As consumers continue turning to social media as a forum to express themselves, more of the world’s top brands are realizing the importance of joining the conversation and providing value to customers who are asking for it, and even those who aren’t.

One of the best ways to join these conversations is to create a Twitter handle dedicated to serving customer needs that is separate from your business’ main account. Not only does this approach prevent dilution of brand messaging, it also gives you a way to provide meaningful content and tips from a valid source.

Research from the social media analytics firm Simply Measured found that more 32 percent of top brands now have dedicated customer service handles on Twitter. This particular study is based on a single day of customer service presence and activity, and is repeated every three months. This past March saw the biggest increase, going from 23 percent in December 2012 to 30 percent.

More important than the number of dedicated accounts is the frequency of activity on these accounts. On June 1st, 19 percent of top brands sent 10 tweets or more, as opposed to 15 percent who did so on December 1st. Additionally, 13 percent of top brands sent 50 tweets or more from the account, compared to just seven percent in December.

While top brands are making more of an effort to practice customer support on social media, many of them are still struggling to scale their efforts. The very same study found that the average customer service response time on Twitter was 4.6 hours in June. Although a reply is better late than never, an earlier study found that 32 percent of consumers expect a response within 30 minutes.

That’s not to say that if you don’t meet the 30-minute deadline that all hope is lost. According to a Harris survey, 18 percent of people who posted negative reviews and received a reply went on to become loyal customers. Your current team might not be built for around-the-clock monitoring, but there are tools that can help make the process a lot more manageable.

The first step is knowing where your performance stands currently and building from there. We also recommend taking a moment to read through some tips for maintaining a strong customer service Twitter handle from GM’s Michael Savoni.

[Image credit: Garry Knight]