The Essential CRM Guide

Social Media: The What, Why & Where for Small Business: This article is an excerpt from our free CRM Essentials e-book series.

An interesting and apt description of social CRM comes from Paul Greenberg, a famous American author, essayist and thought-leader in the CRM industry:

“Social CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform,  business rules, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment.  It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

Difference between a CRM and a Social CRM

Simply put, a CRM is about managing your customers, while a social CRM is about engaging with your customers.

What is it? Social CRM for the uninitiated

First of all, social CRM, sometimes referred to as CRM 2.0 does not replace traditional CRM systems, but is an extension of them. It enhances and extends your ability to interact with customers and potential customers. Essentially, social CRM is a combination of two types of platforms: Social media and Customer Relationship Management system. It allows you to store your customers’ details in one place, and engage with them on a more personal level. The two major motives behind this are to 1) increase ROI on marketing campaigns, and 2) enhance customer experience. In their Guide to Understanding Social CRM, published in June 2010, Chess Media Group says that social CRM focuses on the relevant conversations taking place online and offline. Social CRM not only addresses how you will respond to this new kind of customer and the demands that they put on your company, but also how you can engage non-traditional industry influences such as blogs, independent analysts and customers. In short, to provide better services to your clients, you have to bring them to the core of your company’s strategy and, for this purpose, no platform is better than social media.

Why social CRM is important for you

Here are some startling facts about social media published by PR Daily on June 8, 2012.

  • More than 1 billion people use Facebook
  • If Twitter was a country, by population, it’d be the 12th largest in the world
  • Every second 2 new members sign up for LinkedIn
  • The Google +1 button is pressed about 5 billion times every day
  • An average visitor spends 15 minutes a day on YouTube

Just because of its quirkiness, the Gangnam Style video got 532+ million views in just a few months to become the most popular video on You Tube!

It’s because of these factors every analyst and vendor is now talking about social CRM. But the million dollar question here is, why are the social networking sites important to your business and how do they influence your choice of CRM system?

In addition to checking a company’s Web site and its brochures, many customers research information on products and services from social networking sources such as blogs and online user ratings. With customers now requiring more real-time support, it’s essential to keep pace with their expectations and to respond to them in new ways. (Forrester Research, Inc. 2010) This does not mean that you need to be aware of, and participate in, every online conversation or every radio talk show. That would require resources beyond the reach of all but the very wealthiest organizations. The real value, according to Chess Media Group, comes from being able to change how your company does business and from improving the user experience. Simply responding to as many comments as possible is senseless.

A much better solution is to fix the problems your customers identify. When you have fixed the problems, tell all your customers and prospective customers what you have done. And tell them via the same media they used to tell you about the problem in the first place – tell them through the social websites. By doing so, you demonstrate very clearly that you care about your customers. More importantly, through collaboration with your customers to give them what they want, you turn critics into advocates.

“Social CRM is based on the simple premise that you … interact with your customers based on their needs, not your rules.” (Chess Media Group, June 2010.)

3 areas where social CRM can be useful for small businesses

  1. Marketing: Idea management, market research, new product/services launch, social campaigns, social event networking, public relations, branding
  2. Sales: Social sales research and prospecting, social sales collaboration
  3. Customer service: one-on-one support, service customer feedback, listen-and-respond service

5 ways small businesses can benefit from social CRM

Gone are the days when companies would be satisfied simply by storing their contacts’ information in a database for making decisions. With ever-increasing, cutthroat competition between small businesses, each one of them wants to have an edge over its competitors. And social media integration to your CRM is surely a big plus, since this medium is thriving as 21st century’s word of mouth marketing.

Here are five different ways you can utilize your social CRM to beat your rivals:

  1. Real-time communication
    The closer you stay to your consumers, the better you’ll serve them. Social media gives you the opportunity for efficient market research, instant interaction and spontaneous feedback. Some CRMs like SugarCRM, Zoho CRM, Nimble, OnePageCRM etc., allow you to view your contacts’ social updates right on your dashboard. This can help you create products/services that your consumers are already looking for.
  2. Proactive customer support
    People like to tell others about their experience of a new product they’ve purchased. And if your customers are unhappy with any of your products, they’ll probably release their frustration by moaning against it on social media outlets. This is where you can quickly cater to their issue, and contact them via the same source. They’ll simply love your proactive customer care.
  3. Lead generation
    Again, people looking for new products ask their acquaintances for their recommendations. Most social sites allow you to search people’s statues and comments, which can get you in contact with countless potential customers seeking something you offer. Your social CRM will allow you to search for such leads, import them into the system and take necessary steps to convert them into your customers.
  4. Instant promotion
    Launching a new product or service? The quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get in touch with pinpointed, target markets is social media.
  5. Brand recognition
    People who hear from you often have a perception of your brand in their mind of one sort or another. Interacting with your customers via social media can eventually build a community which will result in an increased conversion rate, repeat customers and reduced commission costs.

Levels of integration

Different CRM systems allow for different levels of integration and to different types of social media sites. You have to choose the one that resonates with the nature and requirements of your business.

Basic integration

Some CRMs allow minimal integration to social networks i.e. instead of pulling in the updates to your CRM dashboard, they only store a link to your client’s social media profile so you can click and jump to their profile. OnePage is an example of a CRM that offers basic integration.

Mid-level integration

These CRMs allow you to view people’s statuses and updates right from your CRM window. You can also post your updates or respond to the queries of your clients. These types of CRMs, however, do not allow importing people as leads into system. You can, however, search or sort updates based on different criteria. InTouchCRM is a fine example of such a CRM.

Advanced integration

There are some other, stronger applications (e.g. BlueCamroo CRM) that allow you not only to communicate with your clients but also import them into your system as leads/opportunities. This can be very productive as social media is swarming with clients, eagerly looking for different products and services. Once they’re stored in your database, you can send them your pitch and communicate with them just like your normal contacts.

How to get the most out of your Social CRM

If there was one line answer to this question, it would be:

Don’t think of social CRM as a technology, think of it as a strategy!

In other words, you must have a comprehensive plan to put your social CRM to work and get the maximum benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the steps you should consider taking:

  1. Figure out the goals you want to achieve with your social CRM: do you want to use it simply as a lead generation system, or do you want to offer your customers real-time support, etc.?
  2. As said earlier, different social CRMs are designed to cater to businesses with different needs; choose the one that is in line with the goals you have set.
  3. Do some research about the social activities of your potential clients: what is their favorite social media outlet to hang around, how do they use it, what time of the day/week are they most active, etc.?
  4. Be targeted and specific with your social media deployment.
  5. Educate your team: usually social CRMs are pretty simple and intuitive, and don’t need extensive training.
  6. Analyze the results: are you going in the right direction? Adjust your strategy, if need be.