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Social CRM combines the capabilities of social media management with traditional customer relationship management (CRM) software to help brands better engage their customers. The movement started with web-based clipping services in public relations departments, but these small teams using 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, and the rapid fusion of social and business processes triggered a flurry of social acquisitions by major CRM vendors like Salesforce and Oracle in 2012 and 2013.1 Some firms have predicted the overall market will be worth as much as $9 billion by 2018.2
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.
Defining Social CRM
In the most general terms, Social CRM can describe any CRM system with integrated social media features. The utility of systems, however, is largely influenced by the depth and breadth of social integration. 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.
Traditionally, businesses have organized customer interactions around a set of predetermined channels. To that end, the practices and technologies of CRM systems have largely been sufficient, 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. As notable CRM author Paul Greenberg said,3 “The customer [now] controls the business ecosystem and the conversation.”
Business are taking 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— pulsing through comments, statuses, shares, tweets, and likes at an impossible rate. It’s about bringing business to the customer.
Best Social CRM Products and Features
There are a few different ways to package social CRM software. As noted, some solutions are full-featured CRM platforms with 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 teams’ existing back end systems.
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, etc.) to build 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.
Identify brand mentions and customer trends by monitoring comments, posts, hashtags, etc. 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, or even to point out sales opportunities.
Social CRMs with sentiment analysis use “natural language processing” to identify emotions and attitudes your customers express on social media (when a customer is ranting about poor service, for example). Sentiment analysis helps companies with a large customer base process and interpret the high-volume of unstructured data associated with social media.
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.
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, the right push. That’s a perfect opportunity to connect with a new lead and, for example, get them plugged into your drip marketing program.
Common Uses and Strategies
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 customer’s post, or by offering a discount to new followers. The customer adds value to your businesses by pledging their loyalty and (hopefully) spreading the word in their virtual community.
Form new relationships, retain old 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 (mentioning a certain phrase, or adding a certain interest to their page). This increases 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 by anticipating churn before it happens. Almost half of all consumers who complain about a brand or product on social media expect a response in 60 minutes or less.4 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 relied on a designated 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 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:
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. According to TNS Global, more than 80 percent of U.S. businesses are trying to leverage social media for growth and have increased their budgets to accommodate new social strategies.5
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, 74 percent of online adults now use at least one social networking site,6 and an overwhelming majority of these users expect brands to have their own social media presence.7 In the absence of said presence, consumers will discuss, question, and (sometimes) denigrate your brand, and you’ll never even know. Research shows that, on average, a dissatisfied customer will share their experience with 9 to 15 people.8
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 reduceexpenses 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 products
Product: Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Social Listening
Founded in 1834, Marston’s is one of the UK’s leading pub brands and the world’s largest brewer of cask ale. They have 1,700 pubs in the UK and roughly 13,000 employees. Despite their longstanding reputation in the region, Marston’s was threatened by a rising tide of British pub closures and needed to reposition itself. They decided to launch a social media initiative that would help them analyze customer trends and quickly respond to needs or complaints.
The solution: Marston’s chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM with the Microsoft Social Listening module, deciding that a CRM-centric solution would give them the ability to not only capture information, but to act on it. “What’s important for us is not just to know the quantities of what people are talking about, but the nature of what they are talking about,” said Marketing Director Beck Johnson. “Segmenting our insight is very important . . . we have to be able to understand the customers’ different occasions for coming and how Marston’s is delivering.”
Johnson and her team enjoyed a number of strategic benefits after adopting Microsoft’s social CRM solution:
- Confirmed trend that customers are no longer frequenting their local pub
- Used social CRM tools to encourage customer feedback while customers are still onsite
- Personalized communication with every customer
- Social media conversations can be mined for insights to help improve service and food quality
- Help desk team also moved their work to Dynamics, replacing outdated manual entry
- Marston’s awarded the Convergence 2014 Europe Customer Excellence Award
- Hofer-Shall, Zach. “The Social CRM Arms Race Heats Up.” Forbes. Last modified June 5, 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2012/06/05/the-social-crm-arms-race-heats-up/
- “Global CRM Market: Social CRM 2018 Forecasts & Research Data.” iReach. Last modified July 19, 2013. http://www.ireachcontent.com/news-releases/global-crm-market-social-crm-2018-forecasts–research-data-216156581.html
- Greenberg, Paul. “Time to Put a Stake in the Ground on Social CRM.” The56Group. Accessed April 2, 2015. http://the56group.typepad.com/pgreenblog/2009/07/time-to-put-a-stake-in-the-ground-on-social-crm.html
- Baer, Jay. “42 Percent of Customers Complaining in Social Media Expect 60 Minute Response Time.” Convince&Convert. Accessed April 2, 2015. http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-research/42-percent-of-consumers-complaining-in-social-media-expect-60-minute-response-time/
- Weiss, Geoff. “This is How Small Businesses Are Using Social Media.” Entrepreneur. Last modified February 13, 2014. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231515
- “Social Media Use Over Time.” PewResearchCenter. Last modified January 2014. http://www.pewinternet.org/data-trend/social-media/social-media-use-all-users/
- Brookbank, Alex. “What Consumers Expect From Brands on Facebook.” CoupSmart. Last modified January 6, 2015. http://coupsmart.com/blog/2015/01/06/what-consumers-expect-from-brands-on-facebook/
- “3 Truths Every CMO Needs to Know About Social Media and the Customer Experience.” ExactTarget. Accessed April 2, 2015. https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.exacttarget.com%2Fsystem%2Ffiles_force%2Fuk-3cmosocialtruths.pdf%3Fdownload%3D1%26download%3D1&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNEMjqH8sa-GOerZ5JgU_kIeivSpAQ
- “Marston’s Gets Social with Microsoft Social Listening.” Microsoft. Last modified December 11, 2014. https://customers.microsoft.com/Pages/CustomerStory.aspx?recid=11712