tool that we recommend that makes it easy to monitor and respond to all social media under one roof is Buffer. But, along with Buffer, here is a full list that they provide of other tools that might be useful:

They’ve also created an amazing spreadsheet that allows you to compare information like:

  • How much do the plans cost?
  • Does it have a free plan, free trial, or free demo?
  • Is it a standalone monitoring tool or is it part of a social media management tool?
  • What platforms are supported?
  • What are the main monitoring features?
  • Can I reply directly through the tool?

Using this, you should be able to narrow down not only what you should be providing for social media channels, but also where you can best monitor it and find the tools that will be beneficial for your team.

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