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BizTrends 2018

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Manufacturing Indaba 2018

Customer support via social media: dos and don'ts

[PR & social media] As a follow-up from my iBurst social media/CRM case study published earlier this week, here are some do's and don'ts for social media response teams, as compiled by Jonathan Allan-Barrett of digiVOX and me. [slideshow]


  • Have a strategy. What is your end-game in using social media (SM)? If you're going to invest resources, know what you want to achieve.
  • Do respond to posts about problems quickly - ideally within a day. The longer you leave it, the more chance of growing anger and shrillness, and retweets/forwards/shares.
  • Do ensure you have a clear escalation path and someone with enough clout on the team to make sure problems in other departments can be sorted out.
  • Do have a written policy covering who can respond online, and guidelines on brand, tone, language, etc.
  • Do keep a level head; think before you act.
  • Do keep records of responses - you may need to review actions later (eg make sure your Twitter feed, etc is being logged).
  • Do understand you can't respond to everything - but also don't get into an 'only respond to influential people with lots of connections' pattern. 'SM elitism' will come back to haunt you.
  • Do make it someone's job to pay attention and listen, and use an online monitoring system to find blind-spots that you're missing.
  • Do be careful and pay attention. When mistakes happen in SM channels, they're out in the open for everyone to see.


  • Don't make promises you can't keep to an agitated SM user.
  • Don't lose your cool - never send a response if you're angry. Step away from the keyboard, think about it, then act.
  • Don't try be too 'funny'. One man's witticism can be another man's infuriating display of patronising dismissal.
  • Don't put your most junior person on the SM job; below is a short presentation on the kind of skills that are desirable.

  • Don't allow your SM response team to get sucked into becoming the first-line customer support team. If your customers are tweeting to get a response, it's because the proper channels are broken. Fix them.
  • Don't be teaching your customers to behave badly - if getting hysterical online is the only approach that works, you'll be training them to get hysterical online habitually.
  • Don't let SM's 24x7 nature dictate your company response times. If you're not a 24x7 business, you don't want to create an expectation you'll respond at 3am on Sunday morning.
  • Don't abruptly abandon your online response presence. If you start, you can't simply stop.

About Roger Hislop

Roger Hislop is strategist and lead copywriter at Sentient Communications (, and heads up Sentient Digital, the new online and social media division. Follow him on Twitter at @d0dja, read his blog posts on andcontact him on tel +27 (0)21 422 4275 or email . Jonathan Allan-Barrett is the digital project manager at digiVOX ( Contact Jonathan on tel +27 (0)21 448 8685.