[Reply] Best practices for customer support and community engagement on social media


Social media is an incredibly effective customer support and success channel, that can be scaled more easily than traditional email or phone support channels. We've put together our top tips and advice for providing customer support and engagement on social media. There is quite a bit to read through here but we think these best practices will help set you and your team up for success! 🙌


Be where your customers are

Twitter and Facebook are the primary focus for many businesses offering support on social media, but it's important to look at which channels your customers are currently engaging on to determine if they're right for your business. It can be tempting to open company accounts on all social networks, because it feels like you’re taking advantage of all of your options. But if customers are asking questions on a channel that your team isn't monitoring, those conversations will go unanswered. Conversocial reported that 88% of consumers will be less likely to buy from you after seeing unanswered questions. 😬


Be quick to respond

Fast responses on social media are critical to success. In one of Twitter's own studies, they found that on average, 60% of consumers expect brands to respond to their customer support requests within one hour. Depending on your team size and incoming volume, you might not be able to hit one hour response times immediately, but it's a great to set ambitious goals and plan for how to achieve them in the longer term. At Buffer, our current response time on social media is about five hours (January, 2019), which is down 62% from our 13 hour response times during the same period last year.

Where 24 hour response times are seen as acceptable for channels like email, the fast paced nature of social media creates expectations of much quicker responses. Getting familiar with our keyboard shortcuts, and setting up a few Saved Replies, are both great ways of speeding up response times.


Offer in-channel resolution wherever possible

When a customer reaches out to you on social media, it's because they've chosen to have the conversation there, maybe because it's a low-effort way of reaching out to you, and they're hoping to receive brief and friendly responses, even if it means more back and forth than email. Redirecting customers to another channel forces them to interact in a form they have not chosen. Conversocial reported that 76% of conversations did not result in further interaction after the brand suggested they switch channel.


Keep conversations with one person if possible

Being passed around from agent to agent is a source of frustration for many customers. Wherever possible, try to keep conversations assigned to one person, so they can build trust and rapport with the customer. Learn how to auto-assign conversations to yourself here.


Include signatures in your replies

Even if you just have one or two people replying on social media, signatures are a great way to make your customers' experience that much more personal. It's much nicer for someone to know that a real person is reading and responding to their messages, and including your name or initials helps to reinforce a sense of continuity of care. Additionally, this allows customers to identify who they've previously chatted with, which can be helpful should they need to move the conversation to another channel. Many teams use a dash and first name (-Bonnie) or carrot and initials (^BP) convention. Learn how to set up your personal signature here.


Express yourself with emojis, images and GIFs

Add a touch of personality to your responses using emojis, images and GIFs! Here's a run down of what Reply supports for each message type:

  • Public tweet: Emojis, images, and GIFs
  • Twitter direct message: Emojis
  • Facebook comment: Emojis and images
  • Facebook private message: Emojis and images
  • Instagram comment: Emojis

Some folks on the team at Buffer like to keep a folder of ready-to-go GIFs on their computer, and change them up every few weeks so we're not reusing the same ones forever!


Move public tweets to private conversations

Sometimes you might need to collect private or sensitive information from a user. In that case, you can easily move a public Tweet to a Direct Message by including a special link in your response. Simply click the Include Direct Message Link option when you're crafting your response, and Twitter will convert this unique link into a special button that users can click on to initiate sending you a Direct Message, all without having to worry about Twitter permissions!

We recommend only moving to DM if you really need to. When you have a feed of responses moving all of your non-sensitive conversations to DM, onlookers might wonder what you’re trying to keep private. When you do need to move to DM, it's great to explain why. You might like to say something like "I’d love to get some specific account information from you. Why don’t we do that in private over DM. Care to click on the link below?"


Set up Twitter Searches and engage with more users

By default, Reply will pull in Tweets that you're @mentioned in. While that’s enough for many folks, others prefer to know more about what is being said about their brand on Twitter, even if they’re not @mentioned in the post.

Twitter Searches allow you to specify keywords, phrases, and hashtags that you'd like to track. Once your Twitter Searches have been set up in your Reply account, they'll start flowing into your Team Inbox, alongside the conversations you're @mentioned in. Learn more about implementing Twitter searches here.

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