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The Best Use of Social Media (That Most Businesses Ignore)

The Best Use of Social Media (That Most Businesses Ignore)

Social Media: Part of Customer Service

We've been told that the most important business tenant to emerge from social media is that "customer service is the new proactive marketing."

Indeed, social media - be it blogging, tweeting, Facebooking or photo sharing - has given businesses a direct conduit to customers. Instead of traditional marketing, where businesses talk at their customers, social media has created interactive marketing, where brands and business can directly communicate with consumers on a granular level.

But the most exciting element of this granularity is not the ability to shout in your customers' ears. In fact, it's the polar opposite. It's the ability to listen. Businesses need to be ready to respond to their customers voices on social media as quickly as they would to an email or, if you're really good, to a ringing telephone. In short, social media needs to be a part of your customer service strategy as well as your marketing strategy.

How the Top 30 Brands Use Twitter to Serve Customers

Last year, social media analytics specialists Simply Measured tracked the customer service performance of 30 top brands with dedicated customer service Twitter accounts. The results are illuminating:

  • 99 percent of the brands were on Twitter
  • JetBlue, Nike, Comcast, American Express and UPS were identified as high performers in the field of Twitter customer service
  • 30 percent have a dedicated customer service handle
  • The average response time was 5.1 hours
  • 10 percent responded within an hour
  • 93 percent responded within 48 hours

The study also showed that 42 percent of social media users expect to receive a customer support response within an hour. Clearly there is substantial room for improvement in social media customer service, and where there is room for improvement there is opportunity.

How to Set Up Your Social Customer Services

Now is the time to set up your business as a leader in the field of social media customer service. Here are 4 steps to take to help make that happen:

  1. Create a Social Media Customer Service Team
    Delegate members from your existing customer service division, or create a new position dedicated to responding to customer service communications over social media. This is a key step, and will make the following steps far simpler to execute.
  2. Embrace Twitter
    Twitter is quickly becoming the front-runner in social media customer service. Its immediacy, fleeting life-span and lack of privacy walls make it the most user- and business-friendly option for interacting with customers. Depending on how large your business is and how much traffic you already have on your current handle, you may want to create a handle specifically for customer service. For example American Express has @AmericanExpress where they tweet offers, events and news, and @AskAmex devoted entirely to customer service.
  3. Monitor your Social Media
    Whichever social sites you are currently on, make sure you are watching them like a hawk. Users are increasingly becoming accustomed to asking questions of businesses on their Facebook page or in comments on their blogs, and you have to be prepared to respond to them. Each interaction is a potential for revenue.
  4. Build Proactive Customer Service
    Of course be ready to respond to comments, complaints and questions on social media, but also use it to meet customer's needs before they have to ask. If you're a graphic design company, monitor hashtags such as #logo #redesign #webdesign in your geographic area to spot potential new clients.

How to Monitor Social Media

To do the last two steps well, you need to set up a comprehensive media monitoring solution - one that not only monitors social media but also the web as a whole. While the sheer volume of such "solutions" currently available is slightly mind-numbing, here are two essentials:

  1. Invest in a comprehensive social media management dashboard
    The leaders in this field are Hootsuite and SproutSocial, both of which allow you to post to your social media accounts, monitor conversations on specific topics, and measure results of your social efforts from one central place.
  2. Set up Google alerts
    This incredibly simple, free and powerful tool is all too often overlooked. Tell Google what you want to hear about and when and it will send you an alert when it detects those key words in new content across the web. You should set up alerts for your name, your business name and key phrases in your industry.

Customer service is an essential tenant of a successful business that, with today's focus on technology, has been in serious danger of relegation (no one likes phone trees). Social media offers a new way to create the best customer experience possible.

How do you plan integrate social media into your customer's experience?

About the author:

Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, one of the nation's largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam specializes in pens and other promotional items. Christopher regularly contributes to the Small Business Know-How blog.

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