5 Tips for Better Social-Media Conversations

When dealing with customers via social media, how you say things is as important as what you say.


Keep in Mind...

  • Empathetic experiences generate higher customer satisfaction.
  • Customer care agents should strive to match their customer's language style.
  • Encourage your team to live the brand in their conversations.


SocialMediaConvosThink about the last speech you heard. Remember how the speaker delivered the message—the pace, the specific grammar,the choice of words, the careful phrasing. Now think about the last chat you had with your best friend. Did your conversation sound anything like that speech? Chances are you spoke quickly and used slang, “improper” grammar, shorter phrases and verbal cues like,“right?” or “you know?” to keep things flowing.
Business communication—in speech or writing—normally sits somewhere between the formal, one-sided communication of a speech or an essay, and the casual, two-sided communication of a conversation among friends. However, the rise of social media as a business channel may be changing all that. Digital channels, with specific slang and abbreviations, are forcing language to evolve. So how should your customer care agents communicate with customers in the age of social media?

1. Stay on the level.

Most digital communication channels (email, Twitter, instant messaging, texting, etc.) are used for two way communication. It’s no surprise, then, that the use of language across these channels tends to be casual, like an everyday conversation. To communicate effectively, it’s important that both parties in the dialogue are speaking at a similar level.

It alienates your customers if you insist on speaking formally when they are not. It also wastes time (for you and your customer) if the agent says, “Thank you Mrs. Smith, let me pull up your account information and I will check on that for you” instead of a concise,“Yes, of course,let me check.”

This shortening of expressions is a hallmark of social-media language, which turns “I am going to see you tomorrow in California ”into “Gonna CU2morrow in CA.” This isn’t just driven by Twitter’s 140 character limit, either. In fact, it’s an example of the Principle of Least Effort, which is a linguistic theory stating that people adjust their language to express the most information with the least amount of work. That’s why we use contractions, acronyms and abbreviations both in speech and in writing—and why it’s acceptable for your customer care agents to do so over social-media channels.

2. Make an emotional connection.

A successful customer interaction is about more than just using the appropriate level of slang or inserting an emoji. The goal of a good, truly customer-centric customer service organization is empathy. Customers find it comforting to know that a company understands their challenges and is actively working to improve their experiences. And empathetic experiences generate higher customer satisfaction.

This kind of mutual understanding is established through language. The conversation should be balanced. Both participants should get a turn to express themselves, and neither should dominate what is being said. In addition, the customer needs to feel heard. The agent should echo back the customer’s comments to demonstrate true understanding.

3. Stay professional.

Efficient, empathic language is important for successful communication over social channels, but these are still business interactions. It may be a fine line to walk, but customer care agents should strive to match their customer’s language style while avoiding common abbreviations such as “u” for “you” or “brb” to put a customer on hold—the tone of the language rather than the use of abbreviations can convey the casual style. And if a customer communicates more formally, the agent should certainly adjust to that level. Professionalism should never be sacrificed in favor of being chatty.

4. Work the brand.

On the other hand, if your brand embraces fun, then you should empower customer care agents to use casual banter with customers. One example is a StarTrek-themed Netflix chat that went viral (http://bit.ly/NetflixRep). The customer cares agent and his customer used Trekkie speak throughout the interaction. The exchange pleased both sides and the wit lightened the mood while they solved the customer’s problems. Don’t be afraid to encourage your entire team to live the brand.

5. Emphasize a great experience.

Social language certainly is more casual than traditional business communication. It is also more efficient, and is increasingly the way that customers prefer to interact with companies. If customer care agents can learn to be professional and empathetic while maintaining that casual style, they will be able to communicate effectively and give their customers a great customer experience.

LisaSiglerLisa Sigler, content marketing manager at Clarabridge, is focused on developing wide-ranging content that educates its customers and prospects about the importance of customer experience management.

Falci headshotEllen Falci, associate product manager at Clarabridge, develops innovative solutions to language and social-media data challenges within the context of linguistics and technology theory.