A Comprehensive Guide to Social Customer Relationship Management: What Is it and How it Develops Relationships

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In the span of two decades, social media has gone from being an afterthought to being an integral component of pretty much all modern marketing and support strategies, as well as sales funnels.

In this post, we’ll be taking a look at an approach to customer relationship management (CRM) that places social media and the data it can create front and center of efforts to build and develop strong relationships with your customers.

Read on to discover what social customer relationship management is and how to apply it in your business.

What Is Social Data?

In a CRM context, social data refers to the data generated when customers interact with your business through social media.

Social data has all kinds of uses for sales,marketing and customer service professionals. It can be used to help design and target social ads. It can show you how to find affiliate partners that will connect you with your target audience. It can help you nurture existing customer relationships and it can help grow your customer base by creating new ones too.

What Is Social CRM?

When it comes to the art of managing customer relationships, social media plays a pivotal role. That’s because public-facing social media is now one of the most important aspects in how people perceive a brand.

Not only are popular social platforms many people’s first port of call for finding out about a company, you can also earn digital applause from social media users, creating a free, organic source of publicity when done well.

Free to use image sourced from Pexels

Social CRM thus encompasses both elements of marketing and public relations. It is an approach to customer relationship management that recognizes the centrality of social media to contemporary brand perception and designs business strategies around this.

Social CRM Features

In the world of social CRM, there are some commonly applied ideas that we’ll need to define. Customer profiles, social listening, social media management and social selling are all key features of the discipline.

Customer Profiles

Customer profiles are central to social CRM because they give you a way to interpret and apply social data. Also known as buyer personas, customer profiles define a businesses ‘ideal’ or average customer according to things like demographic, buying power and online behavior. 

One the one hand, social data can help companies gauge the kind of potential customers that are engaging with their owned social media accounts. On the other, companies that have a specific target audience can use buyer profiles to target their desired customer-type.

Customer profiles allow you to apply the data generated by social media interactions to other business processes. For example, social data may give you a better understanding of the different age groups within your client-base, information which can in turn be used when designing ACD menu paths and customer support scripts for your contact center.

Social Listening

Social listening describes a means of collecting social data by ‘listening’ to what people are saying about a topic online. In other words, it is the process of tracking conversations and mentions related to a given topic on social media platforms. 

More specifically for CRM purposes, social listening is the process of understanding the online conversation about your brand, products and services.

Free to use image sourced from Pexels

If you found out a group of your customers had set up a conference call to discuss a new product you’ve launched, you’d want to listen in, right? In a sense, this is exactly what happens every day on online forums like Reddit. Only you don’t have to dial in to the call, it’s all right there in front of you, you just need the right tools and processes in place to be able to listen.

Social Media Management

While listening is ultimately passive, the point of tracking online conversations is so that you can understand how people feel about your business and respond accordingly.

Social media management refers to the management of a company’s owned social media. Owned social media includes things like your official Facebook page and Instagram account. As these accounts represent your organization online, their management and administration is central to social CRM.

Combined with the right social listening procedures, good social media management can be the cornerstone of a digital-first public relations strategy. When you master managing your social media accounts, you can respond directly to customer complaints, prevent negative publicity, and turn happy customers into brand ambassadors.

Social Selling

Arguably the ultimate prize of social CRM, social selling is a lead generation and sales tactic where salespeople or customer service reps interact directly with potential customers on social media platforms. It also includes sales tactics that automate the process of social media outreach using chatbots and virtual sales agents.

Social selling usually relies on the fact that people who interact with a business on social media are likely to be good targets for sales messaging. Other approaches to social selling target leads that are statistically most likely to make a purchase based on known social data. 

The first approach lends itself to traditional sales methodologies and can complement a social CRM strategy that relies heavily on organic social media engagement. The second requires that you have a good social data pipeline and the right data tools in place. It is suitable for sales funnels based on both organic engagement and paid social media ads.

Image sourced from superoffice.com

With most platforms now providing business users with a range of dedicated social selling tools, there has never been a better time to incorporate social media into your sales funnel.

CRM Platforms and Social Media Integration

These days, CRM typically employs a range of digital tools to keep track of customer relationships. A CRM platform is a software solution that many businesses use to facilitate this process. 

As different CRM platforms offer different integrations, the technologies your business uses in its CRM will impact which platform is best for your business. For example, if a lot of your customer interactions happen over the telephone, you should choose a CRM system that integrates with your business VoIP solution.

When it comes to social CRM, having the right CRM system for your business in place will help you align your social data with your sales process and ensure your different customer interaction channels are working in tandem and not against each other. 

In one study that used neural networks (see what is a neural network) to forecast the adoption of social CRM among small to medium-sized businesses, researchers found that compatibility with existing technologies was the number one factor determining expected uptake.

With this in mind, when designing a social CRM strategy you should consider which social media platforms are most important for your business, and which tools you already use for social media management.

Top 7 Social CRM Tools in 2022

As well as the social CRM capacities of all-in-one CRM platforms, there are also some useful tools out there built specifically for the purpose of managing customer relationships on social media.

Not all businesses have the need for a CRM platform, which can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses. Therefore this list includes a combination of CRM platforms with social CRM features and standalone social CRM tools.

Nimble

Nimble is a CRM solution which has social media integration built into its DNA. Although perhaps not as feature-packed as some of its more well-known competitors, it nonetheless provides a powerful suite of CRM tools. Nimble has carved out a niche as one of the best CRM solutions for small businesses.

What’s more, because Nimble can be accessed from a browser or the mobile app, it’s ideal for remote teams and people who need their CRM software to work on-the-go.

GreenRope

Having started out life as an email marketing software, GreenRope has grown to encompass a range of CRM tools and now stands shoulder to shoulder with many of the more well-known CRM platforms in terms of features and performance.

With a powerful and customizable API, it is one of the most programmable social CRM solutions available. That means whether your social CRM strategy revolves around social ads and owned media like Facebook pages and brand Instagram accounts, or includes more adventurous social marketing channels like web conferencing, GreenRope likely offers a way to sync any social data you generate with your customer relationship management processes.

Buffer

Buffer is another product that positions itself as an easy-to-use alternative to large, complex CRM platforms that is ideal for small and medium-sized businesses. If you’re just starting out with social CRM but still want detailed insights into how audiences interact with your social posts and stories then this might be just the solution you’re looking for.

Image sourced from buffer.com

Buffer’s intuitive dashboard helps you track social engagement and the performance of social media campaigns by bringing together detailed reporting tools for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is an all-in-one social media management platform that takes the hassle out of publishing, listening and social analytics.

With Sprout, you don’t need to be a data scientist or to run multiple different systems if you want to analyze and track trends on social media, or if you want to convert your social engagement into hard sales. It fits easily into almost any social commerce strategy and ensures your customers experience a seamless, omnichannel purchasing experience.

Brandwatch

When Brandwatch and Falcon.io merged in 2021, it signaled the coming together of two of the industry’s innovation leaders. 

Combined with Falcon’s expertise in social media intelligence, Brandwatch’s AI-powered analytics tools can now be accessed from within the Falcon.io social media marketing suite as a fully embedded application operated by the parent company Cision. That means customers of Brandwatch/Falcon.io now get full social data and analytics supported by the deep insight of Cision’s impressive news media monitoring.

Image sourced from brandwatch.com

Users of the app also get instant access to real-time and historical conversations online, making it easy for you to stay on top of what’s being said about your brand, products, industry and competitors across a wide variety of social channels.

Kustomer

The Kustomer CRM allows brands to deliver exceptional customer service via phone, email, chat, text, social, messaging and more. In terms of social CRM, the platform integrates directly with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp, so your team can instantly respond to public comments and direct messages. It allows agents to engage with customers across social channels in a single, threaded timeline view – which means no more switching between tabs. 

Furthermore, it allows your team to leverage AI and historical customer data to orchestrate personalized engagement, automate service interactions and drive faster resolution.

Conclusion

In the end, customer relationship management has to be thought of holistically. A good CRM strategy aligns the goals of marketing, sales, and customer service.

By incorporating social media into your CRM at all stages of the customer journey, you can increase brand awareness, boost new and repeat sales, prevent negative publicity, and ensure your customers have the support they need when they need it.

Of course, the specifics will vary from business to business and industry to industry. The first step is to understand exactly where your customers spend their time online. That way, you can direct your social media efforts to the right channel and focus on meeting your customers where they already are.

Equipped with an understanding of what social CRM is and why it’s important, any business can leverage its social media assets to deliver better customer relationships. Why don’t you explore some of the tools discussed here and find out how your business could benefit?

Gerard D’Onofrio – Country Manager, Australia, Dialpad

Gerard D’Onofrio is the Country Manager for Dialpad Australia, an AI-equipped business communications solutions platform for better communications at work. Gerard is experienced in discovering world-class developments and turning them into effective business advancements, wherever he goes. Here is his LinkedIn.

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