Social media is a vital tool for mar­ket­ing your busi­ness. Aside from post­ing pho­tos or sta­tus updates, using social media for cus­tomer ser­vice can bring your busi­ness to the next lev­el.

Busi­ness should have strate­gies in place for han­dling cus­tomer ser­vice issues through social media, as this will be anoth­er, more con­ve­nient way to get in touch with cus­tomers and vice ver­sa.

[Social media] is the num­ber one mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion [cus­tomers are] choos­ing when com­ing to brands with cus­tomer ser­vice issues,” said Patrick Cut­ti­ca, senior man­ag­er of prod­uct mar­ket­ing “Throw chat­bots into the mix, and it’s an excel­lent chan­nel for cus­tomer ser­vice for com­pa­nies as well.”

Cut­ti­ca said that a small busi­ness should­n’t imply a small social pres­ence. The best place to start, he sug­gest­ed, is to make it known on your social pro­files that you’re stand­ing by and ready to help.

When peo­ple do come to you, prove that you can turn around a help­ful response in a time­ly man­ner, and your cus­tomers will like­ly return again when they know social is a viable avenue for seek­ing sup­port,” Cut­ti­ca told Busi­ness News Dai­ly.

Since so many cus­tomers, and peo­ple in gen­er­al, already com­mu­ni­cate through social media, busi­ness­es of all sorts should be pre­pared to invest in build­ing out their social cus­tomer care efforts.

Brands need to be thought­ful about which social plat­forms their cus­tomers are using to reach out and focus on enhanc­ing their engage­ment efforts there,” Cut­ti­ca said. “A suc­cess­ful cus­tomer ser­vice strat­e­gy requires that a brand be present and avail­able across the chan­nels their cus­tomers pre­fer. Tra­di­tion­al cus­tomer ser­vice chan­nels still have their place, but brands should antic­i­pate field­ing more and more cus­tomer ser­vice inquiries through social.”

Cut­ti­ca, along with Mechi Annaís Estévez Cruz, founder of Una Vaina Bien Span­ish, and social media expert Ger­ille Rosa­do, offered some strate­gies for small busi­ness own­ers look­ing to use social media as a cus­tomer ser­vice tool.

Build real cus­tomer rela­tion­ships. Many busi­ness­es approach social media as anoth­er 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.

Use a hash­tag. Rosa­do explains that a spe­cif­ic hash­tag helps to search con­cerns under the hash­tag. That way, every­thing is orga­nized and easy to nav­i­gate. You can add more orig­i­nal infor­ma­tion and curate con­tent to the hash­tag as well.

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 cus­tomer ser­vice that they cre­ate a strong, loy­al cus­tomer base that will advo­cate on their behalf if some­one has some­thing bad to say.

Be present. Cut­ti­ca said that more often than not, brands fall short on social cus­tomer ser­vice because they sim­ply aren’t active­ly lis­ten­ing to and engag­ing with cus­tomers. Brands that want to deliv­er effec­tive cus­tomer ser­vice on social should be using social media mon­i­tor­ing to flag all mes­sages relat­ed to their com­pa­ny or prod­ucts.