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Using social media to support your customers

Using social media for customer support

April 2014

Engaging with customers. Promoting a new product. Releasing company news. These are all well-known ways that businesses, big and small, can utilize social media. But what about support? Instead of dialing that 800 number, consumers are increasingly reaching out to companies via social media channels as well.

Small businesses can use social media as an effective and cost-efficient tool to provide customer support. It’s a quick and convenient way for small businesses to connect (and build loyalty) with their customers. So how can your business get social?

Start with the basics
Make sure you have profiles on the three biggest social media sites—Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you don’t want to dilute your messages, consider creating separate pages specifically aimed at customer care, marketing, etc. Keep in mind that Twitter requires concise, individual replies (and sometimes friendly banter); Facebook allows for longer, informal messages and involves moderating multiple-user conversations; and customers on LinkedIn tend to chat with each other about products and services—a good forum for small businesses to jump in and help with issues.

Go vertical
If your customers require technical assistance or have other complicated needs, be sure to also create a presence on specialized social media sites (also known as vertical social media). For example, Spiceworks is a free social site for IT professionals to talk shop and interact with vendors. When IT pros on the site have questions about HP products, they turn to Priscilla@HP for help. “The members on my site cherish honest and human engagement and are well known for being wary of their co-existence with overzealous vendor members,” she says. “They value expert technical information and product updates.” HP actively uses sites like Spiceworks to make it easy for both domestic and international customers to reach out for help at all hours.

Establish your tone
Once your business’s social media outreach is established, it’s important to keep a consistent voice and tone across all social platforms. HP's customer service tone “is appropriately professional, authoritative, calm and sometimes playful,” Priscilla says. “Humor used wisely can diffuse ‘fiery’ posts.” Make sure your social media moderators are trained to give the right responses. According to Priscilla, responding with inappropriate content is one of the biggest missteps a small business can make.

Be nimble
The other big misstep? “Not responding at all,” Priscilla says. Make sure you have enough resources dedicated to social media to ensure you’re not ignoring customer comments. This also means that you need to act, not just react. Instead of hoping no one notices that your site is down, post something about it—your customers will appreciate it. You might also avoid potential negative comments from frustrated users.

Point them in the right direction
In addition to responding quickly and with the right tone, a small business needs to make sure it has a substantial customer service hub on its own website that can provide answers to more complicated questions. HP’s @HPSupport Twitter handle often directs HP consumers to hp.com/support for assistance—because even the most experienced customer service rep can only help so much in a 140-character tweet.

Love your customers
Good customer service is one of the very best ways a small business can inspire loyalty—and establish a competitive edge. Priscilla’s helpfulness has earned her plenty of fans on Spiceworks: “Having someone from a company as large as HP actually care about your problem… is absolutely mind-blowing to me," one wrote. After all, social media is just a hi-tech way to build good old-fashioned customer relationships, isn’t it?

More to read
Social support in 2014: What’s trending?
Customer service tips from the HP social support summit

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