How to Use Social Media for Customer Service Credit: Twitter image via Shutterstock

Businesses of all sizes have learned by now that social media is an essential marketing tool in today's tech-driven environment. Most companies have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and many have even joined Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr to reach an even wider audience.

While promoting content and sharing company updates through these sites can and should be part of any business's social media strategy, there's one key component that some small businesses haven't yet caught on to: social media as a customer-service tool.

Ragy Thomas, CEO and co-founder of social relationship management system Sprinklr, believes that the business world has experienced a shift from what he calls a "B economy" to a "C economy." The B economy was broadcasting-centric, where brands controlled and provided the information consumers had about them. In today's "conversation economy," consumers use social networks to connect and collaborate with brands and with one another on an unprecedented scale. [How to Provide Better Customer Service]

"In the C economy, consumers have more information than they've ever had about brands and their products and services," Thomas told Business News Daily. "Their social connections give them power. If they like [a brand or product], they'll tell 10 people. If they don't, they'll tell 1,000."

Thomas noted that brands can't manage these relationships among consumers; they can only manage the experiences the customers have. Larger brands have already discovered that being responsive to and engaged with consumers on social media is one important way to manage these experiences and provide great customer service. Thomas offered the following tips for small businesses that want to utilize social networks to their full customer-centric potential:

  • Build real customer relationships. Many businesses approach social media as another marketing channel for self-promotion and don't always respond when customers comment on their posts or tweet at them. Use your Facebook and Twitter accounts as an opportunity to build real relationships with your customers by engaging in conversation.
     
  • Focus on creating a customer advocate base. If a customer has a bad experience with a company, one of the first things he or she is likely to do is write about it on social media. Instead of figuring out how to manage and respond to those negative comments, businesses should focus on providing such excellent service that they create a strong, loyal customer base that will advocate on their behalf if someone has something bad to say.

  • Remember that social media is a mirror. No matter how good you are at responding to social media interactions, your customer service ultimately rests on how well you run your business. If your business is going well and customers love you, that's reflected on social media. If they dislike you, social networks become a tool to amplify their voice.

"If small businesses can be themselves and build a good brand, they'll do just fine," Thomas said.

Originally published on Business News Daily.