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Customer service in social media is no longer new, and the majority of companies have at least some social presence on Facebook and/or Twitter. But the companies that are really crushing it in social customer care are constantly evolving and finding ways to get closer to customers and prospects. After all, just like in other parts of the customer journey, there is a craving for human interaction.

Here are 8 things your company can do to stay on the leading edge of social customer care:

  1. Set expectations. Most companies don’t need to have a 24/7 social media presence, but they do need to let their customers know ahead of time when they will be available for help. This should be done on each social channel’s profile page as well as your website. By managing expectations, you can avoid disappointment from customers trying to reach you when there are no customer service agents working.
  2. Listen to your customers. Feedback is a gift, even though sometimes it’s difficult to hear. When someone takes time out of their day to provide feedback to your company, it’s usually because they genuinely care. Compliments give companies valuable feedback about what they are doing right, and if they can do more of that, they can increase loyalty and retention. Complaints let companies know they are missing customer expectations and give them a chance to resolve what’s going wrong.
  3. Stay on channel. It is always best to answer the question on the channel of the customer’s choice if possible. Telling someone to call or email when they’ve just tweeted is just like telling someone who calls or emails to tweet instead. The customer knows you have other customer service channels, and has likely already tried them, but now has chosen to use social media. Plus it gives your company a chance to show others in the social community that you are responsive and provide great service. Your answer may event provide content to help others who had the same question. That all said, moving to direct messaging within the same channel is absolutely fine.
  4. Respond to everyone. Just as we shouldn’t let the phone ring without ever answering it, we also should let tweets and Facebook posts go unanswered. Whether they have a question, compliment, or complaint, customers and prospects expect and deserve a response. It’s OK to respond quickly and say that you’re working on the issue; it’s not OK to ignore or delete genuine customer complaints. The only exception here is a troll who only wants attention and not resolution.
  5. Embrace the positive. Unlike in other customer service channels, customers go to social media to say nice things about companies, too. In fact, they are often more willing to share a positive experience than a negative one; it’s just that most consumers don’t have many positive experiences to share. When someone compliments your brand, be sure to say thank you, engage back, and even offer a “Like” or retweet which will absolutely make their day.
  6. Know when to escalate. No matter how well you train your social care agents, there will always be situations that come up that you could not have predicted. For these it is important to have an escalation plan in place so agents know immediately to whom they should send a critical issue. Examples of escalation points include management, public relations, human resources, and even the police.
  7. Be proactive. Sometimes the best way to surprise and delight a customer or prospect is to engage with them when they least expect it. Companies can respond to indirect mentions (when the brand is referenced but not “tagged”), proactive alerts (telling customers that something is wrong before they have a chance to complain about it), industry mentions (when brands use social listening to identify trends or pain points within their larger industry), recognizing milestones (when brands reach out to people to celebrate an event or an accomplishment), or even competitor mentions.
  8. Get ready for messaging. The trends are clear: messaging is here to stay, and in fact is the main method of communication for younger generations. Messaging makes sense for both brands and consumers because it’s easy, fast, convenient, and the entire conversation history is maintained so customers don’t have to repeat themselves. Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM are two obvious social options, but don’t forget about WhatsApp, WeChat, Snapchat, and good ol’ SMS.

By actively participating in social media, companies can by portray the brand as interested, involved and engaging. It also helps prospects identify the company as one with which they would like to do business, and customers to see you as responsive and caring.

Done correctly, social customer care can result in some of your best marketing.