At this point, most companies have jumped feet first onto the social media bandwagon. For some businesses, incorporating tweets, status updates, and pins has been a huge success. For others. . . the transition over to social media was a bit of a flop. Why? Because you gotta have a plan.Getting into the social media marketing game isn’t as easy as one might think. While social networking platforms carry a certain essence of spontaneity (and that’s what we love about them) businesses often make the mistake of tweeting off the top of their heads, or posting a picture without considering all the possible angles. Oops. Now your primary demographic is offended. Good luck smoothing that one over.

When social media for business is done right, it should feel fresh and like it was written on the fly, but in reality it was painstakingly crafted to convey a very specific message, tone, and purpose.

One of the areas for opportunity that businesses often overlook, is the potentially valuable customer service they could be providing with social media. Fortunately, we have some examples of companies who got it right. Here are five businesses that use Twitter to provide awesome customer service to their clientele.

1) Ford

The Ford company actually has a dedicated customer service handle @FordService. This account provides support for the company’s two primary brands, Ford and Lincoln. Its purpose is to answer driving-related questions, concerns, and address any other service issues. The idea behind an additional handle is to keep complains and problems off of their marketing-focused brand accounts. Pretty great idea.

2) Nike

Nike is another brand that has opted to create its own customer service handle. The @NikeSupport receives over 265 inbound customer service-oriented tweets every day. Even though the brand receives an overwhelming amount of customer tweets, 55% of the time a Nike rep responds to a customer tweet in less than 30 minutes.

3) Instant Checkmate

This startup grew very quickly in just a short amount of time. As a result, they relied heavily on their existing social media accounts as a lifeline between themselves and their rapidly growing customer base. Their handle, @instntcheckmate has almost 1,500 followers and addresses everything from technical support, to customer feedback. Their Facebook page is also being used for member support.

4) Microsoft

The tech giant, Microsoft, was an early adopter of using Twitter for customer service. The company launched the handle, @MicrosoftHelps back in 2009. Since then, the company has extended its Twitter-based support to an international audience. In 2010, Microsoft announced that the company was extending support to both French and German speakers with the new handles @MSVousAide and @MicrosoftHilft.

5) Whole Foods

Social media customer support for a healthy grocery store chain? Now I’ve officially seen it all! Unlike most nationally-recognized brands, Whole Foods has adopted a decentralized approach to social media marketing. Instead of having a single Twitter feed to represent their brand, Whole Foods actually encourages all their stores to start their own Twitter accounts and tweet about local events and store-specific promotions. The result? With hundreds of Whole Foods Twitter accounts, this brand now has one of the largest corporate presences on Twitter.

The value of a strong social media presence for a brand is only going to increase in the coming years. Using sites like Twitter for customer service is a great way reach out to the public and build trust among your customers. Take a lesson from these five companies by turning off the sales pitch and just trying to be helpful. Sometimes the selfless approach can, in fact, payoff.

By Alyssa Dubois.  Alyssa is a community manager and blogger in Biolxi, Mississippi. She when she’s not blogging about social media, she’s volunteering at the South Mississippi Humane Society and cooking for her huge southern family. 
Contributor
This post was submitted by a contributor. Check out our Contributor page for details about how you can share your ideas on starting a business, productivity or life hacks with our audience.