Where Social Media Meets Customer Engagement

Once upon a time, customer relationship management (CRM) was an esoteric set of tools that could definitely help a sales team succeed as long as they were prepared to follow a fairly 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 have to ask yourself: is it enough?

CRM is all about creating interactions between customers and the business. These should be enjoyable for the customer and fruitful, as the CRM extracts every drop of information and opportunity from every touchpoint. Lately, this has involved using a lot of automation software and cloud-based solutions that make CRM interactions faster, more intuitive, and pervasive in terms of the seller’s user experience. And that experience should extend across any device, from desktop to smartphone. This is an ambitious set of goals that most CRMs strive to achieve. But on its own, a CRM is first and foremost a database with a really smart front-end. Creating as many customer touchpoints as possible will allow them to realize their potential, which means creating integrations with other technologies. At the center of this department is social media.

What is Social CRM?

The concept of Social CRM has been around for years, with the technology appearing as early as 2010. The basic idea is for companies to build a more personal relationship with customers by monitoring them on services like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, or one of the many other social networks your customer base might gravitate towards. Customer information found on social media is invaluable data for businesses, as long as they stick to information that users choose to make public. But being a bit of a corporate creeper on your customer profiles is only part of the Social CRM equation.

Social media is still a rapidly evolving internet phenomenon, and recently it has taken several hits in the data privacy department, especially Facebook. The way users interact with social media is very different today than in 2010. There is a more diverse array of social networks, each increasingly specialized in user expectations regarding the type of content and interactions they will and will not encounter. For example, a job solicitation is comfortable on LinkedIn, but sending one on Facebook feels like an unsolicited invasion of a more personal social space. Users are also much more concerned about their privacy today. You can’t just put an “S” (for Social) on the front of your CRM strategy and expect it to be effective.

Make social CRM work for you

Social CRM is all about listening to what your customers are saying on social media. You can analyze this data not only in terms of how it relates to business goals, but also so you can then engage with customers in a way that builds trust. For example, this could mean a timely and informative tweet answering a customer’s question or translating a Facebook or LinkedIn interaction into an email exchange with a help desk technician or sales representative.

But before you can build that social customer relationship, you have to listen. Without using a comprehensive social media platform that consolidates your various business presences into feeds and without 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 like Buffer, Hootsuite, or Sprout Social Premium can help you identify your most engaged customers (and those with the most “influencer” c i.e. those with the strongest online voices that deserve special attention in social CRM).

These types of third-party services can also integrate directly with a standard CRM platform, such as Editors’ Choice winner Salesforce. This platform does an exemplary job of merging new channels for direct, upfront customer engagement with core functionality (task assignment, call logs, and meetings). It brings social media right into the processes your sales team has always used to manage customers, interactions, and pipelines.

An active social media presence is increasingly about how customers form opinions about which brands they like and which they don’t. Social CRM is certainly a buzzword, but it deserves some thought about how the underlying strategy can influence the public perception of a business. In a world where your followers are your customers and what you post or tweet can be captured in an instant, having a plan is essential and social CRM can help.

Tips for Social CRM Success

1. Map the customer journey. You can’t create effective customer touchpoints without knowing what they are, so go through what your customers are experiencing yourself. What is a customer’s first interaction with your business? Is it an announcement, a call from a salesperson, or maybe just an online shopping cart? Start at the beginning and expose all the ways your customers touch your business, both physical and online. From dollars to donuts, you will find holes in this progression, which makes this process doubly valuable. Maybe you need a new set of email marketing materials or a better issue and ticket management system for your service desk. But what you’re looking for when it comes to social media is which platform most of your customers are using, why they’re using it, and who has the loudest voice. This information allows you to understand and optimize your customers’ social media, and it’s how you determine the best ways your CRM can help you.

2. Step away from automation to get started. Lots of automation possibilities are available with leading CRM and digital marketing tools. Sure, they’re handy and can react faster than humans, but not when you’re just starting your social CRM strategy. The first steps require testing and experience. Your best strategy is to create a small team of staff who respond to as many social media posts as possible, directly and immediately. This builds customer trust and educates your sales reps and marketing staff on which parts of the customer journey are best suited for automation and the best types of marketing and sales materials. Once you know that, you can put together a rich marketing automation plan that hits 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 are the best way to find and sort out what potential customers and buyers are saying about your business. The best social media management tools will use this data to not only track the popularity of your branded keywords, but they will also uncover errors, such as misspelled brand names. They can also track the popularity of mentions from your competitors 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. Getting it right means a long process of monitoring and analysis. But once you work on it, you’ll reap a number of long-term benefits. Salespeople will be able to respond much faster to customer requests and they will even be able to anticipate a customer’s needs. There is nothing more valuable than a happy customer and social CRM is a great way to achieve this.

About Madeline Powers

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