You already know you need to meet your customers on their turf: social media. But successfully engaging them isn’t as simple as creating an account across every platform and shooting outbound posts into a void. Nowadays, your social media needs to be a customer service nerve center, sensitive to every mention of your brand, as well as a tool used to aggregate data about customers so you can learn what they really want.
That’s where social customer relationship management comes in. Your social media efforts shouldn’t be detached from your overall customer engagement strategy. Marketing, sales, and support all have occasion to interact with customers on social media; a social CRM strategy will help you organize these interactions so that you can learn from them. With the right tools and savvy execution, you can use branded social media to stretch your influence and deepen your understanding of your audience.
What is Social Customer Relationship Management?
A social customer relationship management strategy is a coordinated effort between an organization’s marketing, sales, and customer service departments to better engage with customers and increase brand awareness. Social CRM isn’t just about gathering data and making the sale. It’s about creating a two-way conversation involving outbound messaging and inbound queries – a conversation that is mutually beneficial to you and your customers.
Every business tackles social CRM differently, but most strategies involve the implementation of social listening and social publishing tools (either standalone or as part of a social media management suite). Popular social networks for organizations to focus on include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, but it may not be necessary to build a strong presence on all platforms. They key is to go where your customers are.
Tips for a Successful Social CRM Strategy
For some businesses, social media is one item on a checklist of directories and other websites, to make sure people who are already looking for the brand can find it. Managing it is often the job of a fresh-faced intern sitting alone in a cubicle somewhere in the marketing department. Even if that social media manager is on top of updating the brand profiles and sharing information periodically, potential opportunities to interact with customers will fly under the radar without a coordinated social CRM strategy.
The first step to success is to view social media not as a “to do,” but as a “what if?” Before we talk about the tools that will make your strategy more sophisticated, let’s talk about the business principles and mindset you need to adopt to succeed.
- Identify clear problems and goals before you plunge too deep into social media strategizing. Try to understand the challenges facing your customers, and what might be missing from their perspective. How can you make your conversations with them more relevant, more convenient, and more helpful?
- You may be tempted to start broad and be everywhere your customers are, but it’s actually more realistic to pilot a CRM strategy on a smaller scale first. Identify the one or two platforms your customers use most frequently. (Facebook and Twitter are good places to start–with more than 1.8 billion active users, Facebook is still the world’s most popular social network, and Twitter’s format allows for quick, brief, and user-friendly communication.). You can still maintain active profiles on other social platforms, but you’ll stretch your resources pretty thin if you try to turn each one into a customer support center. When it comes to your tertiary accounts (Instagram or Snapchat, for example), be sure to provide links to other avenues for customer support.
- Involve your sales support and customer service representatives to determine best practices. When it comes to social CRM, social media is not just an offshoot of marketing. You need to train your social media representatives as customer service representatives. In addition to mastering the brand voice, they need to learn the guidelines for customer interaction, especially when it comes to fielding complaints.
- Discuss availability with all team members involved. A challenge of providing customer service via social networks is that you need to either have someone available to answer within an hour, or an automated message letting someone know a representative will respond ASAP. Quick and friendly responses are the bread and butter of social media service support. You need to make sure you can somehow manage interactions at any time of day.
- On that note, it’s vital to integrate your social media support with sales support via email, live chat, and/or a call center. Not everything can – or should – be solved in a public forum, therefore you need a more private venue (without a word count limit) to resolve the issue and please the customer. You can always go back to the social media conversation once the issue is taken care of to thank the customer for their patience, and show the people within their sphere of influence that you take care of business with integrity and respect.
- Speaking of spheres of influence, once you’ve established goals and guidelines, you can start interacting with customers and identifying your ideal influencers. Every industry, not just the glamorous consumer ones, has influencers – people who are active online and use their accounts to promote brands to their audience. Customers trust recommendations from actual people, and brand influencers are word-of-mouth marketers for the digital age. Create a tactful strategy for identifying and reaching out to influencers.
- Try to stay genuine and personable, and avoid spamming followers with too much promotional content. People respond less and less to direct ads but find conversation more appealing. Key takeaway: when you’re on your customers’ turf, it’s about them, not your brand.
- Train your social media representatives to monitor beyond mentions, likes, and replies. You can also monitor keywords relating to your company, services, or the industry at large to catch comments from users who don’t tag you. That way, you’ll pleasantly surprise people who don’t expect to have their issues resolved, or have chances to boost glowing comments from people who love your brand. You’ll also get a chance to see what people are saying about your competitors.
- Monitoring social media at this level requires a sophisticated toolset. Without one, you’re probably under-leveraging your social media presence. No software product will do it all for you, but having the right tools to track your social interactions alongside other types of interactions and customer data can make a successful social CRM strategy possible.
Tools You Should Consider
Effective social CRM hinges on choosing software that works for your strategy, so that you will be able to identify issues and track and analyze interactions. There are three types of products you may want to use, each with a somewhat different approach. Thankfully, TrustRadius provides TrustMaps in each of these areas, which you can use to compare products. TrustMaps are two-dimensional charts that compare similar software products based on end-user satisfaction ratings and search frequency, and they also link to in-depth user reviews of each product.
CRMs with Social Integrations
Customer relationship management software helps companies manage business-to-customer relationships by recording customer interactions, storing and analyzing their information, tracking leads, automating sales, and making it easier to communicate with current and prospective clients. It functions as a data hub, providing all relevant personnel the same information about customers, marketing, and sales. It makes it easier for the company to present a unified front and stay on the same page as far as knowing where each customer is at in their journey, how to respond, and the results those responses yield.
Some CRM systems have social media integration built in, whereas others integrate with social media management tools to support a social CRM strategy. Nimble, for example, is a CRM platform designed for social strategy. It offers in-platform social data enrichments, social segmentation, and social prospecting across all major networks so that you can easily surface new prospects for your company and know key information about them.
Social Media Customer Service Software
Social customer service is the practice of using social channels to respond to questions and problems related to your products and services. Social media is one of the most convenient ways for customers to lodge complaints or share positive experiences, and many companies choose to have their social media representatives provide full-fledged customer support.
Social media customer service software products monitor posts relevant to a company, send alerts when a post needs attention, and help resolve issues in a timely manner within the platform. It usually takes more than one representative to solve a problem, which is why many social media customer service software products integrate with CRM and help-desk software. This seamless integration pushes social media complaints into the normal customer service workflow so they can be resolved just like any other reported issue. Some help desk products, like Desk.com and Freshdesk, natively include capabilities for social media customer service, treating social as a support channel along with other channels like phone, email, chat, etc.
Other Social Media Management Software
Social media management software (SMMS) tends to be the most robust option for companies with a social CRM strategy that spans support, marketing, and sales. SMMS software contains several components needed for a comprehensive social CRM strategy, including monitoring, analytics, publishing, and marketing/engagement. A range of products fall into this category, with somewhat different focuses; one may emphasize the analytics aspect while another focuses more on marketing efforts like customer profiling and campaign creation.
SMMS products work well for dedicated social media teams or marketing teams that are focused on social channels and plan to coordinate different types of social engagement. The SMMS tool should integrate with your CRM system for a complete record of interactions with the customer/prospect, and should also potentially integrate with your help desk software (or whatever tool you use to track support issues).
Social media offers an unparalleled opportunity to engage with and understand your customers, as well as revolutionize your understanding of your brand and the way it’s perceived. But you need a goal-oriented strategy, the cooperation of various department within your organization, established customer service protocol, the desire to create a better experience with your brand, and a software solution that supports your mission.