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The Buffer team is heading out on our first retreat since 2019! I asked the retreat veterans for advice on making the most of the trip as a newbie. Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses

In 2013, I started as a social media specialist at a digital marketing agency. Our main client was UNIQA, the largest insurance group in Europe, which focused on Facebook marketing. They also asked us to create an Instagram profile just to have a presence on another social media platform. 

As a junior SMM specialist, it was my job to repost Facebook posts to Instagram and check out Instagram comments once a week. Neither the client nor the agency thought keeping track of brand mentions or using Instagram Direct was necessary. At that time, no one could have predicted the importance of Instagram customer care.

Within 3 weeks of using Instagram, we lost over 20 inquiries from potential customers who contacted the company to calculate the car insurance cost. As a junior SMM specialist, I was to blame for that failure. 

People learn from their mistakes, and over the last decade, I've become an Instagram fan who consults small businesses on social media marketing.

It's no secret that most clients want to know the best social media platforms for small businesses. And if they have to start with one, I always bet on Instagram.

With 2 billion monthly active users, 90 percent of whom follow at least one business profile in-app, Instagram has transformed from a simple photo-sharing app into a powerful marketing channel for small businesses with a limited budget.

However, using Instagram for small business growth is not just about taking your followers behind the scenes and posting eye-catching visuals to grab their attention; it's also about providing good customer service.

In this article, we discuss the importance of Instagram in-app customer service for small businesses, explain the idea of Instagram customer care, and provide actionable tips on using Instagram for customer service, backed up with real-life examples and tips. Let's dive into it!

What is Instagram customer care?

Instagram customer care is the process of dealing with customers (potential and existing ones) who have questions, concerns, or inquiries about your brand within Instagram via Direct Messages, comments, and brand mentions.

Here comes an example of Instagram customer care from Angashion, a clothing brand that gets customer requests on Instagram from potential customers.

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: @angashion_official

Instagram knows the importance of customer care, so it has rolled out business-friendly features that help solve customer queries faster and more easily. Here is a breakdown of the most popular Instagram features that help to improve Instagram customer service:

  • Contact buttons appear below the bio section and help interested customers get in touch with your business via phone or email.
  • Push notifications help business owners or social media managers keep track of all important conversations and requests to solve them promptly.
  • Clickable links come in two options – bio link or Story link – and they provide an option to redirect followers to the right page where they can get customer service assistance.
  • Organized inbox is a tool that helps to improve communication via Direct Messages (DM) by using filters, archives, or message groups.
  • Quick replies appear in the inbox as canned responses to frequently asked questions and therefore improve response speed.
  • Question stickers can be used as a source of customer feedback if you ask your followers to share their thoughts about your business and predict customer inquiries. 

Now that you know about Instagram customer care and its role in small business growth, pay close attention to these tips that help to provide customer service in-app, even if you're limited with the budget and you don't have a dedicated customer service representative for Instagram.

Why should small businesses be ready for Instagram customer care?

If you use Instagram for growth, you should also be ready for Instagram customer care. Here are three main reasons: 

  • Your audience is active on Instagram. Practically every person uses Instagram these days, and it's important to provide customer service where your customers are more active. Since an average Instagram user spends at least 33 minutes daily on the platform, you're more likely to get customer inquiries.
  • People use Instagram for brand communication. Instagram has become a powerful communication channel. As Instagram claims, over 90 percent of its user base follows at least one business account, and around 150 million users have a conversation with businesses on a monthly basis.
  • You can meet your customer expectations. The demand for social media customer service has grown. It's easier for people to reach out to brands on social media these days. According to Zendesk, 64 percent of customers spend more with businesses that resolve their issues within their preferred communication channel.

Customer service expectations have changed, and people expect a prompt response from brands, even if you're a small business with few employees. To stay competitive in the market, you must adapt to customer needs. 

8 tips to improve your Instagram customer care

1. Mention your customer service options in the bio

With a short attention span of 9 seconds, an Instagram bio has become a powerful business card for companies of all sizes and niches that tell a lot about the business, its products, values, and more. Today, there are various Instagram bio ideas for small businesses.

But if you want to optimize your Instagram account for customer care, start with your bio section, as it's the first thing people see when visiting your profile. The idea is to clarify that you use Instagram for customer service and are here for customer needs and wants.

Here comes a good example from one interior design studio, The Wallpaper Warehouse.

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: @thewallpaperwarehouse

Whether you receive a high volume of Instagram requests or you simply want to keep track of all customer queries in one place, it can be a smart idea to create a dedicated Instagram profile for customer service, just like Oh Polly did.

2. Add various contact options as an action button

If you try to provide Instagram customer care for your small business, that's great. But you should also be ready for customers who contact you via other channels like phone, chat, or email. 

Living in the digital era, when various communication channels are available, it's no wonder that different customers choose different preferred channels for communication with brands. 

Instagram business accounts have an opportunity to add contact buttons and customize them with strong calls to action to guide potential prospects on how to interact with your brand outside Instagram.

For now, two contact buttons are available:

  • Email address that comes with a call to action "Email" 
  • Phone number that comes with a call to action "Call"

If your small business has a virtual phone system and an email address to work with clients, you can add both to your IG profile and get it under the "Contact" button. Not only can you provide customers with alternative contact options, but you can also get fewer customer inquiries on Instagram, which helps your social media moderator work better.

A good example of using contact buttons on Instagram comes from a Ukrainian coffee brand Soloway Coffee. The company has added both options–the phone number and the email address-so that interested followers or potential partners could tap on the contact buttons and use the communication channel of their choice to contact the company.

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: @solowaycoffee

3. Keep track of conversations with Buffer’s engagement tool

Small businesses operating on lean budgets can find it time-consuming and effort-consuming to track conversations and deliver fast Instagram customer care. 

And when it takes days or weeks to get a reply to a question or concern, your prospective customers lose interest in your business. 

Once you monitor conversations and respond promptly, you can turn worried or concerned customers into brand fans.

With Buffer's engagement feature,  you can improve Instagram customer care for your small business. 

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: Buffer

Here are two main reasons why:

  • It keeps all conversations in one place. Buffer's tool lets users see all unanswered comments to react or reply to them in a simple dashboard. And if you want to be active on different social media platforms, the process of monitoring customer inquiries is even harder as you get questions from all sides.
  • It helps to collaborate with your team. Whether your small business has an in-house social media moderator or you make the most out of Instagram customer care outsourcing, your customer service reps may need to work in a team or turn to a small business owner to resolve some inquiries. Simply put, reps must collaborate in real-time to find solutions to consumer problems. 

4. Organize your Instagram DM inbox

As Meta's own data states, over one billion people message a business each week via Direct Messages. This means your customers are more likely to opt for a personal way to communicate with your brand via DM, even if you're a small business.

When it comes to Instagram customer care, direct messaging can be a good way to interact with your customers and work on their questions or concerns. However, it's important to organize your inbox to make sure none of the messages get buried in the message requests.

Using an Instagram business account, it's easier to organize your inbox as it has three tabs: primary, general, and requests. What is more, you can tag selected messages and organize them, according to additional filters like in the screenshot below:

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses

5. Tackle difficult conversations privately

No matter how hard you try, dissatisfied customers may sometimes appear. What is more, these angry customers may want to tell the whole world about their negative experience to warn other people who want to do business with you. That's why people create posts on their profiles or write angry comments.

When people use the comment section to tell the world about their negative experiences, it's more likely they have two reasons:

  • They seek out support from other customers
  • They want to grab your attention to their problems 

In both scenarios, small businesses should take action and deal with angry customers. More often than not, you may want to tackle difficult conversations privately. And if your customers need to share sensitive data like order details or contact information, going to a private channel is a must to prevent an Instagram account being hacked.

Like all big companies, Lululemon receives dozens of comments from satisfied and dissatisfied customers. Some of the negative comments (just like in the example below) can serve as a red flag for potential customers who seek out social proof, so it's crucial to protect personal data and move these conversations to a private channel like direct messages. Check out how Lululemon encourages the customer to send a direct message:

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: @lululemon

Sometimes customers simply want to share their negative stories about your brand and they don't slide into direct messages to get assistance. If this happens to you, I'd recommend all small businesses to use tools like Signalhire that allow you to find prospects' contact information like an email address based on their name and surname or a social media profile handle.

Dissatisfied customers can damage your brand reputation if they don't get resolutions to their questions or concerns. Thus, it's important to take the next step and reach out to them on other channels and show that you take care of them. Not only can it turn angry customers into happy ones, but it can also affect your brand reputation.

6. Provide social proof on Instagram

To make Instagram customer care easier for your small business team, it's a good idea to make proactive customer care which means solving problems before they occur.

In most cases, people need interaction with the company when they buy products or services from you. However, many people seek out assistance during the discovery phase when they simply gather information about your brand and products. And they want to see other customers who are happy with your business.

To put it plainly, people seek out social proof (customer reviews, case studies, video testimonials, etc.). When you provide it on Instagram, not only do you increase brand trust, but you also ease the worried minds of potential customers. It's all about proactive customer care.

Here, travel company Where There Be Dragons shares the stories of its alumni ambassador team by adding their photos and quotes.

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: @wheretherebedragons

Or, it can also be a smart idea to turn to your clients and ask them to share their customer experiences and turn them into short yet eye-grabbing quotes for your Instagram. Check out how email marketing company Mailcon did it:

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: @mailcon

Do you need more social proof? Mailcon also claims that it's easier to maximize campaigns with influencers. If you want to collect more social proof like reviews for your small business, you can also turn to relevant influencers in your niche and ask them to involve their audience. 

7. Improve Instagram customer self-service

Modern customers value their time, and it’s easier (and faster) for them to access information to find replies to their questions at their own pace. 

Like many small business owners, it’s more likely you have a limited number of customer service agents, which means managing repetitive questions can also be daunting. Plus, it’s important to focus on handling more complex requests. 

The solution? Consider improving customer self-service (CSS), the set of approaches when people get fast access to information and the answers without interactions with human agents.

Today, customer self-service comes in different forms. Here are several to consider using on Instagram:

  • FAQs 
  • knowledge bases
  • chatbots

And here’s how one beauty brand Jolie Skin Co uses its Instagram Story Highlights to gather FAQs in one place. 

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: @jolieskinco

Once interested visitors tap on the album, they see the list of frequently asked questions with short answers. To take the next step, you can add a clickable link to redirect readers to the dedicated landing page on your site and therefore provide more information and boost traffic.

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: @jolieskinco

It’s no secret that people have short attention spans, and since most people consume visual information better, I recommend using descriptive covers with clear descriptions. To create similar albums for customer self-service on your Instagram profile, you can use Instagram templates and make simple yet descriptive visuals with short captions, just like Jolie Skin Co. did.

Alternatively, you can use the quick reply feature to quickly address FAQs. This allows you to create a list of pre-made responses you can insert in direct messages to send to different customers without the need to type similar replies every time.

To take advantage of this feature, simply think about your list of frequently asked questions and use it as a basis for your canned responses for Instagram quick replies. With this feature, not only can you increase response time, but you can also maintain a brand voice especially if you work in a team or delegate social media monitoring.

8. Monitor brand mentions

When people discuss your brand, you can better understand their needs and wants. However, remember that 96 percent of people who discuss your brand on social media don’t follow the brand’s own profile. At the same time, people share their feedback to be heard by their audience or you. 

Let’s look at one digital creator who writes food reviews on her Instagram profile. Sophie constantly visits restaurants in her area and shares her feedback on the profile. Here’s how it looks in action:

Instagram Customer Care 101 for Small Businesses
Source: @pigletfan

Now that you know that many brand mentions happen outside your Instagram profile, consider using social media monitoring tools like Meltwater, Keyhole, or Mention. With these tools, you can gather customer feedback and work with dissatisfied customers before they ruin your reputation, which also means providing proactive customer care on Instagram.

Investing in Instagram customer care pays off

Providing excellent customer service on Instagram is not easy for small businesses with limited team members and budgets. But as more customers turn to Instagram to contact brands and solve their questions in-app, you need to prepare to provide excellent customer service on Instagram.

After all, when you give your customers what they crave, you stay ahead of your competitors. Thus, investing in Instagram customer care pays off. And with the tips mentioned above and best practices under your belt, you’re ready to provide Instagram customer care.

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