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Earlier in the year I wrote a beginner’s guide to customer relationship management entitled What is CRM and why do you need it? Welcome to the next chapter.

Here we'll be investigating the next vital stage in your CRM strategy: social CRM, and how this can help your company track its relationships in an increasingly multichannel landscape.

First though, for anybody who needs a refresher, a quick recap of what CRM actually means….

Customer Relationship Management

This is the name for any system or model used to manage a company’s interactions with its current or future clients or customers.

This system is a piece of technology used to organise, automate and synchronise all of the customer facing areas within your company: from marketing to sales to customer service to technical support.

It gives you the time to develop other areas of your business, whilst giving you the reassurance that you’re not letting your existing clients down or responding to new enquiries in an efficient manner.

It also allows you the time and freedom to concentrate on other areas of your business, safe in the knowledge that an automated system is keeping you and your team up-to-date and fully aware of your clients’ needs.

There are many more benefits of adopting a good CRM, many of which are discussed in What is CRM? but for now just remember that putting the customer at the heart of your business strategy is the key to success. 

CRM in the world of social

Of course traditional channels such as telephone or email are no longer the only channels where conversations between company and customer take place. More and more people are contacting brands with everything from general queries, compliments and of course complaints via social networks.

The digital world is becoming more complex and we’re seeing much broader fragmentation in the way that customers are using channels. 

It makes things very complicated for customer service teams. Consumers hop across various channels in order to complete even the simplest of tasks, whether it’s buying products from a brand or checking the opening hours of a retail shop. 

However the likelihood is that all these different channels are run by different people in an organisation with different agendas and different priorities. It’s entirely possible for a customer to skip across channels and have a vastly different experience within each one. 

Therefore consistency is a must.

Early days of social

Here’s a neat summation of the early days of social media and brands taken from our downloadable customer relationship management in the social age guide.

As social media channels became mainstream they were embraced by users to support conversations with brands and other consumers. Consumers were no longer passive recipients of information. They had unrestricted access to information and content from their peers.

Brands had no direct control over these conversations and could, at best, intervene in them at an opportune moment e.g. make a post in a forum discussion thread. 

The default communication dimension was Customer to Customer and the primary goal of the social CRM model was engagement leading to an enhanced consumer experience, with a transaction being a secondary consequence, not the primary goal. The empowered consumer was now in complete control.

It just goes to show why it’s an absolute must for every brand to monitor mentions of itself on Twitter.

Social CRM now

Brands should be integrating social into their CRM strategy in response to their customers’ adoption of social media.

Social interactions may not directly result in immediate conversion but will promote engagement that may indirectly generate leads, create influential relationships and build confidence in the brand, eventually driving future sales.

Every touchpoint should be made record of within a CRM system, so all the information regarding any last point of contact, regardless of channel, is made available to anybody within the company.

Differences between CRM and social CRM

Understanding the differences between social CRM and more traditional CRM models can help marketers approach social CRM programme design.

Please note, often you will see the acronym eCRM, the e stands for electronic and was used to denote the difference between offline customer interaction (phone/mail) and the new-fangled digital kind. Now digital is so well established, the distinction feels a little redundant.

Social CRM: best practice

Social CRM is about customer engagement, not management, after all marketers and brands are no longer in control of the conversation.

Social CRM therefore sees a shift in focus from sales, to relationship building conversations, based on a belief that improving customer experiences with engagement will ultimately drive sales. The secret to success is to present the option to buy as a secondary rather than the primary focus. 

Use the regular contact opportunities afforded by social media as a means of staying somewhere near the front of consumers who are not ready to buy yet.  

In the meantime keep them engaged with useful, valuable content and information. Remember that ‘valuable’ can mean many different things though. Entertaining, educational or informative content is valuable. A quick response to a relevant query is valuable. Connecting consumers with other people or brands that may be relevant can also be valuable. And anything that can either make a consumer feel special or save them time, money or hassle will certainly foster a deeper sense of brand loyalty.

Social CRM is about being patient and methodical. Customers take smaller steps down the sales funnel, but the long-term gains can be much more rewarding for it. 

This is obviously a very different sales model to the traditional sales-orientated processes. The rules of engagement have been changed by social media thanks to its ubiquity in people’s lives and the expectations that have changed along with it. Integrating social with your existing CRM strategy will mean your company matching those expectations and hopefully exceeding them.

For much more advice and insight, download the full 87 page Customer relationship management in the social age guide best practice guide.

Further reading for beginners

During my first year at Econsultancy I’ve been making a point of writing beginner’s guides to any new terms or phrases I find particularly baffling, or that I might suspect other people may find baffling too. 

The following related articles should help clear up a few things… 

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 2 September, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

686 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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Jon Ferrara

Christopher

Thank you for writing this guide to Social and it's effects on CRM.

The social customer has certainly shifted the buyer journey and businesses now need to change their methods of engagament if they want to continue to grow.

Nurturing relationships and building community with customers and prospects are the secrets to success.

We built Nimble to help businesses discover who their customers are and enable them to engage with them in relevant and effective ways. Nimble is a new style of intellegent relationship management for the new social selling era.

Thanks you for educating your community about the need to adapt to the new social customer.

Cheers

Jon

Jon Ferrara
CEO - Nimble - Social Relationships Made Easy
twitter @jon_ferrara - www.nimble.com

almost 2 years ago

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Dave Harris, Job Title at SMD

Jon, no offence, but could you not do such a hard sell next time, please? Comments are generally for discussion about the topic - instead, give readers a punchline how your product helped transform someone's business instead (i.e. we've seen an increase of X% after doing such-and-such) - now that is something that'll make me click through to your website.

Also, "to help businesses discover who their customers are and enable them to engage with them in relevant and effective ways" is hardly a USP - it's a boring statement that other CRMs sales copy has been pitching for years.

Apologies for being critical and off-topic, but I hope you see my point.

almost 2 years ago

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