Are you responding quickly enough to your customers on social media?

Sure, we obviously want to get around to our mentions and messages as soon as they roll in.

The reality, though? Recent research highlights how many brands are dropping the ball when it comes to social responses.

And this spells opportunity for businesses that are able to get back to their customers ASAP.

If you’re not sure if you’re responding quickly enough on social media, we’ve got you covered.

In this guide, we’ll break down what customers expect in terms of your social media response time and how to speed yours up.

What’s considered an average response time on social media?

For starters, let’s look at what customers expect in terms of response time. Here’s some fresh data based on the 2020 Sprout Social Index:

40% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media, while 79% expect a response in the first 24 hours.

In other words, the majority of customers expect a same-day response from brands on social media.

However, note that many brands aren’t just struggling to respond in a timely manner. They’re struggling to respond, like, at all.

Here’s a snapshot of our industry-specific data is it pertains to social media responses:

Average brand response rates by industry reveal that legal and real estate businesses have the highest average response rate (29%) while sports have the lowest (7%). 

social media response time data by industry

The takeaway from this data? Simply offering support via social isn’t enough anymore: brands need to mind their speed when it comes to responding to customers.

Why social media response time matters so much

The need to respond to social queries is a no-brainer. Nobody wants to purposely ignore their customers.

There are bigger implications for increasing your average response time other than providing “good” customer service via social, though.

Below are some data-driven reasons why brands need to prioritize social media as a support channel.

More and more customers rely on social for support

According to recent data from Intercom, nearly half of support teams have cited a 51% increase in inbound volume in the wake of COVID-19.

And you better believe that social media is part of that equation.

Quicker than email and avoiding the potentially awkward back-and-forth of a phone call, there are plenty of reasons why consumers prefer social media as a support channel. More questions and support tickets at large means more folks turning to social media for answers.

This is exactly why we’re seeing more support-specific accounts emerge (particularly via Twitter customer service).

salesforce twitter support example

Although phone and email might be seen as “priority” channels, the boom of social questions isn’t going away. If anything it’s poised to spike.

Quick responses result in more loyal customers

In short, your social media response time goes hand in hand with customer loyalty.

Recent research from Gartner notes that customers are significantly more likely to stick with a brand long-term when their service expectations are met.

Repeat customers and brand advocates aren’t a “sure thing” if you aren’t consistent and attentive with your customer care. This rings true on social media as well.

And if you’re wondering if such speedy responses are possible, look no further than brands such as Glossier. Known for their die-hard fanbase, the brand makes a point to rapidly respond to customer concerns via social. Peek the timestamp(s) on this support Tweet for reference.

Glossier's social media response time is oftentimes under an hour

Speedy customer service gives you a competitive advantage

According to recent Sprout Index data, 44% of consumers also say customer service distinguishes a brand from its peers.

Piggybacking on the previous point, having a fast social media response time means keeping customers from bouncing to competitors.

Think about it. If a brand fails to respond or leaves a bad taste in your mouth, chances are there’s a competitor that’s just a Tweet or DM away.

Poor customer service costs businesses up to $75 billion in the United States alone. As noted earlier, this spells opportunity for companies who can meet (and exceed!) social media response expectations and connect to customers faster.

6 ways to speed up your social media response time

You know that you need to speeds things up in terms of responses. But how do you make it happen?

Good question! Here are six ideas to help you put together a social media response plan that addresses customer concerns ASAP.

1. Merge your social comms into a single platform

This is the big one.

If you’re active across multiple social channels, you’re responsible for managing messages, questions and comments across each of ’em.

For example, Black Milk Clothing provides personalized, timely replies to their followers on Instagram…black milk instagram response

…Twitter…

black milk twitter response

and Facebook, all without missing a beat.

black milk facebook response

However, juggling multiple platforms and messages can be messy as more and more replies roll in. Doing so is likewise a potentially huge time-sink.

That’s why brands should consolidate their social communications into a single platform like Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox. Rather than jump from Twitter to Instagram and so on, you can monitor your mentions and message history in one place (and in real-time).

consolidating your social presence in one platform via sprout is a smart way to improve your social media response time

Another added bonus of using a tool like Sprout is that you can collaborate with team members without stepping on each other’s toes. Having more folks on your social team allows you to divide and conquer questions from customers, and having a collaboration tool is a great way to reduce your social media response time.

2. Use suggested replies to address common concerns

When it comes to social questions and comments, chances are you have your “usual suspects.”

For example, maybe your product has a particular feature that customers are often confused about. Perhaps customers have questions about your shipping policy.

Either way, having saved and suggested replies handy can help you take care of such questions without having to write them out manually. Here’s what suggested replies look like Sprout Social:

suggested replies can speed up your social media response time and reduce time spent writing manual messages

The idea here isn’t to totally copy-and-paste your social customer services. In reality, brands should find a balance between speed and personalization. Suggested replies can help by maintaining accuracy around key messages like brand voice or product specs, while freeing up more time and bandwidth for your social team to add the personal touch to consumer care.

Let’s look at some real-world examples where suggested replies can be handy. This response from Quip feels like it was written by a human (and perhaps it was), but is general enough that it could have been pre-written.

getquip twitter response

Here’s another example from Smile Direct Club.

smile direct club instagram social media response

When you’re responding to dozens or hundreds of comments per day, having suggested responses in your back pocket is a massive time-saver.

3. Guide your customers to the right support channels

Keep in mind that there is no “right” way to respond via social media.

Don’t use your Instagram DMs? Do you exclusively provide support via email, support page or separate social account?

No problem. That said, you need to let your customers know.

For example, your social bio is a prime place to remind followers of the best way to reach you or your company. Here’s an example from Corsair’s Twitter.

one way to increase your social media response time is to guide followers to the right support channels

The here takeaway is that you shouldn’t leave your customers questioning the best way to get in touch with you.

4. Let chatbots help route questions efficiently

More and more businesses are investing in social media automation and rightfully so.

Specifically, companies are using chatbots to engage with customers as soon as they reach out. Bots enable you to have an instant social media response time, albeit without an in-person rep present.

Even so, chatbots are ideal for any combination of the following:

  • Showcasing your knowledge base
  • Addressing basic and frequently asked questions
  • Routing your customers to the appropriate support channels (think: email, live chat)
chatbots are a proven way to use automation to improve your social media response time

Oh, and setting up chatbots isn’t reserved solely for big businesses anymore. You can actually set up a Messenger bot yourself or with the help of Sprout’s own Bot Builder.

5. Prioritize your social mentions based on urgency

As noted earlier, social mentions obviously shouldn’t be ignored or fall by the wayside.

But remember that some mentions and messages are more important than others.

For example, companies need to be able to prioritize messages that are going to impact your bottom line or reputation versus friendly shout-outs. Response time is critical when dealing with a potential social media crisis such as an outage or offensive post that’s gone viral.

When looking at your mentions, pick your battles and decide what needs your attention right now. This all speaks to the importance of consolidating your social mentions into an efficient inbox and not having to jump between platforms to respond.

6. Set benchmarks to improve your average response time

There are plenty of social media metrics that you’re probably already tracking, but what about your average response time?

Much like you strive to boost your engagement rate or follower count, you should likewise understand what your social response times look like so you can improve it.

But until you start actively tracking your response metrics, you’ll never know where you stand.

With Sprout Social, you can see front-and-center how many many messages you’ve sent and received, what your reply rate is and your average response time in minutes.

sprout engagement report

You can even drill down further to see how individual employees are performing in terms of their response time.

Sprout team report showing average response time

Based on these metrics, you can better understand your benchmarks in terms of responses and what actions you need to take to improve. The end result is a data-driven approach to social media that prioritizes getting back to customers in a timely manner.

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

How fast is your social media response time?

The faster you respond to your customers and followers, the better.

With the tips above and tools such as Sprout, you can put together a social media response time plan that finds the perfect balance between personalization and speed.

And if you haven’t already, make sure to check out the latest Sprout Social Index which details the latest trends and expectations of social marketers in 2020 and beyond.