Instagram DMs can be a powerful channel for customer service and cultivating relationships with your audience. However, overwhelming message volumes, inefficient workflows and a lack of structure can prevent social media teams from making the most of this engagement—and even hamper response times. Add on all of this to juggling Instagram management between your mobile phone separate from the rest of your social tools, and it’s no wonder some social teams feel overwhelmed. 

If some of these challenges sound familiar, you’re not alone. In fact over the past few years, Sprout has received more than 1,000 requests for Instagram DM management in Sprout to help alleviate inbox chaos. Thanks to our partnership with Facebook, we’re excited to roll this feature out to more of our customers. As you get ready to take advantage of Instagram DMs in Sprout, we wanted to share some tips to not just keep your head above water, but to teach you how to expertly swim through your DMs.

In this article, we will walk you through three ways to build an efficient Instagram Inbox workflow:

  1. Create a plan and implement solutions to organize your message volume.
  2. Define your team’s roles and set up efficient workflows.
  3. Automate alerts so you never miss an important Instagram message.

The key to successfully balancing a high volume of Instagram DMs, story mentions, comments and @mentions is having the right systems and tools for the job. We’ll cover how to develop those systems, as well as how Sprout Social can help you further centralize and streamline all of your social messaging workflows. 

Priority #1: Create a plan and implement solutions to organize your message volume 

The importance of planning and organization to achieve your Instagram customer care and community management goals cannot be ignored. When you’re managing a constant stream of incoming DMs, or your brand suddenly goes viral and a wave of @mentions floods in, having the right inbox infrastructure in place can make all the difference. 

What does that organization look like? It can be as simple as identifying relevant message types or customer service message categories that you and your team should prioritize. For example, you may find that Instagram DMs tend to include escalated customer frustrations more than post comments. Similarly, responding to messages about shipping or order issues may be a more time-sensitive priority than quick emoji reactions to a recent Instagram story. 

Understanding your priorities will help you focus your team and develop an infrastructure that elevates these important messages. Here are a few ways to further build out and automate some of these solutions using Sprout Social:

  • Create Tags for different customer service categories. For example, you can create Tags for “Shipping/Returns,” “Damaged Items,” “Customer Love” or anything else that’s important for your team to respond to.
  • Automate message tagging and filter messages. Set up automated rules to tag incoming messages—e.g., every time someone mentions “return” or “refund,” it will automatically be tagged with “Shipping/Returns.” This lets your team filter only the type of messages you need to prioritize in order to cut down on noise.
  • Sort messages into Custom Inboxes. You could create a custom inbox view exclusive for Instagram DMs and comments tagged with “Damaged Items” to help you quickly address these types of messages. These custom views enable you to answer high priority messages first, then move on to the less time-sensitive messages.
  • Save your FAQs. Rather than typing out the same response 200 times a day, have brand- approved responses you can quickly send out. You can build these common responses into Sprout’s Asset Library. In two clicks, team members can populate appropriate responses to incoming messages, saving you time spent typing out responses to each frequently asked question multiple times a day. 
review messages and frequently asked questions in sprout social

Priority #2: Define your team’s roles and set up efficient Instagram workflows

Because social media team sizes and roles can vary, effective collaboration and clear responsibilities are essential. This could mean designating customer care team members with different escalation capabilities based on expertise, or social teams submitting certain responses for manager approval. With a high volume of messages, having multiple team members in your Instagram inbox trying to tackle responses can be a headache. 

Having infrastructure that clarifies each team member’s to-do’s and streamlines processes are critical to conquering your message volume. Here are a few ways to increase collaboration and to ensure your team members are working efficiently with Sprout Social:

  • Task messages to the right team member. If you’ve identified team members with specific expertise around certain customer care or product categories, or have a sense of each individual’s bandwidth, you can take advantage of tasking. Tasking ensures messages are assigned to the team members best suited to answer or who have bandwidth to respond. Tasking a message sends that team member a notification and a list of tasked messages to work through.
  • Send a reply message for approval. This is a great option if you need visibility into  certain responses (e.g., an angry customer with a unique customer care issue) from a manager or other approver. Reply approvals are built into an easy workflow where you can track the status of the approval, and see if the approver has accepted or rejected (with feedback) the reply.
  • Avoid responding to the same message with collision detection. Sprout will show if you and another coworker are interacting with the same message – helping you avoid duplicative work and a confusing customer experience.
manage team collaboration with sprout social

Priority #3: Automate alerts so you never miss an important Instagram message

Have you ever had a stress dream about a social media faux pas, typo or missing an important message? This is where setting up back up systems and automations can give you peace of mind, while also giving your customers a better experience when engaging with your brand on Instagram. You’re only human, after all—so leverage the tools at your disposal to make your life, and social media inbox management, easier. 

The word automation can sound intimidating, especially when it comes to social media. But creating an automation doesn’t have to necessitate writing complex code or using autoresponders. Sprout lets social and customer care teams quickly create automations to ensure no messages or milestones slip through the cracks:

  • Never miss an important message with custom mobile push notifications. Let’s say Instagram DMs and comments are important from a customer care standpoint for your brand, same with @mentions on Twitter. You can set up custom push notifications just for these message types, triggering an alert when an important message comes in. 
  • Stay in the know with Spike Alerts for high volumes of incoming messages. A sudden influx of messages could signal a number of scenarios: Maybe your brand accidentally went viral or (unbeknownst to your team) a new product is showing up consistently damaged. Regardless, Spike Alerts will help you identify a crisis, or opportunity, preemptively rather than innocently logging onto Instagram only to be crushed by 10x the normal amount of messages. 
  • Add specific users to VIP lists. VIP lists allow you to segment inbound messages from loyal customers, influencers or even brand trolls. In Sprout, you can opt to receive alerts whenever a message drops from a VIP, simply mark the message as complete or hide them. These automated features are simple, but will provide a backup so you never miss important messages and hopefully rest easier.
respond to instagram dms directly from sprout social

Dive into easier Instagram management 

Customer care and community engagement on Instagram can be challenging. But the right planning and tools can free up time previously spent slogging through your Instagram inbox so you can focus on more strategic work. We at Sprout are very excited to continue integrating Instagram DMs into Sprout’s Smart Inbox and hope the tips above are helpful in navigating,  organizing and responding to a high volume of Instagram DMs. 

To get started developing optimal workflows and automations for your Instagram management, start a free 30-day trial of Sprout today.