Flight Canceled? Don't Call, Tweet

Kirsten Salyer writes about consumer culture for Bloomberg View and is the site's engagement editor. She has also written for Condé Nast Traveler, Texas Monthly and Houston Community Newspapers. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and international studies from Northwestern University.
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The next time you need to reach a company's customer service department, hang up the phone. Try expressing your angst in 140 characters or fewer.

Social media are increasingly used to communicate directly with companies. For businesses, maintaining engaging social media presences is no longer an option; it's a requirement. According to social media analytics site Social Baker, brand social media accounts answered about 30 percent of questions in 2012; in 2013, the response rate rose to 62 percent.

Efforts to boost social media responses reflect rising expectations for service. Consumers want answers, and they want them quickly. According to Live Person, a customer-engagement company, 71 percent of online consumers expect help within five minutes; 31 percent expect it immediately.

For companies, a helpful social media presence provides the chance to build brand loyalty -- so as long as they use it correctly: Companies that respond quickly with personal, non-canned responses have the most success. All of this is to say: Your company's social media presence has to be, well, social.

How can social media customer service help you? Try sending a tweet with a question or complaint and mentioning the appropriate Twitter handle. Following a trend among some companies, Nike, which has more than 2.6 million followers on its main account, has a separate Twitter account, with more than 100,000 followers, to handle customer queries. Some examples of brands engaging on Twitter:

Airlines, the target of oh-so-many complaints, have also been particularly eager adopters of this type of customer service. American Airlines has 17 employees working in social media. Last November, Royal Dutch Airlines installed a live-wait ticker on its Twitter account to show the expected response time an answer to a Twitter question will take. (Nice effort, but is it worth it when the counter shows more than an hour wait?)

For proof of how Twitter can help you get un-stranded, ask my colleague Stacey Shick, who turned to Jet Blue's Twitter account for help booking flights (twice) after Hurricane Sandy:

So for questions/complaints/tips/compliments about Bloomberg View, tweet us!

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.