Twitter is an amazing platform. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses use it to either A) Talk about or promote themselves or B) Talk about or promote themselves. There's a massive opportunity to turn Twitter for your business into a customer service tool. Sure, you can continue to share content, but you can also make an effort to interact directly where your customers are spending time.
Creating a world class response team may sound daunting. It does require work, although it's not nearly as difficult to set up as one would think.
Step One: The Right People
Depending on the size of your company, you may need just one person to manage the Twitter account or several. In many cases, you can simply add these extra responsibilities to your customer support staff.
It goes without saying that they need to be very knowledgeable about social media, including effectively communicating and handling potentially upset customers. While that's great, I'd take it a step further even and make sure they're not only incredibly passionate about helping people, but have a great personality.
Once you've figured out who will be putting in the work, that takes us to the next step...
Step Two: Easy To Understand Social Media Policy
Whenever it comes down to employees managing/using social media accounts, there's always risks involved. Now, if you already have a social media policy in place, you can ignore this step. Having an easy to understand policy helps communicate what employees can and can't do on social networks, particularly Twitter in this case.
The last thing you want is a potential PR disaster on your hands after an employee who was maybe having a bad day, calls a customer an idiot or even worse. Also, a good policy can help communicate your values and instill that way of business into your staff.
If you're not sure where to start, here is a fantastic resource for creating a social media policy. Last I checked, there are over 200 policies from a wide variety of businesses.
Step Three: Getting Twitter Ready
Chances are, you already have a Twitter account and if you don't, creating one is very straightforward. First of all, you want to start with branding that effectively communicates who you are and what you're about. If you have a graphic designer, they should easily be able to create a custom Twitter background and cover photo (the image that appears behind your profile bio).
At least in the Twitter background, make sure to communicate that you are very accessible and that people can tweet you. As with tweeting, the space in your bio is very limited and to 160 characters. Make it short, sweet, yet make things clear. Add "Tweet us if you need help" or "Need help? Tweet us!" so people, again, know you're accessible.
Step Four: Streamlining Your Employees
While using the Twitter.com web interface is all fine and dandy, you're going to want a much better way of keeping up with everything and responding to customers. Many social media tools out there allow you to have multiple employees managing the same account.
Even if you have just one employee taking care of responding to customers on Twitter, you still want to use a different tool than what Twitter itself provides.
Personally, I recommend using Hootsuite or Sprout Social. Keep in mind that you may need to pay to use them, although they're very affordable. Once you have an account setup on either platform, you'll need to add each team member (employee) who will be accessing the Twitter account, as well as set the proper permissions on what they can do.
Hootsuite and Sprout Social explain how to go about setting all this up and it's very straightforward. And no worries about keeping track of which person responded to what as all team members will be able to see if and who responded to something.
If you have multiple employees accessing the same account, using initials in responses helps personalize your tweets. For example, say you have Bob Franklin and Erin Smith. They would add -BF or -ES to the end of their tweets. You'd also want to add in your Twitter bio the team members who manage the Twitter account and their initials so people know who they're talking to.
Step Five: Open Your Ears
As with any social media tool that allows you to manage your Twitter account, there's always a replies tab or column which contains all of the tweets mentioning you. However, you want to take it beyond that by listening for keywords. Every platform has this feature and since they have access to Twitter search, you can keep a real-time eye on what people and your customers are saying.
For example, a local pizza business could instead of just paying attention to their @ replies, also keep an eye out for people talking about competitors such as Domino's or Papa John's. A potentially disgruntled customer of a competitor could equal new business for you.
Step Six: Be Helpful
A long time ago, I interviewed Chris Brogan and asked him his best piece of advice. His response? Be helpful. This goes even beyond Twitter and when it comes to responding to customers or people beyond that through keyword searches, simply be helpful.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make on Twitter is they over promote and especially when you're communicating with potential customers, the last thing you want to do is go for the sale right off the bat.
Step Seven: Be Consistent
There's nothing more off-putting to a customer looking for help or even a potential customer coming across you on Twitter than seeing that you haven't posted in days, weeks, or even months. You don't have to spend hours upon hours on Twitter every single day, but you need to check in and share great content at least a few times every day.
Of course if you have customer support staff also managing your Twitter account, having them keep open Hootsuite or Sprout Social and checking in throughout the day shouldn't be a problem.
Step Eight: Be Known
Having a rock solid Twitter account with great staff behind it is awesome, but if nobody knows about it, it's a complete waste of time. Make sure to communicate in your marketing materials, on your website, in emails, etc., that you can be reached on Twitter. This seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many fail to effectively communicate that they can be reached beyond email or by phone.
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