Social media has been a game changer for the holiday shopping season. Once upon a time, gift inspiration came from catalogs, and customer inquiries were handled in-store or on the phone. Now, more and more customers are turning to social media to get both gift ideas and real-time customer service.

When it comes to gift ideas, Crowdtap statistics show 64.8% of shoppers scroll through their social feeds to find ideas for the perfect present. Most small businesses  and non-profits have caught on to this trend and share gift guides, mention upcoming sales or specials services, and/or provide year-end donation suggestions. While your holiday marketing efforts on social media may be up to par, is your customer service on social top-notch, too?

Current or potential customers are extremely vocal on social and reaching out to a business publicly on Facebook or Twitter garners the attention of many. With increased sales and inquiries during the holiday season, follow these tips to ensure you offer the kind of social customer service that will wow shoppers this holiday season:

1. Respond quickly

Every comment, question, complaint and kudos should get a timely response. This is true whether it’s the holiday season or not, but it’s even more important when the masses are keeping a close eye on your social sites.

“The immediacy of social media communications creates an expectation from customers of immediate response by brands,” says David Erickson, vice president of Online Marketing at public relations firm Karwoski & Courage. “If customers don’t get an immediate response, it is by definition a negative experience.”

In other words, don’t let feedback sit unanswered on your social sites.

2. Offer a positive experience

Research shows that customers who have a positive exchange with a business on social media are 71% more likely to recommend that business to others.

During the holiday season, referrals are crucial. Every interaction that a social media visitor has with your business should be positive. So, how do you deal with unflattering reviews? You do so with tact. Apologize for any inconvenience, be sympathetic to the customer’s needs, and offer to speak about the problem in private. That’s exactly what an Arizona car dealership did in its response to a customer’s negative experience with its service department.

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3. Spread some holiday cheer with images

Keep your social sites updated with current holiday images to show customers that your business is in the holiday spirit. Find a dozen or so photos that you can use throughout the season for your cover art on Facebook, create a holiday-themed Pinterest board and tweet images from classic holiday movies.

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4. Give support

During the holidays, customers may have questions about how your product works or need troubleshooting tips. Social media is a great outlet for this. Xbox, for example, answers gaming questions via Twitter. Consider offering this kind of special customer service around the holidays; this could boost your reputation and relationship with buyers.

5. Offer holiday-themed promotions or tools

Your social customer care shouldn’t just be reactive; it should be proactive, too. You want to do more than just respond quickly and politely to feedback; you want to engage with customers.

Research shows customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20 to 40 percent more money with that company. That’s all the more reason to get shoppers socially engaged. Here are few holiday-themed ideas:

  • Try a holiday giveaway: Who doesn’t want free stuff, especially during the holidays? Host a gift giveaway on one of your social sites (Note: Always follow the contest terms and conditions for each social site). Joby, a camera accessories business, for example, created a “12 Days of Giveaways” on its blog and promoted it on Twitter.
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  • Offer useful content: Share content that helps make the season bright. For example, Taste of Home offered holiday recipes on its Facebook page.
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  • The Mall of America uses Twitter to help holiday shoppers find available parking spots with #MOAParking, a tool that Erickson and his firm suggested to the mega mall.
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  • Team up with a local charity: Encourage customers to bring in a canned good for a food drive or run a “Buy one, Give one” promotion. Every time a customer buys a certain item, your business donates one to a family in need.