It’s no surprise that companies of all sizes flock to Twitter’s 271 million monthly active users to get closer to their customers. But while 30 percent of brands have a dedicated customer support handle, only 10 percent of brands address more than 70 percent of their mentions.
That’s a lot of opportunity left on the table.
Of course, some tweets might not merit a response. But every customer who reaches out to a brand should receive an acknowledgement. The problem is that when companies are faced with Twitter’s pressure for constant activity and engagement, they feel torn between engagement and customer service on Twitter.
But the answer is simple: Twitter is best at both — but separately.
This Puzzle Has Two Pieces
An effective Twitter strategy meets two fundamental customer relationship needs:
- First, it allows you to listen to your customers.
- Second, it provides targeted opportunities for sales.
But why tangle these two functions together when it makes more sense to streamline your efforts and separate your Twitter accounts by these roles?
The ability to “listen” to your customers through Twitter’s keyword monitoring function is one of the platform’s most exciting tools. With this tool, a customer service representative can provide helpful information or a direct phone number to alleviate a customer’s aversion to faceless support teams.
AT&T  and Nike  are great examples of brands that prioritize responsiveness and excellent customer support through Twitter. These brands tweet constantly throughout the day. Sometimes even in a second language.
While listening is important, it only represents half of your social strategy’s potential. To tap into that other half and take advantage of sales opportunities, you must actively engage your customers.
Don’t simply listen for mentions of your brand that you can react to. Target key phrases that indicate intent to purchase. A perfect example of this opportunity lies in something as simple as a food craving. Here’s how a local Papa John’s franchise responded when a Texas resident expressed a need for wings:
Rather than waiting for someone to tweet about Papa John’s, the company sought out customers ready to buy, responded with an incentive and created its own opportunity.
Separating your Twitter handles allows your support team to divide and conquer. With distinct goals and resources, each team has access to a streamlined, focused workload with clearly defined roles. This separation also makes it easier for customers to engage the appropriate support personnel without having to sort through a high-touch customer service system.
Balance Your Strategies for Maximum Impact
To better serve your customers, it’s time to reorganize your Twitter strategy. Here’s how to balance your strategy between the passive and active functions of listening and engaging:
1. Separate Your Customer Service Profile from Your Sales and Marketing Profile
Appoint one employee to monitor for customer service issues and another to proactively engage with possible customers.
Comcast is a great example of a company that accomplishes this. Its Twitter team is divided into three layers of service:
- @comcast  for promotional efforts;
- @comcastcares  for overall customer service;
- and individual agent accounts that work in a traditional caseload structure.
2. Streamline Your Efforts with Helpful Tools
As social media networks grow and flourish, so do software applications. Encourage your team to use these tools to monitor and engage with customers on Twitter rather than manually track them down. Do your research. Identify the tools that will help you respond as quickly and pleasantly as possible.
3. Stay True to Your Brand Guidelines
When you segment your Twitter teams, don’t make the mistake of also segmenting your brand’s voice. Establishing brand guidelines, including acceptable response times, phrases and tones for each department will keep your tone consistent across all levels of service.
4. Remain Organized — Even if You Can’t Separate Your Accounts
For many companies, separate customer service and engagement accounts simply aren’t within the budget. However, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a silent Twitter strategy. Instead of dividing your team, try dividing your team members’ time.
For example, during your busy times, you can feature and retweet social proof comments like Kogi BBQ did. During your slow times, you can respond to personal and engaging comments, like this church did when a user requested a prayer .
5. Fight Radio Silence
Use the available technology and search functions to make sure you don’t miss support questions on the main channel. Keep in mind that some users simply mention the brand name and still expect an answer. So make sure you search for your company name without the handle.
Not staying on top of these comments can lead to a worst-case scenario in which your customers resent not being acknowledged.
As noted social media and technology speaker Brian Solis  says, “Social media is more about psychology and sociology than technology.” If your company is too excited by Twitter’s potential for activity and engagement to focus on what it’s doing, you’ll only end up confusing your customers.
Instead, make the most of your company’s Twitter presence by tapping into your customers’ need for responsive customer support, and your business’s need for proactive marketing and sales,by addressing each area separately.
Use this social media calendar template  to create a social media publishing schedule!
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