Social Media Customer Service: What’s Old Should Be New Again

The year was 2008. Comcast launched a Twitter account called @ComcastCares (now @xfinitysupport) to engage angry customers. This was when consumers joined social networks and used them to voice their displeasure with brands. They were vocal. Very vocal. And industry pundits had no problem amplifying those complaints and calling for brands to “join the conversation.”

Social Media Customer Service Example - Comcast

Comcast’s decision to join the conversation was a smart one. It allowed them to address customer concerns in real time, but it also humanized the company and showed that they cared about the customer experience.

In recent years, social media customer service has become more integrated into more comprehensive social media strategies. And while some brands have done an admirable job of responding to customer inquiries and complaints, others have fallen behind.

As we move into 2023, it’s time for brands to re-evaluate their social media customer service strategy and ensure they do everything they can to provide a positive customer experience.

How has Social Media Changed Customer Service

Social media has changed the face of customer service. In the past, if you needed to get in touch with customer service, you’d dial a 1-800 number and sit on the phone for 45 min before reaching a live agent. And even then, your issue might not even be solved.

Social media has caused the world to be impatient with just about everything. Customers can choose when and where to reach out to companies for customer support, expecting immediate resolution. But, when they don’t get it, they aren’t shy about telling the world about their negative customer experience.

Early on, this dynamic caused panic and chaos for brands at the demise of negative social media conversations. This was a good thing For three reasons. First, brands had to rethink how they built products and services, ensuring high quality was a priority. Second, brands had To realize that they were no longer in control, so they had to adopt new strategies around customer care. Lastly, many companies started to build a customer-centric culture so that all business activity was centered around improving products, services, and the overall customer experience.

Building the Case for Social Media Customer Service

Building a case for social care is like trying to make a case for using an umbrella when it’s raining outside. You have to do it.

A recent report, “11 key things consumers expect from their brand experiences today” by emplifi, painted the picture that consumers today expect a lot from brands. Some of the key findings include the following:

  • Eighty percent of consumers would leave a brand after three or fewer negative customer experiences. Even more interesting is that the question asked was about brands they were loyal to.
  • Social media is the top choice for consumers when communicating with brands, behind email and chat.
  • Fifty-two percent of consumers expect to get their questions answered within one hour of posting them on a brand’s digital channels.

This boils down to consumers today demanding more from brands, and they’re using social media to hold brands accountable.

This is why brands need to have a social media customer service strategy. It’s no longer enough to have someone “in charge” of social media monitoring and responding to customers. Their issues need to be handled. Brands need to be proactive in their approach and be able to address concerns quickly and efficiently.

But wait, here are some additional data points that prove the value of social media customer service, the opportunities it provides, and the consequences of ignoring it.

While this report is over twenty years old, it still holds weight. According to HBR, a 5% increase in customer retention results in a 25% to 95% increase in revenue. This tells me that there’s a direct revenue benefit when brands can operationalize social media customer service.

A more recent report from HBR reports that 81% of customers try to solve a problem first before reaching out to a company. This tells me that brands must create content and provide consumer resources. The Apple Support Community is an excellent example of that.

What is Social Media Customer Service?

Social media customer service is providing customer service and support through social media channels. This can include responding to questions and comments on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and proactively seeking out customers experiencing problems. Social media customer service can help resolve issues more quickly and efficiently than traditional customer service channels.

Social media customer service is essential for brands to manage their online reputation. In today’s interconnected world, word-of-mouth travels faster than ever before, and a negative experience can quickly spiral out of control. Brands can solve issues promptly and efficiently by using social media customer service.

Considerations for Social Media Customer Service Engagement

There are several ways to manage social media customer service and all the operations required to manage and scale a program. Because I like to simplify everything, I will categorize them into two main buckets­–reactive and proactive social care.

Reactive Social Customer Care: Brands will hire a third-party moderation service or use internal teams to monitor and react to questions and comments on a brand channel. They follow specific protocols to respond to questions, comments, and complaints whenever an issue arises. In addition, because Twitter is more of an open platform, social care teams can respond to brand mentions even if their Twitter handle is replied to.

Proactive Social Customer Care: Brands launch social customer care communities to provide a place where customers can solve their issues on time. Most of these communities have a lot of content and drive traffic from Google organic search results. The benefit of this approach is that once the community matures, its members will become community advocates and respond to and help other customers. Customer helping customers publicly and in an open forum is what you want.

Whatever approach you decide to adopt, you will need to build a smart integration plan that touches on all areas of customer support.

5 Considerations for Building a Great Social Customer Service Plan

Excellent customer service is essential for every brand that wants to retain its customers and attract new ones. The consumer shopper journey is no longer linear, and customers expect brands to meet them where they are. This is especially true when it comes to providing customer service. A social media customer service plan is a roadmap for how a company will solve customer problems online, build and maintain its reputation and create brand loyalty.

When building a plan, consider the following:

  1. Identify the right channels
  2. Build a staffing model
  3. Establish protocols and workflows
  4. Invest in the right social media customer service software (if applicable)
  5. Set measurable goals and KPIs

Identify the right channels

The first step in creating a social media customer service plan is to identify the right channels for engagement. This means understanding your target audience and where they spend their time online. Next, you may want to prioritize the channels and think through the different use cases for each.

This is where you’ll want to think about investing in social media customer service software. There are several social customer support community software applications available. You can see a complete list here on G2.

More popular community applications include Mighty Networks, Higher Logic, Insided, Tribe, Mobilize, and Khoros Communities.

When deciding on the right software, you must involve your IT team, Privacy and security, and engineering staff early. This will save you a lot of time when you are ready to deploy and integrate the software into your marketing tech stack.

Build a staffing model that scales

When it comes to staffing customer support, there are two main models: internal and external.

Building an internal customer service team has several advantages. Doing so lets you control training and development, hiring, and scaling into other geographies. It can help build stronger customer relationships because internal teams live and breathe the brand values.

External social customer support vendors can offer several advantages. First, they already have a team of skilled customer service representatives, most offshore. This has potential cost savings. Second, they can be more flexible in scaling up and down to meet customer demands.

Outsourcing social care can also help free up your internal support team to focus on other tasks, such as proactive social media marketing or content creation. On the other hand, an internal customer service team is valuable for those brands who prefer to keep the workstreams internal.

Establish customer escalation protocols

When building your social customer support service plan, it’s crucial to have a process for escalation to quickly and efficiently resolve the issue. Consider a few key things when creating these workflows for your customer service efforts.

First, you need to decide who will be responsible for managing escalations. This person or team should have the authority to take whatever necessary actions to resolve the issue. Next, you need to establish clear criteria for when an escalation should occur. This will help to ensure that only the most serious problems are escalated and that minor issues can be handled without involving additional resources. Finally, you need to develop a communication plan for handling escalations. This should include who will be notified and how they will be kept up to date on the issue.

Most social customer support platforms have built-in escalation protocols. For example, Khoros Communities has a three-tiered support system that includes community managers, product experts, and customer success managers.

Invest in the right social customer support software

When investing in social customer support service software applications, there are several things to consider.

Suppose you have a large customer base and receive a high volume of customer service inquiries. In that case, investing in one of these applications can help you to better manage and respond to customer inquiries. Other considerations include the features the application offers, the ease of use, and the price.

Some social media customer service software applications are more expensive than others, but they may offer more features or be easier to use.

Some of the more popular software applications are Zendesk, Zoho, Freshdesk, and Salesforce. You can view a complete list of software apps here.

Finally, you’ll need to decide how to integrate the social media customer service software into your existing systems. This includes your CRM, help desk, and knowledge management systems.

Investing in social media customer service can help you improve how you interact with customers and provide a better overall customer experience.

Measuring the ROI of social media customer service

While there is an initial investment involved in setting up social media customer service, it can save money in the long run by decreasing calls to the call center. In addition, it can also help to increase the lifetime value of loyal customers by building trust and creating a positive brand experience.

There are several ways to measure the ROI of social customer service. One way is to track the number of contacts handled through social media channels as a percentage of total contacts. This can help you to see how well your team is doing in terms of handling customer service inquiries through social media.

Another way to measure the ROI of social customer service is to track the number of customers satisfied with their service. This can be done by sending out customer satisfaction surveys or measuring Net Promoter Scores.

Finally, you can track the number of customers who return to your site or make a purchase after interacting with your social customer service team. This can help you see how effective your team is in driving conversions.

Finally, you can also track the number of calls to the call center deflected to social media channels. This can help you to see how well your team is doing in terms of handling customer service inquiries through social media.

Establishing clear KPIs for social customer service can help you track your team’s success and measure the ROI of your investment.

Final Thoughts on Social Media Customer Service

The Sprout Social Index published in 2021 revealed interesting insights. For example, when asked what makes a brand best-in-class, 47% of consumers say super customer service. The same question was asked to marketers, and 48% said that audience engagement and 35% said good customer service.

This is eye-opening, but it tells me that social media customer support is still not a priority for brands today. This has to change.

With the advent of social media, customer service has changed dramatically and will continue to do so, especially with new channels like the metaverse for business on the horizon. As a result, it is now more important than ever to have a robust social customer service plan to keep up with the competition and provide a stellar customer experience. By considering the five considerations we’ve outlined, you can create or improve your social customer service plan and provide an experience that will keep customers coming back for more.


Q: Which social media platforms should the support team be monitoring

A: The social media platforms you should monitor will depend on where your customers are active. In general, however, your support team should be monitoring the following platforms:

  • Facebook: With over 2 billion monthly active users, Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms. Your support team should be monitoring Facebook for customer service inquiries.
  • Twitter: Twitter is a popular platform for customer service. Many brands use Twitter to provide customer support and handle customer service inquiries.
  • Instagram: Instagram has over 800 million monthly active users. While it is not as widely used for customer service as other platforms, it is still essential to monitor for customer inquiries.
  • Pinterest: Pinterest has over 200 million monthly active users. While it is not as widely used for customer service as other platforms, it is still important to monitor customer inquiries.

Q: Should customer service agents respond to all customer complaints, whether positive or negative?

A: While it is important to respond to all customer complaints, your team should also take the time to thank customers for their positive feedback. Showing appreciation for positive feedback can help to build customer loyalty and create a positive brand experience.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.