Although most brands utilize Facebook Pages for marketing, many are still struggling to take advantage of its customer service benefits. It was recently reported that only five percent of comments on brands’ Facebook Pages ever receive replies.

That metric is shockingly low considering the volume of consumers that turn to social media to communicate with brands. The thing about social media is that you need to be social — and talk to your customers. If you’re not engaging with your audience, you’re missing out on valuable feedback. You’re also running the risk of losing these customers altogether. To avoid that particular outcome, here’s how to effectively use Facebook for customer support.

Determine Who Will Monitor Your Page

The first step in establishing an effective customer support strategy on Facebook is to decide who will monitor your Facebook Page. Certainly your community manager should be involved in monitoring and updating your page, but your customer support team should keep a close eye on it as well. There will be times when a more technical question is asked and an additional explanation will be required. This is especially true of the tech industry, where bugs are a common concern.

AT&T was one of the first companies to have a dedicated support team monitoring its Facebook Page. Members of the customer care team use their real first names to respond to questions publicly on the Wall. “One of the key aspects for customer care on Facebook is that we have our seasoned managers on the Page, so they are empowered to respond and resolve issues quickly,” explained Chris Baccus, AT&T’s Executive Director of Digital and Social Media.

Set Expectations for Your Customers

The worst thing a brand can do in terms of social media is to create some type of “talk to us” prompt — be it a Facebook Page, an email, or a comment form on a website — and then ignore all of the comments that come in.

Companies like Dell have created a separate tab for its support community on Facebook. It allows customers to help each other as well as contact the brand directly. It also removes a lot of additional conversation from the Wall. Having a dedicated place for support is beneficial so customers know that their voice will be heard and not buried below multiple status updates.

If there are reasons why you can’t, or won’t, respond to support questions on your page, be sure to communicate that up front. For example, JetBlue makes it clear in its “About” section that it won’t respond to support issues. The company provides visitors with alternative support channels in that message. Make sure this information is displayed prominently; don’t just assume that your customers know where to go.

Put the Social in Social Media

Communication shouldn’t be one-sided. If your customers take the time to reach out, then return the favor and respond, even if it’s just to say thank you. You should avoid posting repetitive and canned responses to questions. It’s best to personalize your message as often as possible, letting your fans know that there’s a real human being behind the account.

Don’t wait for your customers to address an issue; start a conversation around a new feature or service. Use this as an opportunity to get constructive user feedback.

Don’t be afraid to let your customers talk to one another. Conversations created around your brand are not a bad thing. Be sure to keep an eye on the conversations, though. You may need to step in if conversations creep beyond the parameters of your brand.

This is your opportunity not only to learn what your customers love and hate, but to understand why they feel that way. It’s also your chance to quickly address and resolve issues and prevent negative feedback being shared on other platforms. You might not be able to control what people say about you, but your actions (or lack thereof) will influence your customers’ opinion of your brand.

[Image credits: Hash Milhan, Lamont Cranston, Jonathan PowellPhil Gilbert]