Social Media Marketing – Agency vs In-House

In the blue corner, we have a Social Media Marketing Agency….and in the red corner we have an In-House Social Team. Ding! Ding!

In-house or agency? It’s a debate that every small business will ask in the future as the importance of having a presence on social media becomes more apparent. But the question you really need to ask is….what do I want out of my social media campaign? It may seem extravagant to employ an agency to manage your social media accounts, but there is a lot more to a social media marketing campaign than simply posting status updates on Facebook.

A social media savvy teen vs a socially specialised consultant

59% of the UK population have active social media accounts. Aside from showcasing the strong need to market your business via this medium. If we all use social media as individuals do, does that qualify an entire generation to deliver social? The temptation for most business owners who feel the pull towards putting their business on the social map, is to give Sue in accounts the job of updating their business profiles, or employing a young whippersnapper (who has grown through the digital age & has no knowledge of a world without Facebook) to be entrusted with their business’s social presence. With this in mind, why is working with an agency a good investment?

Here today, gone tomorrow…7203678742_ba39c23219

Social media is a fast-moving landscape, with new features, algorithm updates & the ever increasing push towards paid media, all this makes getting your content in front of the right people an art form. With an agency you have a team of socially savvy nerds {insert headphones} tuned into social platforms, listening to brand mentions, & managing conversations. An agency makes it a top priority to invest time into research & development to ensure they stay ahead of the curve.

By the time you have read this article & tweeted about it a new update or social platform has already been launched……

5f9af7f6b9e5ebaf43a24a78fc85d742You’re not fooling anyone, especially not your accountant…


Cost is a hard pill to swallow for some businesses when looking at outsourcing your social media activity. But don’t be fooled by the soft cost of using an internal resource or hiring an in-house social media manager as there is hidden costs associated with this too.

“It’s free, I do it in my own time, how hard can it be? Sue from accounts enjoys dabbling with our Facebook page. Or I could employ an in-house Social Media Manager”

The average salary for a Social Media Manager is £25,407 per annum, that’s excluding the recruitment costs, overheads like equipment/software & if they have a day off sick, who covers the social media activity?

You wouldn’t pay someone £20 to be your friend, so don’t buy likes!

In my experience, the businesses who assign an employee to manage their social presence have no understanding of how to measure the success, they get distracted with Likes or reach, leaving a [MIND THE GAP] moment when asked how much traffic or how many sales/enquiries they are generating through their current activity.


It’s false economy, don’t focus too much on the size of your audience & get sucked into paying to increase your likes. You will grow an audience base in some far off country that will never buy or use your product or service.

An agency can help set some key metrics in line with your business goals & put a strategy in place to ensure those goals are reached.

Dot to Dot

Join the dots of your online marketing activity. The boundaries between SEO, PPC (Adwords), Email Marketing & Social Media all blend into an integrated strategy instead segmenting the activity into individual campaigns not working in harmony.

If you collate all of this activity under one roof then you will get consistency & much more bang for your buck. If you outsource SEO already, it makes sense to reach out to the same agency to find out what social packages they can offer.

Invest in the Best

Just because I can drive a car, does not make me a racing car driver. Being an F1 driver takes skill, talent, practice, strategy & teamwork to stay ahead of the competition.

Apply this theory to your social media marketing:

Skill – Invest in the best agency with an eye for creating visual, social content

Strategy – Strategically set up paid adverts to support your campaign

Practice – Ensure you have the resource to deliver a cutting edge campaign

Teamwork – An agency who are willing to work with your team to extract the right information to really make your campaign pop

Stay Ahead of the Competition – Results driven campaigns, let the data drive your decision

In conclusion, if you’re a startup then do your homework & educate yourself on the best way to launch your business into the social sphere, we have some great articles on our advice centre to help with this journey. But if you want a strategic campaign that delivers results, complementing the other areas of your marketing, don’t underestimate the expertise of a social media consultant (we may be seen to sit on Facebook all day), but for us, Facebook is a fast paced, marketing machine that we are harnessing to drive new business & brand awareness.

5 Social Media Mistakes That Could Be Killing Your Brand

Social media is a fickle mistress, the smallest error or mistake & you could kill your brand. If you are a small business dipping your toe into the great ocean of social media content then I have probably just added more worry onto an already nervous manoeuvre into the social-sphere. DON’T PANIC though! Below I have listed some top things to look out for in order to avoid making some common social media mistakes!

Having No Social Media Strategy

In order to execute a successful social media campaign, you need to understand what you are looking to achieve & pull this into a 6-12 month strategy. Social media is said to humanise the web, so you need to know exactly how you want to come across to your audience & this should flow through everything you do from the tone of your ‘voice’ to the style of your graphics and so on.

Oreo has a phenomenal social campaign which truly exploits a wide range of visual content, underpinned by a serious strategic approach. Not only do they have a water-tight calendar of dates & events that drive the strategy, but they pride themselves on the ability to be agile in delivering timely content; a perfect example of this would be the 2012 Super Bowl Blackout.

Keep your Updates Short

Keep your posts short & sweet, especially on Facebook. Make sure it’s engaging. A simple way to do this would be by asking your audience a question, or in Samsung’s post below ask a rhetorical question & answer it to get some product USPs over in a succinct way!   

Talking Too Much About the Brand

Arguably every business on social is there to promote either the brand or a product. But the balancing act you need to master is how much self-promotion is too much?

Coca-Cola posts vibrant & consistent posts which are true to the brand. But they are heavily laden with branding or product placement, which does feel a little unbalanced in my opinion.

You will find a lot of advice out there on ratios to ensure you keep control on how much you talk about yourself as a brand, some people believe in the 80:20 rule or the 3-2-1 method. Just keep in mind that social is about much more than simply advertising, you also need to listen, learn & engage.

Don’t forget to proofread

Capital Official made a grammar faux pas, which can be easily made in the fast-paced landscape of social when you’re against the clock to reply to a customer’s comments or enquiry as quickly as possible. We would advise that you check, check & check again & also use a grammar checker like Grammarly as sometimes these mistakes are not picked up in Openoffice or Hootsuite.

You Don’t Need to Have Every Available Social Platform

Social is a fast moving beast & keeping up with the latest platform releases is a job in itself! So don’t stretch yourself by setting up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube, SnapChat, Instagram, Linkedin, Tumblr, & Vine just to name a few.

Just stick to the basic channels that you have the capacity to update on a regular basis, with high-quality content. Also, consider which platforms your clients use regularly; Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram may have the most users, but are they your target audience? We always include G+ for our clients, as we understand how it can complement the SEO campaign & local business presence.

Building a Social Media Plan for Small Business Success

Are you spending endless hours on social media talking about your business, and not getting the desired results? This, at one point or another has happened to the best of us and luckily for you, I want to share how I work with my clients on their social media strategy to build their social media plan.

Define your online brand

Before writing your social media plan, you need to be able to define your business, on social media in 140 characters.

You might be using social media to build awareness, or to generate sales. Either way, it’s time consuming. Part of building a social media plan, is understanding where you should be spending your time.

Know Yourself

Understanding your customer

Social media is more than just posting endless amounts of information, hoping that someone will share it with their community. Understanding your customer, and what they want is extremely important, especially when it comes to tailoring the information you share, specifically for your customer.

Ask yourself the following questions;

  • What do the customers need?
  • What is their pain?
  • Do they even know their needs?
  • Do they really understand their pain?
  • What does your competition offer them?
  • What can you offer them?
  • What do they think of your offer?
  • How do they describe your offer?

What content are you sharing?

Social media is about sharing valuable content that gives your audience the content they crave. This may be in the form of visuals, or written articles. The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. Share an image and you grab your audience’s attention 60,0000x faster. Tweets with images will receive 150% more retweets and 89% more favorites.

If visuals work for your audience, learn how to design your own content that reflects your brand. I use Canva to create 99% of my images and it is completely free of charge, easy to use and very professional.

If you don’t have content to share, do your research and find those talking about your industry. If you are a fashion business, talk about the latest fashion trends and the last celebrity/fashion collaboration. Whilst you aren’t talking about your business directly, you are gaining the interest of your followers by talking about their interests. This is how relationships are built online. If you want to save time, whilst collection great articles to post online, have a look at Feedly.

To find great content, across all social media platforms, take a look at Tagboard.

The 4 Types of Users

Where are you spending your time?

What social network works best for you? Are your community most engaging with you on Facebook or Twitter? Where do you get the most “likes” or “repins”; Pinterest or Instagram? Monitor your social media activity and find out which networks work the best for your business. I know that Twitter is the best place for me to connect with my audience, and that Facebook has always been the network I find most difficult to engage with.

It is important that you spend your time wisely and make sure that you are only working with the social networks that are going to give you a ROI in one way or another.

Building your social media plan

Once you know what social networks you are going to use, and what you are going to share you are halfway to building your social media plan.

The next stage is actually taking what content you have, creating social media posts and building your plan. I have a great 7 day social media template which you can download from my website here that will help you with this. It is broken down into each network.

If you are using Twitter, I would suggest 3-5 tweets a day, and any other network just once a day as the biggest reason why consumers stop listening to what you have to say, is because you are over-populating their news feed.

Smart Goals

Actioning your social media plan

Now that you have a template, and all of your potential content for your week’s worth of social media, you now need to action your social media plan.

To do this, use Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you schedule ahead of time, meaning you can spend 20 minutes scheduling your social media for one week, on a Sunday and focus on the rest of your business during the week.

I also have a social media dashboard, where you can measure your social media activity. If you would like to integrate this with your Google Analytics, click here.

Social Media Planning Masterclass

I am running a social media planning masterclass on the 23rd September in London where I will be discussing all of the above, and more. We won’t just be talking about it, we will be actioning your social media plan.

My 1 day social media planning masterclass is designed for business owners, marketing managers and entrepreneurs who need help with defining their business for their audience, creating shareable content, structuring their social media and executing a social media plan.

To find out more information about my Social Media Planning Masterclass, and to secure your place, click here. (Places are limited and on a first come first serve basis only). To get 50% off your ticket, use promotional code Creare2015.

How to Be a Twitter Superstar in 6 Simple Steps

Everyone has their favourite social network. For some entrepreneurs, they might favour Facebook as a way of reaching out to their target market, or even LinkedIn or Instagram. As much as I enjoy using Facebook and Instagram from a personal perspective, my “superstar” social network has to be Twitter.

I have been using Twitter actively since 2009 and have never looked back. It’s my favourite social network because of how it allows me to engage in a two way conversation with my community.

Twitter Stats


From a recent study I conducted with my audience, I found that 55.6% of the business owners in my community found Twitter the most difficult social network. This is something that needs to change as Twitter is one of the most opportunistic social networks.

I have recently been given the title of 15th most influential marketeer in the UK from Brand Republic as well as the 4th most powerful online user out of 100 influential leaders and experts by The Digital Marketing Show. Both of these were measured based on my Klout score and how active I am on Twitter.

Do you want to be a Twitter Superstar? Here is how you can do it in 6 simple steps.

  1. Consistent Online Presence

The profile you create online, must be brand consistent. This means that your website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any other social network you use, needs to be sharing the same message through written content and images. One tool which I use to help me with image consistency is Canva.

  1. Do Your Research

I talk about due diligence a lot in my weekly blog posts but it is something that is often overlooked by business owners. Without knowing your target audience through researching them, you won’t know what information will get the most interaction. A great tool I use for this is called Social Mention.

  1. Follow and Engage with Industry Experts

One of the best ways to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, is to follow and engage with other experts. Find common ground, connect with them online and find ways in which you can work together. For my monthly webinars, I bring in a though leader, with expertise in a specific area of growing a business so that my audience consistently receives value.

  1. Build Your Lists

A list is a group of Twitter users, which you or another user has created. Viewing a list will show you a stream of tweets from only the users on that list. These can be public or private. Different types of lists include hashtag lists, client lists, competitor lists, news lists and industry leader lists. To read more on how to create lists, see here.

Twitter Lists

  1. Use Hashtags

Hashtags are extremely important for Twitter and Instagram. Using the # before a word or phrase (with no spaces) makes it into a searchable keyword. The tweets with a Hashtag are two times more likely to get engagement because people know how to listen into what they are interested in. Use this to your advantage on Twitter. If you want more help with using hashtags on social networks, see my latest webinar here.

  1. Using Hootsuite to Schedule Tweets

Social media doesn’t have to take you hours a day, nor should it. Using tools like Hootsuite to schedule information will ensure that you are sticking to your social media plan, without losing too much of your valuable time. I would suggest a minimum of 5 Tweets a day, so that you can connect with your audience at 9 in the morning, all the way through to 6 in the evening.


Remember do not expect amazing results to happen overnight as this is not how social media works. You need to spend the time engaging in a two-way conversation, as well as consistently sharing valuable information and connecting with thought leaders in your industry.


5 Steps To Prioritise Your Digital Marketing

It’s no secret that the marketing industry has changed; gone are the days of being able to rely on handing out leaflets and placing a small text ad in the local newspaper to generate sales.

Digital has redefined the marketing landscape, and with £1 from every £7 spent expected to come from online sales by 2018*, those not responding to this are likely to fall behind.

But in an ever changing marketplace with an increasing number of digital channels available, how do you know which tactics to deploy and how to prioritise your marketing budget?

Step 1 – Put it into context

Before you start investing in digital marketing, try asking yourself the following questions:

Your Business: What do you want to achieve? How much budget are you willing to invest? Do you want to establish a long term strategy or are you more interested in short term wins?

Your Audience: How have customers found your company in the past? Which digital channels are they most likely to be receptive to? Do they typically buy your products/services online or in store?

The Market: How competitive is the market in which you operate? Is this reflected online? How do your competitors advertise?

There are various online resources you can use to help you identify the right digital channels for your business, for example Think With Google shows an overview of how each channel assists in the customer journey to purchase for different industries:

Think With Google Channel Split


For B2B, Google have identified that organic search (SEO) and email campaigns act more as assist interactions, whereas social media, display and branded PPC campaigns are more likely to be the last stage before purchase.

Step 2 – Optimise your website

Before investing in any online advertising, it is essential that you ensure your website is up-to-date with new and relevant information, is optimised for all devices, and contains clear calls to action. If these factors aren’t in place, your campaigns will be driving customers to a website which provides a poor experience and they are less likely to purchase.

It’s important to check your website is optimised for any campaign you are looking to run e.g. an email marketing campaign that contains links back to your website needs to drive customers to pages which contain relevant content and provide a clear path to conversion.

Step 3 – Choose your tactics

Depending on the competitiveness of your industry online, your budget and whether you’re looking for a short or long term campaign, each digital marketing channel has different benefits:

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation focuses on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) Google search results. SEO is a long-term strategic tactic as particularly in competitive markets, it can take time to generate tangible results. Investing long-term in SEO can generate great returns in terms of brand exposure, increased traffic and conversions.

PPC – Pay-Per-Click advertising involves paying for ads to be displayed in Google search results. It’s a great tactic for generating quick wins as it is possible to bid your way to the top of the search results instantly. However, depending on how competitive the market and search terms you want to target are, it can be very costly. PPC is recommended as a short term solution while longer term tactics such as SEO build momentum.

Display Advertising – Display campaigns enable you to create eye-catching ads, and place these on targeted websites based on the interests of your consumers. Similar to PPC, display advertising can be costly and the return is less likely due to lower average click-through-rates. However, these campaigns can be great from a brand building perspective.

Email Marketing – Email marketing is a great way to engage with existing customers and build brand loyalty. In order to make the most of your email campaigns, it is important to create a clear content strategy – for example, plan out monthly newsletters to keep your customers engaged, along with seasonal promotional offers to incentivise them to purchase.

Social Media – Social media is a great platform to engage directly with customers online. Paid advertising campaigns on the likes of Facebook give you access to their extensive consumer database, enabling you to target your products to customers who have liked your competitors profile, or have specific interests. It is important to have a content strategy in mind and develop a consistent tone of voice across all social platforms in order to get the best out of your campaigns.

Step 4 – Set up goals

Make sure your website is connected to Google Analytics, and add tracking codes to any campaigns you run, so you can measure the traffic specifically coming from each campaign. Setting goals in Analytics will enable you to measure each campaign against your KPIs, be it revenue generation, visits to your site or engagement metrics such as the time spent on site.

Step 5 – Analyse the results

The great thing about digital campaigns is that they can be easily scaled based on their cost and performance. For example, if your PPC campaign is costing too much, you can look at only running your ads at certain times of the day when you know your customers are likely to be browsing. Here, you can weigh up the investment in each channel with the return and tailor campaigns accordingly. It is advisable to utilise a mix of brand building and direct response campaigns to ensure you not only achieve short terms wins but keep customers engaged to sustain momentum.

If you’re unclear as to how to optimise your website, or you would like help in identifying the best digital channels for your business, try Creare’s free Digital Health Check tool, which gives your website a score based on best practises and clear recommendations on how to improve it.


An Introduction to Warren Knight and Think #Digital First

I love it when I meet a great company, who want to help small businesses succeed online. When I met Tom from Creare, I was delivering a seminar at a business event in London. We spoke about a week later and agreed to go ahead with a partnership, providing support and advice to UK businesses.

My journey in the world of business has been 25 years in the making. I decided to take this, and write a “work-book” to help entrepreneurs grow their business to be socially-savvy.

What does a socially-savvy business mean to you? To me, it means building a business from the ground up using the right tools, technology and effective sales and marketing strategies.

Without giving too much away, below are the 7 steps I cover in my book Think #Digital First.


1. You; There Will Only Ever Be One

Have you ever asked yourself; “What am I doing wrong?” or “What’s Important to ME?” You have to question yourself, find out what you love, invest in yourself as an entrepreneur and find your own voice. Don’t get caught up in the fear of business and know that there will only ever be ONE of you, and if you don’t #ExpressYourself, you won’t be able to take that next step on your business journey.

2. Framework for Success

If you don’t have the framework in place to allow social media to become a piece in your business puzzle, it won’t make the perfect picture. You can read more on chapter two and the difficult questions you need to ask yourself as a business owner here.


3. Protecting Your Time: Focus on Sales

As a business owner, time management is key because there are many hats that you will need to wear. Your time will need to be split between the sales side of your business, marketing, finances, operations and being the ambassador of your brand.

4. Setting Up a Socially-Savvy Business

Understanding how Google works, building your business to be SEO optimised (onsite and offsite) as well as understanding the key social networks is an important part of building a socially-savvy business. Everything from Digital Marketing, to Blogging, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, PR, Affiliate Marketing and Paid Advertisement are what you need to consider utilising as a socially-savvy business.

5. Tools to Help Your Business Grow

I share over 50 different tools and technologies that are built to help small businesses succeed online. I cover everything from listening and research tools to business, website builders, design/visuals, marketing, analytical technology and SEO/MetaData tools.



Mail Chimp

6. Strategy & Implementation

As a business, all of the above is so important when thinking #digital first but without the right strategies to implement for your business, you will fall short. I share strategies around going to market, building content, planning your overall marketing and a 90 days sales plan.

7. Customer Retention Through Loyalty                                       

Customer loyalty should be at the forefront of your customer retention strategy #WalkThisWay. Your new socially-savvy business will now be working with your customers daily, through sharing, added-value content, designed to help your company get noticed across the new social web. This includes everything from Google, Bing, Yahoo (SEO) through to Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google+ (SMO).

Maintaining Brand Loyalty

I have successfully built businesses and know what it’s like to fail. Failure is one of the best things an entrepreneur can face. Look at Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Building a successful business is not smooth sailing. My book is a journey through my successes and failures, with real life examples.

Since my website launch at the beginning of 2015, I have taken a new, hands on approach to helping small businesses. As well as writing a book, I also run monthly complimentary webinars that anyone can sign up for, case studies of successes my clients have been able to achieve, as well as two blogs a week with information on the latest tools and technologies.

Stay tuned for more content from me, on Creare’s Advice Centre!

Top 10 Social Media Tips for Small Businesses

Although social media is a relatively new phenomenon, it is already a must-have when it comes to any business’s marketing efforts.

 Jumping on to the social media bandwagon can be a daunting task for small business owners who may have very little knowledge of the subject or very little time on their hands – but fear not! We have created this quick social media guide to get you started on your very own social media journey.

1. Plan your social media strategy

As with any marketing campaign, it is essential to create a plan and stick to it in order to be successful. That is where a social media strategy will come into play.

Your strategy should outline how your business is going to integrate social media into its marketing strategy, who is going to be responsible for the day-to-day management of the profiles, what are the brand guidelines, and how you are going to review the process.

Top tip: Be sure to set yourself realistic and actionable goals, and locate all of the tools that you will need in order to make your strategy successful beforehand!

2. Choose the correct social media platform for you

There are multiple social media platforms available today, but there are five that are most commonly used by businesses, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+.

Each platform comes with its own set of users, and each set of users like to receive their information in a different way. So it is important that you choose the social platforms that will be most relevant to you.

Top tip: Ensure that the social platforms that you choose work for your business and that they are the best way to reach your target audience.

3. Find your customers

An integral part of any sales process is taking the time to get to know your potential clients and establishing relationships with them to begin the sales process. Luckily social media allows you to do just that.

Platforms like Twitter – which currently has around 302 million active monthly users – are made up of countless communities that can be found through the use of hashtags and keywords. If you spend a little time searching for them, the communities into which your business would fall into should be easy to find.

Top tip: Conduct research to find out where your customers congregate online. It takes less time to join a community that is already in place than to try and create one yourself.

4. Post content at optimal times

Studies have shown that social media activity usually peaks between 10am and 4pm; so sending out content during those hours will get you the greatest visibility in the social world. Ultimately, when you post content should come down to when it will receive the most engagement, so ensure that you do your research and post content at optimal times.

Top tip: Use the tools that are available to you to help you with this. Hootsuite AutoSchedule allows you to easily schedule tweets, and will even choose the best time to send them out!

5. Figure out # of posts per day

Unfortunately, there is no magic number of posts or a foolproof content strategy to adhere to when undertaking a social media project. There is an abundance of research out there that claims to know what works best, but that may not necessarily work for you. When it comes to how often you post on social media, its essential that you undertake your own research and use the findings to your advantage.

Top tip: Conduct a test over the course of a week to see when your content is getting the most interaction from users, and use your findings to inform your social posting – HootSuite analytics is a really handy tool when doing this. Always remember that it is not about the quantity of posts, but the quality of them!

6. Increase your Twitter followers

When it comes to the number of followers you have on Twitter, quality is key but quantity should not be forgotten. There are numerous things that you can do to ensure that you are building a relevant audience, but there are three key things that you should really be focused on:

  • Find and follow. Search out experts and thought leaders within your industry and follow them, while also following potential customers and individuals that have an interest in your industry.
  • Create a content strategy. Ensure that every piece of content you send out is interesting and relevant to your target audience.
  • Engage with your audience. Have a keen eye on all of your social feeds, and reply to any customers who interact with you in a prompt and thoughtful manner – injecting a little personality into the mix will make all of the difference!

7. Be authentic and human

People are more likely to create relationships with a ‘person’ more so than with a ‘business. So when interacting with customers within your social network, it is important to have a brand voice. What you say, how you say it and how often you respond will all have a tremendous impact on customer relationships.

Top tip: Be yourself, be authentic, interact and respond!

8. Share engaging content

The content that you present via your social media channels will affect the engagement of your audience, but could also positively affect your SEO performance eventually leading to the promotion of your brand. It is therefore extremely important that you invest some time and effort to create quality content that is related to your readers.

Top tip: Ensure that your content is current, encompasses the ideals of your brand and is targeted to your audience.

9. Provide Value

You may find that your own participation may not be enough to hold a continued interest when it comes to your social network. There has to be value in the interaction you are offering for people to stay and participate. You should regularly be conversing with customers, but also provide the solution to a need.

Top tip: Actively engage with your customers, start discussions and generate interest around your posts. After all, you are the expert!

10. Post appropriate content

Your social media profiles will be the first point of contact that a customer has with your business, and as the old saying goes, first impressions count! Post content that is engaging, authentic and fits within your brand, and engage with customers to build relationships.

Top tip: Ensure every piece of content that you put out there is brand compliant, as there have been far too many social media blunders in recent years – don’t become one of them!


Your Guide to Using Twitter for Effective Customer Service

It’s no surprise that social media is becoming a crucial, and often a primary, way for businesses to engage with their customers. It’s quick, easy and direct and when managed properly, can be a great asset for businesses.

There is no longer room to negotiate on whether or not businesses should be using social media, and particularly, whether they should be utilising it for customer service – it appears to be a given. A lack of “ownership and and understanding” of social media could “see brands fall behind in the overall customer service stakes” according to Forrester.

Research by Forrester and Conversocial found that although the number of customers using Twitter for customer service doubled to 22% between 2009 and 2012, users still rate the overall customer service experience via phone, websites, emails and IM/SMS rather than through social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, as a result of poor social media management.

The growing popularity and ubiquity of social media channels means that businesses have a great opportunity to respond to, and engage with, customers in real-time. It’s no longer acceptable to simply use social to listen to your customers – businesses need a strategy to ensure they’re keeping up with the customer service revolution and effectively using social media to drive satisfaction and loyalty.

So how can you use Twitter for effective customer service?

  1. Be alert

Social media is immediate and public: one bad experience left unmanaged can cause a ripple throughout the social space. Neglect social and you could be neglecting your brand.

To utilise your Twitter platform effectively, you will need to track and monitor mentions. It’s no good sitting around and waiting for the tweets to come to you. Instead, track the business name, relevant hashtags, and conversations that could help you engage with those customers who may not have directly tweeted you. Through keeping an active eye on what’s being said about you and your services or products, you can respond in a timely and efficient manner, which leads me on to the second key point…

  1. Don’t leave customers waiting

Research from The Social Habit highlighted that today’s connected consumers expects a swift response, with 42% expecting a response within 60 minutes and 32% expecting one within 30 minutes! However in reality, customers are often left waiting. Research by BDRC Continental found that some brands are keeping customers hanging on for up to 19 hours for a reply. Customers often turn to social media because the business has already failed to satisfy their needs, leaving them waiting will either see increased dissatisfaction or a lost customer. Managing your customer service effectively also means managing customer expectations – and they expect a speedy response!

  1. Take inspiration from the greats (and the not-so-greats)!

Social media triumphs and blunders are everywhere – a quick Google search will bring up a whole host of social successes and fails. Although it’s proof that even the giants of the business world can get it wrong, it’s a great chance to learn from their mistakes.

For example, Zara, came up against considerable online criticism towards the end of last year following a series of mistakes. First came the fashion blunder (a baby’s pyjama top that has been likened to clothes worn by Jewish concentration camp prisoners) and then came the awful example of customer service.

Instead of turning to Twitter in order to rectify the issue in a personalised and thoughtful way, they responded to each tweet with exactly the same response. On one hand this could ensure a timely response, but it that really all customers are looking for?

Ultimately, customers are looking for honest, helpful, and friendly engagement. Each tweet, whether good or bad, is an opportunity to develop a real relationship with the user, which could turn a complaint into custom or a customer into a brand advocate.

Customer service itself hasn’t changed – just the way in which it’s managed. Take to Twitter to listen to, understand and care for your customers and you’re well on the way to customer service success!