Using Social Media for Customer Service – Listen, Hear and Engage

Using Social Media for Customer Service – Listen, Hear and Engage.

“A Twitter user shared an image of himself during his juice cleanse with health hashtags (such as – #HealthyEating, #HealthyLiving, #Nutrition).  General Electric (GE), after finding him through one of the shared hashtags, began a conversation with him. After a brief conversation where GE applauded the user on his healthy eating habits, the company sent the user a gift basket of dried fruit and nuts. This simple act of kindness may seem insignificant, but small gestures like GE’s fruit and nut basket are what leads to an increase in online positive sentiment, which can lead to new customers, which can lead to increased online conversions… you get where we’re going with this.”


The GE gift basket is a prime example of a brand using hashtag listening and further using the information to engage with the customer. See figure 1.


Figure 1 – Below is a note from GE to a prospect/customer,   an example of GE’s online engagement with prospects and customers.

“Hi Tom,

Great chatting with you online!

We hope this basket will power the healthy eating habits of both you and your coworkers. It’s filled with the best and healthiest snacks, and should be the perfect thing when you hit the 3 o’clock slump. It may also make you the office hero…


Your friends at GE”

In last week’s article, we considered the importance of using Social Media for customer service – Social Customer Service. We also examined why Social Media was a good platform for offering exceptional customer service. This week we consider some approaches to delivering excellent customer service on Social Media.

There is often talk about the power of the Social Customer. These have their voices amplified exponentially on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social channels. The just ended #DumsorMustStop vigil is an example and a tip of the iceberg of what today’s customer is capable of with Social Media. Not only does the Social Customer research and interact with brands online, but they are vocal about sharing their opinions.

Social Media involves relationship building and networking. As we know, communication is essential in relationship building and networking. To communicate, an exchange of information must take place. For a company to excel at Social Customer Service it must first and foremost listen and hear this information. Social Media gives a brand the opportunity to ‘eavesdrop’ on conversations (their customers and prospects are having) about products and services. Social Media also enables businesses to be part of the conversation happening around their brands/products and services.


You would have to listen in order to hear and act on the information you hear. How do you figure out where your customers are in order to listen.  Here are some questions to ask:

  • Who is your customer?
  • Where are they likely to be?


  1. Monitor

To provide your customer with exceptional service, you need information – for example about how they perceive your brand. This involves monitoring what they are saying, where they are saying it and how they are saying it. Watch your customer. Which channels do they contact you on?  The answer to this question may be an indication of where your customers congregate often, or the Social Media platforms on which they are very active.

  1. Mentions

Searching for brand mentions involves following what is being said about your brand or/and industry. This will include looking out for some keywords which may include your company/brand name, product/service, industry, your competition or a particular market term. Mentions are therefore the number of times the term or phrase you are looking out for is used across Social Media. Listening this way helps you to have an idea about what social conversations matter most and also how much attention a particular subject is receiving in the Social Media space.  There are Social Media monitoring tools and websites that automate the process of searching for brand mentions – you can try for example.

  1. Create a presence where they are present.

Facebook and Twitter may be the primary focus when it comes to brand presence on Social Media. Social Media is becoming more and more fragmented. Communities are built around common interests. An example is Snapchat – teenagers in the US are more interested in this channel and so for brands dealing with this audience, this will be an important platform in your social customer service. Try and build your presence on the platforms where your customers are comfortable.  Your audience should determine your location – just like some physical business locations.

Advice/tip: do not spread yourself thin when doing Social Media. Your brand may not need to be present on every Social Media platform. Very recently, I did a little review of the use of Vine by brands in Ghana.  I noticed that there were some telecommunication giants who are present here but are absolutely clueless on how to use this platform to connect. They are just there for the sake of being there. Whenever you set up an account on a Social Media platform you indicate to your customer that you are ‘open for business’ and ‘reachable’ there.  It will be very frustrating for a customer to try and make contact with you only to realize that it is just a ‘front’.


Listening is only one half of the equation; the other is engaging. Look for ways to include yourself in your customers and prospects conversations even if if they are not talking about you. Hashtags are a great tool and a way to monitor and join such conversations.  This is clearly demonstrated in the GE Gift Basket story above.

You can read more about hashtags in a 7 part series I did on my blog (  With hashtags, platforms like Twitter give you the opportunity to lead the conversation and take control of your brand’s image. Not participating in discussions about your brand within the Social Media space allows customers to control your image in a way that could be negative. However the discussion you join in must be relevant at least to your industry. Always remember that on Social Media, the customer wields the most power!

When you listen:

  • Pay attention to identifying the needs of your customers, or better still the needs of potential customers. Pinterest recently announced that it was testing a buy button. This will enable customers to buy items they want directly from Pinterest. Pinterest alluded this new feature to their customer requests. They listened, heard and now want to make ‘life’ on Pinterest easier for their customers. See figure 2.

new product development with social media

Figure 2– This was culled from Pinterest’s announcement of their Buy Button. “Lots of you have said that you’d like to buy the things you discover on Pinterest, too. Like @RebeccaStrebe who Tweeted, “It would be so great if Pinterest would let you buy all the clothes you Pinned #lifewouldbegr8” and @Brookecomans who said, “I wish there was a straight up buy button on Pinterest.”


  • Even when it is not directed to/at you (as in the GE example above), answer, be helpful – this shows you are paying attention. @HiltonSuggests is a Twitter account set up by Hilton Worldwide (one of the leading global hospitality companies) with the sole purpose of giving insider tips to people exploring new cities. The Staff who manage this account listen in on conversations of people who have travelled or about to travel to new cities and offer them advice. See figure 3.

Hilton suggests

Figure 3 – @HiltonSuggests being helpful. “ Hi @RogerMitchell we know some great restaurant’s in #Phoenix, can you tell us are you looking for anything specific? BT


  • Acknowledge mentions by re-tweeting, liking, commenting and acknowledging likes. Engaging someone who liked your post with a question is a great way to start a conversation. After you encourage your fans and followers to share your content in take time to acknowledge all who did.
  • To keep the relationship alive you must keep the conversation going. Encourage your fans and followers to talk and share. In figure  4, a customer complains to Tigo about their mobile money network. The brand encourages the customer to share more details of his/her challenge.

tigo scs2

Figure 4 An attempt at engaging a customer who has a complaint.


This will keep the conversation going between the brand and the customer and hopefully will lead to a resolution of the customer’s challenge.

  • Follow-up on resolved issues – see figure 5. Further the conversation by checking on a customer whose issue you resolved a while back. Picking up on conversations are good for relationship building.

xbox scs2

Figure 5 – Xbox does a follow-up on a customer who reached out for help. “@TheLytle Hey there. Were you able to get connected to Xbox Live? We’ed love to help! Just drop us a tweet anytime for official support. ~AD”

 A brand must listen and hear if it is going to deliver exceptional Social Customer Service. Another thing it must too is to engage with customers who reach out on its page and prospects/customers who talk about things related to their brand as in the GE example above.

Responding quickly and specifically to your audience is just as important as listening. We take a look at the role responses play in the delivery of Social Customer Service.

Published by Esther Nyaadie

I am very passionate about cost effective ways of promoting business. I think the internet and social media has provided an equal platform for every form of business to do that. Find me on

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