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All you need to know about social media customer service in 8 emoticons

Social media marketers have a lot to say in a little space. We’ve only got 140 characters on Twitter, and Facebook posts with 80 characters or fewer garner higher engagement rates. Luckily we’ve got a secret weapon: emoticons! If you talk with customers or clients on social media, you’ve likely seen lots of these guys.

In fact, pretty much every customer service experience you can imagine can be summed up in just 8 emoticons. Here’s a field guide to the emoticons you’ll meet (and dole out) and how to handle them.

1. :)) Praise 
Let’s start with the really good stuff. If you’re lucky enough to be getting over-the-top or frequent praise on Facebook or Twitter, congrats!
Now let’s put it to good use (after you thank your commenters, of course). Positive feedback gives you the chance to turn fans into superfans and future members of your community. 
Make it happen by returning the favor โ€“ keep track of fans who frequently share your content and turn the tables by sharing something of theirs. Reach out to them personally to say thanks and let them know you’re around if they ever need anything. If you like their writing, consider asking them to contribute to your brand’s blog. Soon you’ll have deepened your relationship to create brand evangelists ready to spread the word about you and send new business your way.

2. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy customers
Don’t overlook the everyday praise you’re (hopefully) getting from happy customers – you earned it! Once you’ve responded graciously, keep track of these mentions for future use. 
On Twitter, consider starring them as favorites as they occur and then embedding them in future blog posts or marketing copy. Check out the way Buffer incorporates Twitter testimonials right on its homepage. If your positive mentions are coming from multiple social channels, the aggregation tool Storify can help you easily pull them into one unified document that can be embedded (and shared socially). 
Fans who are complimentary of a particular feature or element could be strong candidates for case studies – reach out and see if they’d be interested in a quick interview.

3. ๐Ÿ˜€ Humor
Humor sometimes can be hard to be recognize in the online world, but it’s also one of the most engaging ways to get to know your community and show your human side. Work some into your content as you introduce new products or services – your audience will appreciate it.

4. =? Questions
Customers with questions can be a goldmine of marketing and product intelligence. And if you take great care of them, they’ll be well on their way to becoming brand advocates. 
How to make it happen? First, research their issues thoroughly. Take the time to ask all relevant questions and get all the data in front of you that you need to resolve the issue. Respond as quickly as you can once all the research is done, and stick with them until their questions are answered (you may want to switch to DM or email if the exchange gets too lengthy for a public channel). 
On your end, keep track of frequently asked questions. What can you do to make this information more readily available, or change the way you communicate? Questions can also be a sign of product changes that might need to be made. Make sure these questions, comments and feedback have a specific path up the chain of your organization so that they can be analyzed and acted upon.

5. ๐Ÿ˜ Skeptics
These mentions aren’t terrible, but they’re not great, either. These are the tweets that tell you they’re going with your competitor instead of you, or the Facebook posts that are sort of…incomprehensible. What can you do with this stuff? Find the opportunities for improvement. Thank commenters for the feedback. Be fair, friendly and positive (but not desperate). Mostly, don’t worry about them too much.

6. ๐Ÿ™ Complaints
It’s easy for communication to break down in fast-moving social channels, but strong social media customer service can stop this from happening. Here are a few pointers for dealing with unhappy customers.
Always respond: Never leave a negative comment hanging. Even if you can’t fix their problem, come up with a response. It shows the customer that they matter to you, and shows your community that you’ll be there in bad times as well as good.
Ask: Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions following a complaint. Clarification can be the crucial step in understanding the concern and turning around your customer’s  experience.
Be empathetic: Put yourself in their shoes. Even if the issue is on their end, they’re still frustrated and on edge. A simple “We hear you” can go a long way.
Apologize honestly: If you need to apologize, don’t be cagey. “We apologize for any inconvenience” isn’t an apology. “This sucks, and we’re really sorry” is. You’ll get more respect and a more positive response if you come clean.

7. #%^&@#! Crisis
Something is wrong, and your customer is angry โ€“ and said so in a public forum. You can still turn this around, but it’s crucial you do everything right.
Donโ€™t delete: It’s human to want to sweep this under the rug, but don’t. Your customers deserve more, and anyone who might have seen it will certainly think less of you for deleting it.
Do your research (fast): What can you quickly learn about the customer? Have you had any interaction with them in the past that will affect how you respond? What’s the issue, and what are you cleared to say about it?
Respond quickly: Social media users expect speed, and it’s in your best interest to be fast here. The longer the negative comment festers unanswered, the more people will see it โ€“ and the angrier your customer can get.
Take it offline: It’s important for your whole community to see you handle complaints in public initially, but don’t engage in a back-and-forth. If the exchange needs to continue, take it off social media as soon as you’re able.
Follow up: Once the dust has settled, follow up with your customer to let them know of any solution or change. If it’s likely to affect others, get out in front of the issue with a public statement or customer email.  

8. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Yikes!
As much as we’d like to, we can’t make everyone happy all the time. When you’ve done everything you can and constructive criticism or complaints delve into abuse or language you’re not comfortable with, it’s time to stop engaging. Don’t waste your time or energy on losing battles. Escalate within your organization and communicate internally so the next person knows what they’re in for. Then move forward to the next conversation.

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