Customers may want to communicate with your company via social media long after every employee has gone home.

Brands have been taking advantage of social media platforms for more than a decade now. From organic conversation to viral trends, and most recently an explosion of advertising capabilities, social media has given brands the opportunity to reach digital communities where they’re active throughout the day. But have brands done enough to keep up with the most important conversations happening about them on social media?

We know that customers’ digital usage long outlasts the workday, and their expectations of brands on social media follow that pattern. Whether a customer wants to sing a brand’s praises, or air their grievances, they’re increasingly likely to turn to social media to do so. And how a brand reacts has the potential to make all the difference.

Recent research has shown that, just after affinity for a product or service, a brand’s responsiveness to inquiries is what makes them a customer’s favorite. This further proves that focusing on a brand’s outgoing social media content only solves one piece of the puzzle–after awareness is reached, brands need to meet customer needs on social media throughout the remainder of the funnel. Prioritizing proactive social listening and high-touch community management allow brand’s social presence to meet customers’ newest digital demands.

Need further proof? Just take a look at guest posts on Spectrum’s Facebook when there’s an outage. Read one of the many Twitter bios that feature the available hours for numerous brands that don’t staff their social accounts around the clock. The new “be back in 15 minutes” sign that used to be on doors of brick and mortar stores now comes in the digital form of a Twitter bio or a pinned Facebook post.

Responses can go even further with a touch of personalization. Brands should now aim to build this tailored element into their tools and community management process. While the little touches, like calling a customer by their first name, are nice—but that’s just the beginning. Today, brands have access to rich customer information thanks to opt-ins to reward programs, user-generated content and more. Take the extra step by looking into past interactions with a customer before responding, referencing past conversations or known interests in an authentic way when possible.

So, how fast is fast enough?

This new expectation is propelled by the technology that the majority of customers now hold near and dear, their smartphone. These are the same customers that require brands use “thumb-stopping” photography in advertisements just to catch their attention.

While their digital time is ample, their attention span is still precious. This attitude of immediacy has certainly bled over to customer expectations of brand response. Today, 38 percent of a brand’s social media audience expects a response within an hour or less. These expectations hold true across industries—including politicians, fashion, travel, finance, healthcare, food/restaurant and retail brands.

Brands need to prioritize these customer service needs digitally

If a customer’s need isn’t met on one channel, they’re likely to seek out their answer—or voice their complaint—on another. Yet, don’t expect them to give brands the opportunity to meet their needs face-to-face. While personalized, authentic service still wields great power, it should still be digital-first. 86 percent of customers say that they would prefer to interact with their favorite brand on a computer or mobile device, while just 14 percent say they prefer to interact with their favorite brand in-person. This is even true for local businesses, not just global retailers. With growing demand for immediacy, brands are also turning to tools like Chat Bots or Facebook Messenger to automate what they can.

Think of the staggering difference that 24/7 accessibility can make in the eyes of the customer. People spend their downtime seeking mobile access: tracking a package, paying a bill, even shopping while they wait at the crosswalk or a commercial comes on their television. (Hulu and YouTube viewers, included!) Brands find great success on social media because it allows them to meet their customers where they are. Now, it’s time to be there for them when they need it the most.

Nicole E. Spears is a social media strategist at Mindstream Interactive, a customer experience agency that helps clients identify and remove friction points from their customer journey. Born digital and results-obsessed, their diverse client roster spans industries and business challenges, building customer experiences worth talking about. The research in this article comes from their study, CX Revisited, Our Obsession with Customer Experience, and the Surprising Role of Brands, which can be found at