Is Instagram now a customer service platform?

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Instagram has become an excellent way to engage followers - but should brands that have an Instagram presence also be treating it as a service channel?

Instagram has become an excellent way for brands to engage their followers, whether through creative content or innovative UGC campaigns. With the recent launch of ‘shoppable posts’, the platform has started to explore how brands can monetise this content.

The introduction of buy buttons brings an additional focus to social media customer service on Instagram, as customers start to make queries (and report issues) on the same platform they made their purchase on. But customer service is already an issue for brands on Instagram, irrespective of whether a brand has a buy button or not.

Customers contact the brand, not the profile

When a customer experiencing issues with an order, or having a problem with their account, they want a quick resolution. And they want it now! Sometimes this means people contacting the brand on multiple platforms.

Instagram, which started out as a fun way for brands to engage their audience, has become another way for customers to contact brands when they need a quick response, or want to make their feelings heard on a subject important to them.

Instagram is a customer service platform

Some brands still regard Instagram as a marketing and engagement tool, but they need to accept that it’s also a customer service platform – whether they want it to be or not. Customers are taking to Instagram to complain about service issues, and brands need to be ready to respond.

Go to a brand’s Instagram account and, along with the beautiful snaps and admiring comments, you’ll see posts by irate customers chasing up on issues. For example, this Thomas Cook post attracted several comments, most of which were complaints. The brand has only replied to two of the complaints and the others seem to have gone unanswered.

Instagram Thomas Cook

Brands can create an inspirational image or video and work hard on creating the most engaging post to go with it, but it won’t detract from the negative impression of unanswered bad reviews from previous customers.

Instagram’s no longer just about beautiful visuals - it’s about delivering on the promise of those visuals and fixing things when you don’t.

Instagram is about your brand’s politics and practices

Social media has always been a hotbed of campaigning and sharing opinions, and some people are starting to use Instagram as another platform to influence brand behaviour.

Brands go to Instagram to showcase their creativity and illustrate their values. People will respond in the same way as they do on other channels. For example, fans of one YouTuber took to Instagram over Memorial Day weekend to chastise YouTube for demonetising their content.

Instagram YouTube

Brands can’t just avoid posting about sensitive or polarising issues - if people have concerns about how a brand behaves, they’ll post on anything that the brand creates. But what kind of impression does this make on someone who’s just browsing?

Instagram is a crisis management platform

When a brand’s experiencing a crisis breaking on social media, there’s no way of knowing how the crisis will spread. However, the more frustrated people get, the more inclined they are to hunt down the brand wherever it has a presence and make their feelings heard.

The recent issues experienced by TSB have seen the bank dealing with the fallout on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. While the bank hadn’t posted anything on Instagram since March, that didn’t stop people from commenting on old posts.

But TSB responded, apologising and directing people to where they could get help. It also tried to set expectations about response times.

Instagram is a customer communication platform

Instagram is a customer communication platform, not just a marketing tool. Customers aren’t just commenting on the cute pictures anymore – they are talking to each other, arguing over which products they like best, asking for help with product and service issues, posting spam, swearing at each other – they are doing everything they do on other social media channels.

Instagram service

The difference is that - at the moment at least - many brands don’t seem to know how to manage these comments. Most of the brand accounts I’ve seen don’t reply to any comments and those that do respond tend to use the same tone and structure as they do on Twitter and Facebook.

Managing customer service on Instagram

Like their other social media profiles, brands need to create a positive experience on their Instagram pages. Customers may not want to engage if they see a toxic community, in fact, it could put people off becoming customers.

While Instagram lets brands set up a list of custom keywords to block, people will always find ways around this. It’s essential that brands have eyes on the page ready to not only offer help to customers but to provide positive reinforcement to posters that contribute to the community and delete any abusive comments that slip through the automated system.

Customer service isn’t just about dealing with issues – it’s about creating a positive experience for all current and future customers that want to contact the brand. As Instagram introduces new ways for brands to use its platform, providing superior customer experience there is becoming critical.

 

About Lisa Barnett

Lisa Barnett, Strategy and innovation director, The Social Element

I am a social media and online communities expert with more than 18 years experience in running and managing social networks, as well as B2B and B2C communities, both from a strategic and operational level, to help businesses use social media for maximum exposure. I previously worked in IT journalism for more than 10 years so have an excellent grasp of creating relevant and engaging content.

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