Once upon a time, customer relationship management (CRM) was an esoteric set of tools that could certainly help a sales team succeed provided they were willing to eat a pretty steep learning curve. No more. Popular tools like FreshSales and HubSpot CRM have made ease of use their top priority, and it shows. But now that the technology is easier to deploy, you’ve got to ask yourself: Is it enough?
CRM is all about creating interactions between customers and the company. These should be pleasant for the customer and fruitful because the CRM squeezes every drop of information and opportunity out of every touchpoint. Lately, that’s meant using lots of automation software and cloud-based solutions that make CRM interactions faster, more intuitive, and ubiquitous in terms of salesperson’s user experience. And that experience should extend across any device from a desktop to a smartphone. That’s a lofty set of goals that most CRMs work hard to achieve. But alone, a CRM is primarily a database with a really smart front end. Creating as many customer touchpoints as possible will make them fulfill their potential, which means building integrations with other technologies. Front and center in that department is social media.
What’s Social CRM?
The concept of Social CRM has been around for years, the tech appearing as far back as 2010. The basic idea is for businesses to build a more personal relationship with customers by monitoring them on services like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, or any of the myriad other social networks towards which your customer base might gravitate. The customer information found on social media is invaluable data for businesses—as long as they’re sticking to the information users choose to make public. But being a bit of a corporate creeper on your customers’ profiles is only part of the Social CRM equation.
Social media is still a rapidly evolving internet phenomenon, and recently it’s taken several hits in the data privacy department, particularly Facebook. The way users interact with social media is very different now than in 2010. There’s a more diverse array of social networks, each increasingly specialized in user expectations about the kind of content and interactions they will and won’t encounter. For example, a job solicitation is right at home on LinkedIn but sending one on Facebook feels like an unsolicited invasion of a more personal social space. Users are also far more privacy-conscious today. You can’t just slap an “S” (for Social) on the front of your CRM strategy and expect it to be effective.
Making Social CRM Work for You
Social CRM is about listening to what your customers are saying on social media. You can analyze that data not only in terms of how it relates to the firm’s goals, but also so you can then engage with the customers in ways that establish trust. For example, that might mean a timely and informative tweet back to a customer’s question or translating a Facebook or LinkedIn interaction into an email exchange with help desk technician or sales rep.
But before you can build that social customer relationship, you need to listen. Without using a comprehensive social media platform that consolidates your different business presences into streams and using a social media analytics tool to measure engagement, you won’t know which customers you should be targeting. Basing your social strategy—posting, listening, analytics, and interactions—on a third-party service such as Buffer, Hootsuite, or Sprout Social Premium can help you identify your most engaged customers (and the ones with the most “influence,” meaning those with the loudest online voices that are worth some extra social CRM focus).
Those kinds of third-party services can also integrate directly with a standard CRM platform, such as Editors’ Choice winner Salesforce. That platform does an exemplary job of merging new channels for direct and upfront customer engagement with core functionality (task assignment, call logs, and meetings). This brings social media directly into the processes your sales team has always used to manage customers, interactions, and pipelines.
An active social media presence is more and more about how customers form opinions on which brands they like and which they don’t. Social CRM is a buzzword for sure, but it’s one worth some thought on how the strategy behind it can color a business’ public perception. In a world where your followers are your customers and where what you post or tweet can be screenshotted in an instant, it’s critical to have a plan and social CRM can help.
Tips for Social CRM Success
1. Map out the customer journey. You can’t create effective customer touchpoints without knowing what they are, so walk yourself through what your customers are experiencing. What’s the first interaction a customer has with your company? Is it an ad, a call from a sales rep, or maybe just an online shopping cart? Start at the beginning and lay out all the ways your customers touch your business, physical as well as online. Dollars to donuts, you’ll find holes in that progression, which makes this process doubly valuable. Perhaps you need a new set of email marketing collateral or a better problem and ticket management system for your service desk. But what you’re looking for as far as social media is concerned is which platform most of your customers are using, what they’re using it for, and who has the loudest voice. That information lets you understand and optimize your customers’ social media, and that’s how you figure out the best ways your CRM can help.
2. Stay away from automation to start. There are a bunch of automation possibilities available with top-tier CRM and digital marketing tools. Sure, they’re convenient and can respond faster than humans, but not when you’re just beginning your social CRM strategy. The early stages require testing and experience. Your best strategy is to create a small staff team that replies to as many social media posts as possible, directly and immediately. That enhances customer trust and educates your sales and marketing people on what parts of the customer journey are most suited to automation and the best kinds of marketing and sales collateral. Once you know that, you can set up a rich marketing automation plan that’s reaching out at the right time and in the right way.
3. Track metadata and hashtags. You’ll need some technical chops for this part, but hashtags and other social media metadata is the best way to find and sort what customers and would-be buyers are saying about your business. The best social media management tools will use that data to track not just how popular your branded keywords are, but they’ll also discover errors, such as misspelled brand names. They can also track the popularity of your competition’s mentions and even your industry in general.
Integrating your CRM and help desk platforms with each other and your social media marketing efforts is both difficult and time-consuming. Doing it right means a lengthy tracking and analysis process. But once your work through that, you’ll have a number of long-term benefits. Salespeople will be able to respond to customer asks much more quickly and they’ll even be able to anticipate a customers’ needs. There’s nothing more valuable than a happy customer and social CRM is a great way to make that happen.