Top Social CRM Software Comparison

As more of the world spends time on social media at home and at work, understanding how your company’s social media posts, customer sentiment, and service priorities play out online. A social CRM software can help your company juggle social posting, manage your online presence, and respond quickly to customer issues. These are the best social CRM systems of 2021.

Compare the best CRM vendors

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Table of contents

What is social CRM software?

In the most general terms, Social CRM can describe any CRM system with integrated social media features. How useful any company will find these features depends entirely on the quality of the tools. In other words, simply linking social media data to account profiles is much less useful than a system that incorporates social analytics and social selling features into contact management.

Businesses have traditionally organized customer interactions around a set of predetermined channels: phone, email, direct mail, or in-person contacts. Given these rigid constraints and predictable contact channels, a traditional CRM works well. But the rise of social media — along with other web-based media and crowdsourced venues — has complicated this structure and given new power to customers, who exercise greater choice in where they make purchasing decisions.

Businesses took notice of this change, and most have adopted their own social media strategies — if not specific social management solutions. But social CRM as a strategy doesn’t just involve being present on social networks; it’s a complete fusion of sales, marketing, and service with the rich, unstructured conversation — and data — that lives in the comments, statuses, shares, tweets, and likes of over 3.7 billion social media users.

Social CRM brings business to the customer, through ads, posts, social listening, and conversations.

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Introduction to social CRM software

Social CRM combines the capabilities of social media management with traditional customer relationship management (CRM) software to help brands engage their customers across social media.

These technologies started as web-based clipping services for public relations departments, but these primitive techniques quickly proved an inadequate match for the velocity of modern social communication. This evident need led to the startup of standalone social analytics tools. The rapid fusion of social media data and business processes triggered a flurry of social acquisitions by major CRM vendors like Salesforce and Oracle in 2012 and 2013. As a result of these big names moving into the social CRM sphere, even smaller and niche vendors have adopted the tools.

Although vendors and thought leaders have made great strides in defining and standardizing social CRM software, there is still a lot of confusion about available products and features. This guide will help you better understand the capabilities of social CRM, how it can benefit your company, and how to choose the best social CRM solution.

Best social CRM products and features

There are a few different ways to package social CRM software.

Some full-featured CRM platforms have built-in social functions and data, such as Nimble’s “intelligent relationship platform.” In other cases, a business can piece together a solution by selecting a standalone social management tool like Hootsuite or Sprout Social that integrates with their existing CRM.

The best solution for your business will likely be the one that provides the most seamless integration between social media activities and your team’s existing customer relationship systems.

Best of breed social management apps

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Social CRM: Why it matters

Why should you care about social CRM? Because your customers do. 90 percent of Americans expect brands to have a social media profile, and 60 percent of Americans plan on interacting with brands on social media. Your customers want to ask you questions via your social media platforms and expect answers.

Social CRM gives businesses the ability to see what people are talking about in real-time and engage in those conversations — whether positioning yourself as a knowledgable expert or just a friendly resource. It provides the opportunity to record more granular data based on social media interactions. When you find conversations about your brand with social media monitoring tools, and when you interact with potential customers, you can track that data in your CRM in addition to email and phone conversations.

Social CRM is about putting your customer first on your social media channels and using those platforms as a way to connect one on one with them, not just to push marketing.

Common features of social CRM software

As with any software, features will vary from vendor to vendor, ranging from simple social profile access to sophisticated analytics and social media monitoring capabilities. Here are some of the most common features, some or all of which you may find in a social CRM solution:

Enhanced customer profiles

Agents can use data from social media accounts — demographics, job title, location, interests, communication history — to build a more comprehensive understanding of customers. A 360-degree view of each customer’s needs and interests can enable more targeted marketing efforts, better product suggestions, and less redundant issue resolution.

Social listening:

Identify brand mentions and customer trends by monitoring comments, posts, hashtags, and trending topics. Listening can be used to figure out

  • What your customers and prospects are interested in
  • What troubles them about your brand
  • When they’re having issues with a product or service
  • Who your biggest influencers are
  • Where your next sales opportunity is

Sentiment analysis

Social CRMs with sentiment analysis use natural language processing (NLP) to identify emotions and attitudes your customers express on social media. For example, you can receive a notification when a customer complains about poor service, and follow up with them directly before it becomes a trending topic. Sentiment analysis helps companies with a large customer base process and interpret the high-volume of unstructured data associated with social media.

Social selling

Pitching directly to social connections isn’t always effective, since not everyone who posts about a product is ready to buy. Social selling tools can help you pinpoint prospects who are closest to making a decision, and discover recurring signals so your efforts aren’t wasted. Some social CRMs can even suggest specific ways to engage a prospect based on their demographics and browsing history.

Social marketing

There are innumerable ways marketers can use social CRMs, from lead generation to content management and marketing analytics. Maybe it’s too early to sell to a social prospect, but you know they’re interested — they just need the right information. That’s a perfect opportunity to connect with a new lead and, for example, get them plugged into your drip marketing program.

What are common uses and strategies for social CRM tools?

Social CRM is most frequently used within sales, marketing, and service departments, since these roles require the most direct engagement with customers and prospects. High level decision-makers can also use social CRM tools to measure larger audience trends and monitor brand reputation.

There are a number of strategies organizations can employ to yield higher return on investment:

Gain better knowledge of customers and prospects

Use the data accrued through social listening and enhanced customer profiles to draw valuable insights about your target audience on an individual and/or collective level. Sales and marketing strategists can use this data to add relevance to the products and content they present.

Create value-added customer engagement

Social CRM isn’t just about following your customers on social networks and getting them to like your company page; it’s about adding value to the relationship in both directions. You can add value by resolving a complaint mentioned in a customer’s post, by offering a discount to new followers, or spreading educational and informative content on your feed. The customer adds value to your businesses by pledging their loyalty and (hopefully) spreading the word in their virtual community.

Form new relationships and retain existing ones

Lead generation is one of the most promising aspects of social CRM — the ability to find and connect with new opportunities based on behavioral or linguistic triggers by mentioning a key phrase, or adding an interest tag to their page. These connections increase the volume of leads entering your funnel, which is good for business. But social CRM can also help businesses retain current customers through faster issue resolution and anticipating churn before it happens.

Four out of five customers say they expect a response to a social media complaint within 24 hours. Giving your service reps direct access to issues reported on social media could stop you from losing business to competitors.

Monitor and improve brand reputation

Historically, businesses have designated a single specialist or a select few individuals to monitor social media activity — perhaps a public relations manager or a social media expert. While these individuals still have an important role in the company, the best way to improve your social reputation is by connecting strategy with action.

Social CRM is about gathering information, engaging with the customer, and acting on their needs. Done successfully, this helps your brand gain community advocates, rather than simply advocating for itself.

Creating executive buy-in

If you’re leading the initiative on software procurement, you’ll need to build a compelling business that “sells” social CRM to its future stakeholders in the company. To ensure successful adoption and long-term ROI, it’s important to get leadership on board first. That means they need to agree with the need for a social CRM solution and the value it will add after implementation. Here are some and selling points for specific executives to get you started:

CEO:

Your CEO’s main function is to maximize the value of the company, but it’s likely they have their hands in several different pots at any given time. CEOs are mostly concerned with big-picture plays, which means they’ll want to know how social CRM can improve the company’s core business model. We’ve already discussed the ways that social CRM feeds into better marketing, sales, and service performance. But you can also show your CEO what competitors are doing on social media, and explain how social CRM can give your company a strong upper hand.

CMO:

Your chief marketing officer will undoubtedly be interested in the ways social CRM can help your company better leverage its brand to create trust and advocacy in virtual communities, not to mention the obvious benefits to lead generation and market analytics. According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of adults now use at least one social networking site. If your company doesn’t have an account or doesn’t check it regularly, consumers will discuss, question, and (sometimes) denigrate your brand, and you’ll never even know.

CFO:

How can it reduce costs and grow revenue? How soon can we expect to see ROI? What are the upfront and long-term costs of ownership? These are questions your chief financial officer will ask. First of all, social CRM isn’t always an added expense. For example, if you’re moving from an older, on-premise CRM to a cloud-based solution, social CRM may actually reduce expenses by replacing high-maintenance IT infrastructure and expensive system upgrades with a single, monthly subscription cost. Social CRM will cut costs associated with long service calls, hold time, and workflow redundancy by allowing reps to target requests and opportunities before they reach the call center. You can expect to see a revenue increase on several counts:

  • Higher volume of incoming leads through expanded social influence
  • Higher percentage of qualified leads through data-driven social marketing
  • More opportunities to identify point-of-need and offer relevant product

Understanding the mindset of your c-level audience will help you craft a better case for social CRM.

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