Responding to Customers on Social Media: When Should You Move to the DMs?

By Grazel Gueco

For many brands, social media is a whole new realm of customer service. Who knew, when the first Tweet was created, that this would become one of the business world’s most lively sources of customer interaction? Today, customers who want a response are more likely to reach out through Twitter or Facebook than through a product review. Brands aren’t just building an audience on social media, they’re providing very real customer services.

Interaction with customer conversations is essential. Sometimes, it’s a simple “Thanks!” when a customer posts something positive. Sometimes, you need to carefully think about your response – and the form it takes. The biggest question today is: When should you move a conversation to the DMs? 

Open vs. Closed Exchanges on Social Media

In social media, your responses are typically public. When a customer posts on your page, you post back and the answer is visible on both their feed and yours. All their friends and your entire audience can see the exchange. In most cases, this is ideal. Positive interactions, answering questions, and even many problem resolutions are great for open exchanges. They show that you are a responsive brand that cares when your customers reach out.

However, some circumstances require privacy, or to take the conversation out of the shared public environment. This requires direct messaging, instead. At the right moment, customers will appreciate you addressing their situation and respecting their privacy at the same time. In others, moving conversations to the DMs can create unwanted backlash or the appearance of “hushing up” a problem. So when do you make the jump, and when do you keep it public?

Open Exchange Protocols: Keep It Public, Keep It Friendly

Open exchange means that your conversation stays open to the public. As a rule, it’s better to keep most of your social media interactions with customers as open exchanges. This creates a public and visible history of responsiveness, shares genuine conversations and useful information, and can even show off your problem-solving skills. Here are the three situations where open exchange is almost always the right answer:

Positive Interactions and Genuine Conversations

When a customer praises your products or asks a genuine question, your response should always be public. Thanking customers or engaging in conversation about their reviews is a great way to build a relationship with your community – and to show others that their comments will be responded to. Genuine question-answer discussions can also be as enlightening to the audience as they are to the original question-asker.

One-step Solutions

Does a customer have a problem you can easily solve? Share your solution and a positive response to their request in public. Let them know that that missing package has been found and will arrive shortly. Publicly tell a customer their account error has been resolved, or that a replacement item has been sent in response to photos of a defective or shipping-damaged product.

Not only will you make one customer happy, but you’ll also show others that your brand has great customer support, from start to end.

Doesn’t Involve Personal Information

The one important rule of open exchanges is to never ask for or print personal information. If an issue requires follow-up information, and especially if you need to ask something like a personal shipping address, take it to DMs just to respect your customer’s privacy. But you might invite them publicly to meet you in private.

Closed Exchange Support: Keeping It Private for Privacy’s Sake

Closed exchanges are best when an issue involves private information or an extensive discussion to find a problem’s solution. It can also be the way to remove a toxic interaction from the public forum, especially if you suspect you’re dealing with a troll (an account seeking trouble instead of solutions).

Escalating and Investigating

Sometimes, customer service requests aren’t so simple. If a problem requires a longer discussion or solution-seeking, take it to the DMs. Your general audience doesn’t need to see your technical discussion of a product’s issues, the replacement parts needed, and the shipping solutions available. Any escalated issue or one that requires a multi-step solution is something to be taken care of in privacy.

When Personal Information is Needed

Anytime you need to ask for personal information to provide a solution, take it to the DMs. Even if most of the solutions can be an open exchange, this part helps protect the privacy and safety of your customers.

Involving Abusive or Hateful Language

Finally, watch out for abusive accounts and keep as much abusive language as possible off your feed. These might be trolls, or they might be genuine complaints said angrily. In either case, politely taking the conversation to DMs allows you to seek a solution without filling your page with curse words or hateful language.

It’s not always easy to tell the right way to deal with not-so-simple social media customer service situations. When you need an expert eye, contact us for conscientious social media management consultations and services.