A Beginner's Guide to Social Media Customer Service

Thursday 8th September 2022

Blog Author Beth Perrin by Beth Perrin

A Beginner's Guide to Social Media Customer Service

Thursday 8th September 2022

If your business has only recently launched its online presence, the idea of providing social media customer service can initially seem daunting. No matter which industry your brand belongs to - eCommerce, travel and tourism, automotive, public sector, hospitality or another - there’s a high chance you’ll see an influx of messages from both existing and prospective customers who will expect to receive timely responses and helpful solutions to their enquiries, so learning how to manage them efficiently is a must.

54% of people have a more favourable view of brands that respond to questions or complaints on social media, plus handling customer requests this way can be up to 12 times cheaper than dealing with them over the phone. This shows that social media customer service isn’t just beneficial for your audience; it’s highly cost-effective for your business too. Luckily, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you get started!

Laptop with inbox messages notification


Step 1: Audit Your Channels

Unless your social media pages are all brand new and your inboxes are currently empty, the first task you’ll need to carry out is a full audit of all of your accounts. This will enable you to see where your business is receiving the majority of its customer service requests and therefore which platform(s) you need to prioritise. You may find that some of your channels are predominantly being used for general chitchat and fun comments, while others are being used to ask important questions and raise concerns. Don’t forget to take both private messages and public comments into consideration, as you’ll need to respond to both.


Step 2: Create a Separate Account

If your audit reveals that your incoming message volume is particularly high, you may consider opening a secondary account solely for customer service purposes. This can help you keep enquiries and complaints separate from other comments relating to your social media content, and broader conversations about your brand. Customer care accounts are popular on Twitter, such as Snapchat Support and LinkedIn Help (you can learn more about them in this episode of our podcast!). Just remember to add a link to this account in the bio of your main Twitter profile so customers know where to go to receive assistance.


Step 3: Assemble a Dedicated Team

Depending on the size and scale of your business - and therefore how many customer service requests it receives - you may need to assemble or recruit a team especially for the job. As well as patience, resilience and strong communication skills, these individuals will need to have a comprehensive understanding of all applicable social media platforms and must know how to navigate the messaging facilities of each one.

Woman holding coffee cup and using laptop with inbox message notification on screen


Step 4: Consider a Streamlined Platform

Once you’ve decided who will be on your customer service team, it might be a good idea to sign up for a social media management software such as Sprout Social, which will help you manage all of your social inboxes in one place. Again, this will depend on the size of your business and your incoming message volume - if you’re confident that you can manage your enquiries by yourself or you only have a presence on one platform, you may prefer to respond to them natively. However, tools like Sprout will streamline the process and make it easier for you and your team to monitor what’s being received across all of your accounts.

Its handy Task feature lets you assign conversations to other members within your team, which can be especially useful for escalating complaints to managers - and it will even let you know when another team member is typing a response to a message, so you don’t have to worry about accidental overlaps.


Step 5: Build an Interaction Guide

To ensure that your whole team is on the same page and everyone is following the same steps, you should put together a brand guide containing all the information they need to know in order to provide a seamless experience. This should include:

Tone of voice guidelines

Interaction examples

Names and contact details of team leaders and department managers to whom complaints may need to be escalated

A sitemap or directory of your website and products, so each team member knows where to direct customers who ask about specific items or pages

Examples of messages that should be flagged, removed, ignored or marked as spam

At this stage, you should also agree upon a target FRT (First Response Time) and AHT (Average Handle Time). Your FRT is the amount of time a customer has to wait before help arrives, and your AHT is how long it takes you to deal with a request from start to finish. Naturally, your handle time will vary depending on the nature of each enquiry - for example, a quick question about shipping costs will be much faster to resolve than a lengthy complaint about a missing order - but it can still be a good idea to have a goal in mind so that your team members know how long they should be spending on each response.


Step 6: Set Up Social Listening

Social Listening, which refers to the process of monitoring keywords, phrases and untagged mentions across social media, is a crucial part of customer service that often gets overlooked. Remember, not everyone will tag your business directly when talking about it on social, so if you aren’t tracking your brand name and other relevant keywords, you could be missing out on opportunities to assist customers and boost their satisfaction. This can also be done via Sprout Social, or alternatively you can manually track words, phrases and hashtags by typing them into the search bar on each social media platform on a regular basis.

Hands holding iPad tablet with message inbox notification on screen


Step 7: Respond Quickly but Thoroughly

Now you’re all set up and ready to go - it’s time to start responding! It’s important to keep your target FRT in mind at all times and reply as quickly as you can, but still take care not to rush your responses as this can lead to spelling errors, customer mixups and incorrect information being given. Make sure you read every message thoroughly and check that you understand exactly what the customer is enquiring about before sending your reply (and don’t forget it’s okay to ask for clarification if you’re unsure).

When dealing with complaints and cases where personal details need to be shared, always ask the customer to send you a private message instead of continuing the conversation publicly. Learn more about handling negativity on social media in this blog post.

Ensure that you check through your previous messaging history with a customer before responding, as having to repeat information that’s already been provided can cause them additional frustration, and will lengthen your AHT unnecessarily.


Step 8: Create Regular Reports

You should create reports on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis in order to identify trends in your customers’ enquiries, track the most commonly mentioned topics and keep an eye on your message volumes for each social media platform. This data will ultimately help you make essential changes to your business, products and services, which will boost customer satisfaction and reduce the amount of complaints and queries you receive.


Bonus Tip: Outsource to an Agency

Still feeling overwhelmed about providing social media customer service? If you don’t have the time or resources to carry out the steps above, don’t panic - we’re here to help! Outsourcing your customer support to a dedicated agency like 3sixfive can ease the pressure and leave you to do what you do best. Our team has been specialising in Community Management for many years, and with a wide range of clients belonging to a variety of different industries, we can adapt to any tone of voice and match the communication style of your brand.

We operate 365 days a year so there’s no need to worry about periods of downtime during weekends, bank holidays and other out-of-office days. During the boarding process, we’ll immerse ourselves in your business and its offerings so that we can deliver 100% accurate information to your customers when they need it most.



Are you ready to start providing social media customer service? With an estimated 67% of consumers now using networks like Twitter and Facebook to seek resolution for issues, there’s never been a better time to begin. Tweet us @3sixfivepro and let us know if your brand is planning to use our guide, or get in touch if you’d like to hand over the reins to our team of experts.