In the digital age of instant information, more businesses rely on social customer care strategies more than ever. No matter the size of the company, you still want to respond to your customers who have ideas for improvements, want to leave a compliment or make a complaint.

However, you might not have the manpower or funds to hire a customer service team to immediately log, track and respond to customer concerns. But instead of thinking about the office full of people with headsets in cubicles taking phone calls, imagine you and your employees managing all queries through a social customer service platform.

Some may believe this is a pretty great idea, but you and your employees simply don’t have the customer service background.

That’s fine.

On social media, you earn so much respect as a business by simply being present and talking to your audience. Social customer care is all about engagement, which means as you work toward building customer relationships, you fill your customer service needs.

What is Social Customer Care?

If you’re still unsure on what is social customer care, you’re not alone. Numerous businesses don’t have a social customer care plan because they can’t separate the idea of social customer care and customer service.

Simply put, social customer care provides support through multiple social media channels, whether it’s B2B or B2C. This strategy addresses customer loyalty and increases sales through social media engagement and interactions. According to a Nielsen report, more than one-third of customers prefer to contact businesses for customer support questions through social media.

In fact, a ZenDesk report discovered customer support expectations are quickly growing for businesses. Of those surveyed, 45% of customers said they would try any channel for support as long as it resolves the issue. Additionally, 89% of respondents said speed of resolution and response time was the most important factor to getting a question resolved.

The need for faster responses drives customers to reach out to businesses on social media. The problem is, how do you answer these concerns on social without taking up a ton of your time to do everything else? Don’t worry. We’ll get to that soon enough.

How Social Customer Care Equals Engagement

Again, you might not need or have the luxury to build a true customer service team for your business, but you can manage your customer’s problems effectively on social media. Social customer care is about engaging your audience and being a source for customers to reach out to you.

With social media, you have the best chance to resolve, address and connect with customers instantaneously without the office cubicles and angry people on the phone. Your audience simply wants an outlet where they can quickly reach you and social media is the perfect platform to take your communications with them.

The Q4 2015 Sprout Social Index explained 8 out of 9 customer service questions to businesses were not resolved within 72 hours. This is a huge deal for businesses who want to maintain customer service and be present across all social networks. Answering questions on social builds trust and ultimately creates a social relationship that could lead to future purchases.

Seeing an ROI on Your Social Media Customer Service

It’s important to know how critical social customer care relates to your engagement, reputation and ultimately your bottom line. It’s not easy convincing a business on social engagement, but once you can provide the social media analytics, the numbers suddenly speak clearly.

The truth is social media customer service directly relates to your overall sales. According to a report from Rosetta, customers were 5 times more likely to say “this is the only brand I would choose” when they are highly engaged by the business. The research also found that highly engaged customers were 70% more likely to interact with a brand’s promotional offer than those who are not engaged.

Engagement is social customer care when you get down to it. Your overall return on investment can have drastic impacts on your social effort. A Pew Research study found nearly 80% of customers between the ages 18 and 29 use their smartphones while shopping. These mobile actions could be for price comparisons, reading online reviews or reaching out to brands via social.

The need for instant information is crucial for any business, which is why social customer care should be at the top of your list for your marketing strategy.

Understanding the 3 Core Segments of Social Customer Care

As brands continue to engage on social, it’s important to know the three segments social customer care. Whether your company is big or small, you have to visualize your customer’s complete cycle.

You want to be present during a potential customer’s first interaction, to his or her purchasing decision and finally to how you plan to keep the customer coming back. Here we will discuss and dive deep into the three core segments of social customer care:

  1. Proactive Customer Care
  2. Pre-Emptive Customer Care
  3. Reactive Customer Care

1. The Value of Proactive Social Customer Care

Social customer care has to be proactive in the sense that you want your audience to be educated on your products, services or industry as much as possible. You can do this by breaking up your brand’s content with:

  • Infographics
  • Blog Posts
  • Guides
  • Case Studies
  • Checklists
  • Videos

There are many avenues in which you can direct your audience, but you have to be proactive so you can resolve customer concerns without needing additional support. This can free up business owners from answering every social customer question. Instead, you push the focus toward a social media manager that handles all one-on-one conversations.

When you educate your audience, you give them more resources to learn about what you do. Additionally, if you need to resolve an issue that often takes awhile to answer, you can have guides and other how-to content ready to give customers.

GE Lighting gave insights to its customer with helpful instructions that might not have always been readily available. The company was ready take on the likely reoccurring issue by being proactive with content. Staying in-tune with customer needs is absolutely necessary to providing the best social customer care.

2. Be On Point With Pre-Emptive Social Customer Care

It’s not that hard to educate your audience with proactive content and in fact, most businesses already do this. However, the biggest problem is many brands stop with the first step of social customer care, which leads to social channels being overfilled with impersonal product-based content. To fully engage your audience, you have to take it a step further and be pre-emptive by anticipating customer needs.

If you’re a larger corporation like Bank of America, you have to be ready for the various messages that come your way at all hours. BOA does a great job at listing where you can get info, the hours they’re available on social media and by alerting customers about national holidays when they’re offline.

You don’t have to a major enterprise to take these same social customer care steps. When you manage expectations online, you keep your audience informed and happy. Data from the 2016 Q1 Sprout Social Index noted that on average, brands receive nearly 11,000 messages on Twitter and Facebook each year.

However, only 10.7% of the messages receive a response. You can’t only focus on promotional content. You have to engage your customers when they reach out to you.

3. Stay Available with Reactive Social Customer Care

When customers reach out on social, they expect an answer just as if they emailed or called your business. ZenDesk discovered three out of four customers would return to the business if the company had great customer service.

This is why being reactive on social media is so critical to keeping customers happy. Customers love to be acknowledged when they reach out (and even more so when it’s a problem). You can’t let Tweets, Facebook posts or Instagram comments go unnoticed. Once you ignore the conversation, customers devalue your entire customer service efforts.

The Seattle-based record label Sub Pop receives comments on nearly all Instagram posts and ignoring them all could do more harm than good. For example, when Sub Pop posted an image of their Record Store Day setup at the Sea-Tac Airport, the label quickly responded to a question about the exact location, which could lead to a future purchase.

Sadly, not all brands are lucky enough to deal with easy questions. Other companies like Jimmy John’s receive hundreds of messages each day from customers. But with a reactive and immediate response strategy, they can address issues right away and regain the customer’s trust.

In this example, Jimmy John’s got the unhappy customer to Retweet the apology, which might not seem like a lot, but this is true engagement at its best. Now all of the people who follow the customer can see that Jimmy John’s cares even about the smallest problem.

How to Manage Social Customer Care Across Networks

Even the smallest business can still manage multiple social media accounts. You can’t limit your company to a single network, but instead, take advantage of the features from each platform.

Start by encouraging your customers to respond via Direct Message on Twitter, Instagram Direct and Facebook Messenger. The larger your business gets, the need for multiple Twitter accounts grows. More businesses are finding success with accounts to address news, support questions and career opportunities.

Single-Stream Social Media Inbox

Getting all your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @mentions in one place doesn’t have to be a tedious task of constantly logging in and out of your social networks. We understand the importance of your time, which is why Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox is the best way to keep content, inbound messages and other customer service notes organized in a single-stream platform.

You can easily set admin permissions to those who you want to answer any customer service questions as well as tag messages to specific account users. By working in a single-stream inbox, you don’t leave any messages behind.

Take control of your social customer care by easily reviewing your complete conversation history with customers. With our social media customer relationship tools, you can build lasting, positive social relationships that have the opportunity to impact all areas of your business.

Put Customers First

Every business has a responsibility for its customers and for the majority of you, positive interactions are a must. Investing in a social media management platform to keep your customer support team (or just yourself) organized will help you respond to issues faster, smarter and more efficiently.

It’s time to show your audience it’s not a computer controlling your social, but an actual person. People love social media because of the instant access to information. And if you’re going to invest in these channels, you have to be ready to interact and engage.