2. Respond in a way that's consistent with your brand.
When you reply to customers on social, make sure that anyone from your company speaking to customers knows your brand's voice. Your website, your print materials, and all of your marketing assets should use keywords that you want associated with your company; make sure to coach anyone using corporate social media accounts on responses that genuinely represent your organization.
Not all social networks have a built-in character limit like Twitter, but remember that your replies should be short and to the point—don't pen a novel to show your gratitude.
3. Make sure each interaction is personal and genuine.
While auto-responding software tools can help save you time, they're not perfect and can sometimes end up responding to social posts that aren't really about you (like Bank of America did earlier this year). Balance the size of your brand and your available resources to determine how frequently your customers talk to you on social and whether it's appropriate to enable auto responses for every mention.
If you have more than one person responding to customers, it's a good idea for them to identify themselves. For example, Delta has developed an exclusive Twitter account to help manage customer service, where employees listen around the clock and tag their responses with their initials. Putting a personal touch helps customers see that your brand cares about taking the time to respond to their engagements.
4. Don't wait weeks to respond.
While not every comment or review demands a response, when customers complain or have immediate needs, a response two weeks after the fact doesn't look credible or solve the customer's problem. Customers may interpret a slow response as a failure to take issues seriously. In Q1 of 2013, brand responses on Twitter took an average of 6.5 hours, and Facebook response times are almost 24 hours. If that seems fast to you, know that 55 percent of consumers expect a response from social networks within four hours. Make sure you're making an effort to treat reviews and negative feedback from social media and review sites the way you'd deal with an angry phone call or email.