Is Social Media Customer Service Right for Your Brand?

person using both laptop and smartphone

In theory, social media customer service is ideal. It’s fast, it’s free or inexpensive, and it’s what many customers prefer. However, not all brands will benefit equally from a social media-based customer service strategy, and for some brands, it may end up being a detriment.

Which businesses benefit most from social media customer service? And how do you handle social media customer service properly?

The Pros and Cons of Social Media Customer Service

The easiest way to understand the nuances of social media customer service is to analyze it in terms of its benefits and drawbacks.

These are some of the biggest advantages of social media customer service:

  • Instantaneous nature. You probably know from personal experience that most people seeking customer service want an answer as quickly as possible. On social media, messages are exchanged instantaneously, and thanks to automated chatbots, you can give some customers responses within seconds. This leads to higher customer satisfaction and a faster inquiry turnaround.
  • Appeal to customers. Almost two-thirds of customers would rather message a brand than call it. There are several possible explanations for this, but the bottom line is that many of your customers will prefer social media to other customer service channels.
  • Inexpensiveness. On most social media platforms, you can start a business account for free and start using messaging services without paying a dime. You may have to spend some money on extra features, but these are usually inexpensive. Compared to hiring a full staff of customer service agents or investing in more robust software, this is quite affordable.
  • Semi-public visibility. Private messages are always an option for social media customer service, but you also have the option to field queries and respond to them in public. In some cases, this can be advantageous since you’ll get the opportunity to show how much your brand cares about its customers.

However, you also need to be wary of the drawbacks:

  • The learning curve. Getting used to all the customer service tools available to you on a given social media platform does take some time. Training and educating your staff members can be both expensive and time-consuming.
  • Demographic variables. Not all people appreciate social media customer service equally. If you’re targeting older demographics or people who don’t typically have social media accounts, your efforts might be wasted.
  • Available resources. Automation is a staple in the modern world of social media customer service, but you still need to have agents on standby to take over when necessary. If you already have a customer service team, this may not be a problem.
  • Semi-public visibility. The semi-public visibility of your customer service on social media can also be a drawback. Customer complaints might be more visible, and customer service blunders could end up going viral, hurting your reputation in the process.

How to Manage Social Media Customer Service Effectively

If you decide that social media customer service is the right fit for your brand, these are the strategies that can help you manage it effectively:

  • Get to know your audience. Before you start delving into the world of social media customer service, make sure you understand whether or not your specific audience will appreciate this new addition. Are your target audience members frequently on social media? Do they prefer social media to other channels? Don’t blindly assume that your market will benefit from this.
  • Choose the right channels. Different social media channels offer different advantages and disadvantages. For example, Facebook benefits from being one of the most popularly used and most accessible platforms available – but its demographic mix may not be favorable for your brand. Choose the right channels for your brand and try not to spread your social media customer service team too thin by forcing them to jump from platform to platform.
  • Advertise your availability. Nobody will use your social media accounts for customer service if they don’t know that customer service is available there. Make sure you advertise your availability and encourage customers to tap into these resources. You can incentivize even more participation by showing off how quickly you can respond on social media compared to other channels.
  • Use as much automation as possible. Automation features, like automatic responses, save you time, save you money and improve the consistency of your customer service strategy overall. Tap into the power of automation as often as possible so you can reap these benefits to the max.
  • Be prepared to deal with PR issues. Sooner or later, a complaint or negative comment will be publicly leveraged against your brand. You need to be prepared to deal with this. Responding calmly and politely is usually the best approach; never delete or try to hide a negative comment, or you’ll just draw more attention to it. Similarly, you shouldn’t get into arguments with people on social media. Even if you’re in the right, the better approach is to accept what they’re saying and strive for an expedient resolution.

Social media customer service isn’t the right fit for every company. Your demographics may not be interested in this channel, it may not be a good fit for your products and services, or it may be too challenging to take on in your current state. 

However, if social media does work for you, you can tap into its full potential with even the most elementary strategies.