Social Media Customer Service For Small Businesses

Customer service on the web is very important and no one is training small businesses on that in an effective manner. We can teach anyone how to find people who are complaining or saying negative or positive things about their business and how to reach out to them.

Using Google to send you alert emails is just one of many ways you can tap into this new frontier of Social Media Customer Service.

Simple Steps To Get Started

We can show you or your staff simple tricks to find people who are using language on their social profiles and blogs that may indicate that they are in the market for your company’s services.

Google Alerts

Google has a free system for keeping an eye on the web. You can enter search terms and Google will let you get email alerts for what ever it was you put in the search box. This is nothing new but using it in a smart way is very uncommon. Here is an example of how a local business might use it.

Steps to set up Google Alert

  • Got to
  • Type in the search box the following with quotes and everything exactly: “the coffee was horrible” Spokane
  • Change the “Volume” drop down to “All results”
  • Click the blue Preview results link

You should see something similar to the following graphic.

Bad Coffee Google Alert

Feel free to change out the city name Spokane for your city. Keep in mind that the quote marks (“) are important as they keep your search more exact and that keeps out most of the irrelevant results.

Put yourself in an unhappy customers position

What would a dissatisfied customer type on a review site or on their social profile? This could be “the coffee was horrible” or “the coffee was terrible” or maybe even “the coffee was disgusting.” I think you get the point. Experiment with different things your customer base may be talking about on the web.

Tap into your competition’s negative complaints

One great way to build loyalty through social media customer service is to help people who are complaining about your competitors as well as your own products or services. Set up a Google alert for complaining language and your competitors name. It might be something like (“I hate starbucks” spokane) or something similar. Experiment with different variations. If you are not sure who your competitors are just Google them and look up your type of business in a phone book or something.

Why this works and how it gives you an advantage

The simple fact is there is a big circle of crowd based communications going on on the internet that small businesses have no clue about when it comes to listening in on or taping into it to join the conversation. As long as your Google alerts are set up smartly and you are not getting irrelevant results leading you to ignore them, it is an indispensable tool to small businesses.

How to improve your alerts over time

Sometimes you might get an alert that is not what you are looking for. When that happens knowing some of Google’s more advanced search operators can help greatly. Lets say you were a local coffee shop looking to capitalize on Starbucks mistakes. You might set up an alert like: “terrible coffee” starbucks. It could look like this:

Alert "terrible coffee" starbucks

The problem is these results are not going to be much help. They are showing one writer’s opinion of Starbucks coffee that they posted in an article on the mobile payment processing which they syndicated to tons of blog sites. Let’s refine this in order to come up with some better results.

Change the query to: bad “starbucks coffee”

This will look for places where someone typed “starbucks coffee” exactly and also the word (bad), in close proximity to it, on the site somewhere. Notice how you can see results that are more actionable? You could right click these results, open them in a new tab, and begin a conversation with the people involved. You can interachange for any site you want. You might want to try or, etc. Go ahead and experiment with it and see what you can come up with that is relevant to your business.

Advanced search operators for Google Alerts

Even with these refinements you still may not be seeing what you want. Here are a few other tricks. Type in this query exactly: bad “starbucks coffee” near:spokane This query will allow you to find more results, order them by distance from Spokane and exclude results from Starbucks themselves.

Try this really advanced query:

“starbucks” reviews “bad service” OR “terrible service” OR “horrible service” OR “poor service” OR “bad taste” OR “tasted gross” OR “tasted nasty” OR “tasted disgusting” OR “terrible coffee” OR “horrible coffee” OR “coffee was nasty” -inurl:news -inurl:category -inurl:wiki -inurl:definition

Advanced Search Operators Explained:

Operator: ” “

You can search for words like bad service but you will get results that have those words appearing in any order on the page. If you surround phrases by the quotes it will limit results to sites with what you put in-be-tween quotes exactly.

Operator: OR

You can pick from many different variations of potential queries. If you don’t use OR and just use a space it is assumed you mean AND which is not what you want.


With the minus sine (-) you can exclude results. You can use it in front of most words and operators to reverse their purpose.

Operator: inurl:

You can specify a word that is required to appear in the actual URL Address of the site listing. This works great for using the negative operator minus sine to get rid of results you see as irrelevant. In our example we excluded sites with news, category, wiki and definition in the url, as they may be more news related or not conversational.

Operator: site:

You can specify results from a specific site or exclude results from a specific site like in the example:

Thoughts on advanced search operators

You can see what we mean when we say that Google Alerts have been around for a long time but hardly anyone knows how to use them effectively. The search operators can get pretty technical. If you want to do something really cool,  practice your search queries in Google itself first. This will allow you to narrow down your results to things that you know you want which may not appear when you try the query in Google Alerts itself. Actually join the conversations and interact with people while you are refining your queries. Once you are done then paste your query in Google Alerts and create the alert even if there are no results. It will alert you when there is similar results and it may also notify you when someone responds in most cases. It works really well.

Proactive Social Media Customer Service

If you want to get “Real Time” results you won’t be able to do that easily with Google Alerts but you can do it at This will allow you to interact in conversions that are happening in the last few minutes or hours. This would be a really smart use of your or your staff’s time during times in the day where business is slow. Check out the links in the sidebar Google provides that help you narrow your search. This example is the advanced query above but with the “Real Time” tab in the sidebar selected.

Real Time SERPS Bad Coffee

You can create email alerts from Google results directly sometimes. If you see something similar to the following at the bottom of the search page you should be able to create one. Don’t forget to change the drop down to “All results.”

“Stay up to date on these results:

Conclusion about social media customer service for local businesses

Our goal is to set up training courses for small businesses in the Spokane area to train their staff in internet marketing and online customer service techniques. We want to create something where we can get to the point of holding local classes or seminars. We want to do it all for free because if businesses see the skills we give away for free, make them money, then they may hire us for more advanced services and buy our software packages, etc.

If you would like to have you or your staff trained in basics of Social Media Customer Service please click the contact button at the top of the site and let us know what your needs entail. Thanks for reading and have a great day. We hope this tip gives you an advantage in business you did not have previously.

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