Social Media Customer Service: What it is and How to Improve it

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Social media customer service has become a consumer staple. The era of phone queues or endless email chains is long gone. Consumers today are commenting, tagging and sending direct messages to brands on their social channels. And why not, since immediate and accessible, social media provides a much-needed direct line between buyers and businesses and functions as a dynamic customer care hub.

However, what streamlines work on the consumer’s end can create internal confusion if processes don’t adapt to keep up. Is your business ready to tackle high-volume service events across Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram and more? Are you prepared to manage the intricate workflows that come with handling different customer inquiries? If not, we’ve got the tips and tools you need to get it done.

This guide breaks down how brands, like you, can create a seamless social media customer service strategy.

Table of contents:

What is social media customer service?

Social media customer service is the support you offer your customers across social networks like Facebook and Instagram. Customers can request assistance via DM, a review site or through their social posts. The time it takes to triage that request and respond appropriately is what sets apart good from great social customer service. It involves not just answering queries, but actively listening and engaging with your audience.

A Booking.com customer, for example, posted on X and tagged them.

A post on X showcasing a Booking.com customer complaint and the brand’s response in trying to solve the issue.

Note how Booking.com responded to this customer complaint within 24 hours. Considering 69% of customers expect a response the same day according to the Sprout Social Index™ Booking.com’s quick, empathetic reply sets a benchmark.

Data visualization from The Sprout Social Index™ illustrating how quickly consumers expect a response from brands on social in 2022 and 2023. In 2023, nearly 70% expect a response within 24 hours or less. In 2022, 77% of consumers expected a response within 24 hours or less.

This way, customer care is about proactively meeting your customers’ needs. In terms of social media customer care, that means:

  • Having a self-service help center
  • Educating customers about your product via social content
  • Interacting with customers consistently (even before they make a purchase)
  • Having answers and information on hand before someone reaches out
  • Offering personalized service that goes beyond automated responses

Responsiveness and resources ensure customers feel heard and valued, turning potential crises into opportunities for brand reinforcement.

Why is social media customer service important?

Social media is where your customers are. They’re already chatting, sharing and asking questions on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and X. Social media is central to top-quality customer care. Providing support there means meeting them on their turf, making interactions more convenient and immediate.

Social media customer service stats highlight how marketers are shifting their resources to scale social customer care via self-service tools, advanced social media tools, AI and automation. Here are three ways social customer care impacts your brand and makes it non-negotiable:

Boost customer loyalty

Social media creates a personal connection with customers. Based on a June 2023 survey of ~900 US and UK social marketers, our research shows that 63% of consumers agree that the quality of customer support they receive on social media significantly influences their loyalty to a brand.

This isn’t surprising when you consider the real-time, conversational nature of social media platforms. They aren’t just for complaints—they’re for building relationships.

For example, a customer tagged us on X regarding a query.

A post on X showcasing Sprout Social responding to a customer’s questions.

We continued the conversation publicly, showing not just that individual but also our wider audience how committed we are to customer satisfaction. It’s not just about the initial response—it’s about the ongoing dialogue, ensuring we resolve every issue to the customer’s satisfaction.

This transparency builds trust and demonstrates our dedication—key ingredients in boosting customer loyalty. Every interaction is an opportunity to prove that we’re listening and care, turning casual customers into loyal advocates.

Such proactive and attentive engagement transforms customer interactions into loyalty-building moments. It shows the company values every customer’s voice and is committed to improving the user experience.

Increase brand awareness

When you engage positively with customers online, it’s not just a private interaction. These exchanges are often public, meaning hundreds, if not thousands, of other users have the potential to see each one. It’s a powerful form of indirect marketing that boosts brand awareness.

Social media usage stats show that the amount of time internet users spend on social media is 151 minutes per day. A viral post or reply can quickly spiral into a wide-reaching discussion, putting your brand in front of eyes that might never have seen it otherwise.

Take Notion, for example. When an X user posted this, many chimed in with feedback.

Notion didn’t just view this from the sidelines—it responded with a message and a short video compilation.

A post showcasing Notion’s reply aggregating customer feedback on the thread.

Metrics show that over 1,000 people viewed Notion’s response. The post, along with the response, was likely discussed further, creating a ripple effect that significantly increased Notion’s visibility and improved its brand image.

Enhance crisis management and response

Social customer care, when coupled with social listening tools that flag certain terms, improves your crisis management skills.

Here’s the truth: news, especially bad news, travels fast. People are more likely to post about negative experiences than positive ones in hopes of attracting a brand’s attention.

But a study also shows that nearly 9 out of 10 people (88%) are more likely to look past a negative review if they see that the business responded and appropriately addressed the issue. By being present and responsive on these platforms, you can address concerns before they escalate.

Haircare brand Prose, for example, faced backlash when an ad campaign used natural hair to depict a ‘bad hair day.’

A post on X showcasing a customer complaint regarding Prose’s ad campaign.

This move, understandably, upset many who saw it as a misrepresentation. Prose issued an apology, acknowledged the insensitivity of their portrayal and emphasized their commitment to celebrating all hair types.

This prompt and sincere response mitigated the issue, showcasing Prose’s responsiveness and willingness to listen to customer feedback. Such actions are crucial to maintain customer trust and manage the brand’s reputation in times of crisis.

10 tips for providing good social customer service

Let’s say you have a basic social media support strategy in place, but you want to increase your efficiency. Below are ten ways to beef up your approach.

1. Use a social media customer service tool

A social media customer service tool allows you to monitor and engage with customer service inquiries across social media platforms from one central location.

Why is this important? It streamlines the process and ensures no customer queries slip through the cracks and allows for quicker, more efficient responses. Marketing, sales and customer service teams can track conversations, analyze sentiment and manage your team’s workflow.

Take Sprout Social, for example. It enables you to monitor and respond to customer inquiries but also provides in-depth analytics to track your customer service performance.

Preview of Sprout’s Inbox Activity dashboard with metrics such as total received messages, total actioned messages and action rate.

It helps eliminate manual and menial tasks like checking notifications and switching between different social media platforms to free up your team to focus on more strategic initiatives. This means more time spent understanding customer needs, personalizing responses and building strategies that turn casual followers into loyal brand advocates.

Plus, use Sprout’s Suggestions by AI Assist to get alternative replies to enhance tone of voice or build a more elaborate response. Respond faster to commonly asked questions and allocate your mental effort to where it really matters.

2. Conduct a social customer service audit

There’s no sense in making changes for the sake of it. For a truly effective process revamp, conduct a social media audit of what’s currently working with your social media customer service strategy and what’s not.

A SWOT analysis can provide meaningful insights into where and how you can improve. What about your process is going well? Where are there roadblocks or bottlenecks? A candid conversation with your team will reveal where changes can be made.

For example, if you’re managing a high volume of messages split across multiple networks, it may be time to use Case Management within our Smart Inbox to consolidate billions of social conversations across major social networks and review sites so you can efficiently manage customer inquiries, at scale.

Preview of Sprout’s Case Management dashboard with filters like teams, assignees and statuses.

3. Create an internal tracking system

Good customer service creates a feedback loop that improves processes and products.

You need a way to monitor common issues that should be addressed at a company level, such as correcting an ongoing problem in your shipping process or identifying a recurring product defect. You also need to generate reports to make sure your plan is succeeding. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet.

The Tag feature in Sprout allows you to tag incoming messages with any created tag, such as “feature request” or “product complaint.” This way, you can quickly run a report on these tags to see what’s trending.

A screenshot of Sprout’s Tag Performance Report, which allows users to run a report on Tagged messages for more custom reporting options.

Preview of Sprout’s Tag Performance dashboard with metrics like post impressions, post engagements and post clicks.

Any service report you generate should also include how quickly you can respond and, if enabled, how pleased someone is with your service. This feedback loop encourages you to continuously improve your quality of service.

This way, keep a pulse on customer experiences on social, eliminate stale data for good and empower stronger decision-making.

4. Personalize canned responses to increase customer engagement

The most important thing you can do as a brand is to make your customers feel like you’re listening and addressing their unique needs and preferences.

Empathetic, personalized customer service builds trust, increases customer engagement, and improves customer retention.

At the same time, crafting replies from scratch isn’t sustainable especially when it’s a balancing act between different channels. You have to create canned responses—saved messages support reps can roll out when responding to customers. These replies cover anything from general “thank yous” to specific concerns.

Luckily, Sprout’s multiple AI-enabled tools speed up social customer care while still infusing every response with your personality.

The Suggested Replies tool gives responses based on semantic search algorithms that enable the tool to automatically understand the context of an incoming message.

And, if you’re using social customer service response templates based on your customers’ frequently asked questions, you can use Sprout’s Enhance by AI Assist feature to adjust the response’s tone and length.

5. Standardize your brand’s social customer service voice

Having multiple people manage social media customer care means there’s more chance of your voice getting diluted.

You want your social approach to be cohesive across promotions, posts and service responses. It’s possible to have a “pun-tastic” attitude for original posts and a more conciliatory tone for customer complaints. Alternatively, you could go the TGI Fridays’ route and incorporate conversational cues directly from your audience.

A post on X showcasing TGI Friday's response to a customer.

However you approach it, document and create a brand voice strategy, so everyone on your team knows how to represent the brand on social media.

6. Document an escalation management strategy

There may be times when you can’t resolve a situation in the public sphere. Those instances call for a documented escalation management strategy.

Outline what types of situations should be escalated to a private channel like DMs or ticket support. For example, if a conversation gets contentious or personal information needs to be shared, it’s probably time to take things off the feed, the way ticketing platform StubHub does.

A comment thread on Facebook showing StubHub resolving a customer’s issues.

This way, reps only handle challenges within their wheelhouse and that teams solve customer issues quickly and efficiently.

7. Uncover crucial customer conversations with monitoring and listening

A social customer service strategy must include social listening.

With so many conversations happening via social, keeping track of every mention is often chaotic. That’s why so many brands today rely on monitoring and listening tools to uncover:

Brand mentions that aren’t directly @tagged (or misspelled brand mentions)

Competitor mentions related to your business, such as call-outs or comparisons

Compliments and shout-outs that could result in more positive customer sentiment

Listening is also invaluable for uncovering your customers’ frequently asked questions. For example, here’s a word cloud from Sprout’s Listening features that visualizes the top keywords, mentions, emoticons and hashtags found in a specified topic:

Preview of Sprout’s Listening Messages dashboard.

Alt text: Preview of Sprout’s Listening Messages dashboard.

For example, customer service metrics may show an uptick in volume about a specific feature or bug. You may realize that customers are stuck on the same few product features or questions. Tracking these changes via listening and writing canned responses is a win-win for your social team.

Gathering voice of customer data gives you a more comprehensive understanding of what your customers want and need. A listening tool makes the process much easier.

8. Learn from negative feedback

Don’t just use social customer service to resolve customer issues in the moment. Negative feedback is a goldmine of information that refines your product, service and customer interactions. Identify gaps in your service and pinpoint opportunities for improvement.

Consider WestJet. The airline received a post from a customer who complained that despite being promised priority service, they ended up waiting an extended period for their baggage.

WestJet airline received a post from a customer who complained that despite being promised priority service, they ended up waiting an extended period for their baggage.

This feedback was not just a complaint but highlighted a broader issue in the baggage handling process for priority and platinum customers. WestJet took this feedback seriously and promised to investigate the root cause and make necessary changes to ensure it upheld the promise of priority service. It shows its dedication to improving the experience for high-tier customers but also shows its commitment to listening and responding to customer feedback.

View negative feedback as an opportunity. Take insights from social media interactions and translate them into actionable changes that improve customer satisfaction.

9. Use AI

AI in customer service refers to using tools powered by machine learning (ML), sentiment analysis and natural language processing (NLP) to provide support to customers.

Customer service teams use these technologies to draw patterns between customer service interactions and use GPT technologies to respond. An AI-backed customer service team can then scale customer service functions, deliver more proactive customer service and improve the quality of customer support.

But how exactly do you use AI? Three areas to focus on:

  • Set up customer service chatbots: Implement chatbots powered by GPT and NLP to handle routine inquiries. These bots understand and respond to customer queries in a human-like manner to provide quick and accurate support.
  • Personalize customer interactions: AI analyzes previous interactions to suggest replies that are tailored to individual customer needs and preferences. For example, the Enhance by AI Assist feature in Sprout suggests response length and tone, making each interaction more personal and effective.
  • Analyze customer sentiment: AI tools assess the tone and intent behind customer messages, determining whether they’re happy, frustrated or anything in between. This insight allows customer service teams to prioritize responses and tailor their approach to improve the overall customer experience.

10. Provide support in multiple languages

Offering support in multiple languages means communicating with customers in their native or preferred language to make your service accessible to a wider audience.

Without language inclusivity and multilingual support, brands risk alienating a significant portion of potential customers who may feel misunderstood or undervalued due to language barriers.

Booking.com, for example, wasted no time in responding to this query in Spanish:

A post X showcasing a customer complaint and Booking.com’s response in another language.

 

By ensuring language isn’t a barrier, Booking.com provides a truly global service.

Four tips to improve multilingual support:

  • Understand cultural nuances: Language is deeply tied to culture. Train your team to understand cultural nuances, expressions and etiquette to avoid misunderstandings and provide respectful service.
  • Employ multilingual staff: Hire customer service representatives who are fluent in the languages your customers speak. This ensures clear, accurate and culturally relevant communications.
  • Use translation tools: Leverage technology such as AI-powered translation tools to provide accurate and instant translations. Ensure you regularly update these tools for quality and context.
  • Create localized content: Provide FAQs, guides and support content in multiple languages. This provides a way to preempt common questions and offer self-service options to customers worldwide.

Social media customer service examples that inspire

Now that you know the basics of providing stellar social media customer service, let’s check out some examples. Here are four brands that have mastered the art of creating lasting customer connections on social:

1. Marks and Spencer

Marks and Spencer’s social customer service stands out for its conversational and personable approach. The brand lets its personality shine by using language that friends might use in a natural setting. For example, in a complaint regarding one of their pizzas, M&S starts with “Oh no!” and adds emojis to express empathy and lighten the mood.

Screenshot of a complaint regarding one of their pizzas, where M&S starts with “Oh no!” and adds emojis to express empathy and lighten the mood.

Such nuances turn an otherwise robotic conversation into something more genuine.

For lighthearted issues, like this issue with a Peppa Pig jelly, M&S adopts a humorous tone:

A post X showcasing a customer complaint regarding Mark’s and Spencer’s jelly and the brand’s response.

This tone of voice humanizes the brand and might even result in a chuckle or two from their customers.

An approach like this addresses its customers’ immediate needs and reinforces a positive approach to brand image.

2. Selfridges

Luxury department store Selfridge makes social customer support by clearly stating support hours and maintaining a helpful FAQ section.

A preview of Selfridges’ X account highlighting their customer service hours and directions to their FAQ.

The brand also responds to customer issues quickly which shows their commitment to efficiency. Where it really stands out though is its consistency.

Despite multiple team members handling their social accounts, responses maintain the same tone, reflecting a well-documented strategy that ensures uniformity in tone and approach.

Two posts on X showcasing Selfridges’ consistent replies to customer complaints.

Two posts on X showcasing Selfridges’ consistent replies to customer complaints.

Their interactions never feel robotic—they’re personalized and infused with the brand’s distinct voice. This balance of efficiency, consistency and personal touch underscores Selfridges’ dedication to a superior customer service experience, mirroring the luxury and care associated with their brand.

3. Microsoft

Microsoft optimizes customer support by setting up a separate X account for customer issues. The team isn’t just fast to respond—they customize each response to their customers’ specific issues.

A post on X showcasing Microsoft Support’s reply to a customer complaint.

What makes its social customer support even better is how the team follows up. If you don’t get back to them, they’ll reach out to ensure everything’s resolved.

This approach shows a caring team behind the screen, dedicated to your satisfaction and ready to go the extra mile to help.

4. TD Canada

TD Canada offers support across multiple platforms, including X and Messenger. Multiple channels make it super easy to reach out whenever customers need a hand.A post on X showcasing TD Canada’s reply to a customer complaint. A post on X showcasing TD Canada’s reply to a customer complaint.

But TD’s not just present on these channels—they’re prompt. TD understands that with banking, time is of the essence which is why, when you send a message, they reply instantly wherever you contact them.

A screenshot showcasing TD Canada’s prompt reply to a customer complaint on Messenger.

This quick accessibility reflects the bank’s commitment to convenience and immediate assistance, making banking queries and concerns less of a hassle for you.

Modernize your approach to social media customer service

Social media is the most accessible touchpoint for customers today. It’s a suggestion box, customer service desk and call center—all in one. Modernize and automate your social media customer service to meet consumers’ evolving expectations.

Sprout Social uses AI to analyze customer sentiment, predict service needs and personalize interactions, significantly enhancing response quality and speed. With advanced tools like this, your team can focus on strategy and building stronger customer relationships.

Try out our social customer service tool today and give your teams the resources to provide quality customer care.


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