There’s been a lot of buzz about social CRM, yet it’s a somewhat amorphous term which applies to everything from Twitter clients to email newsletter to more traditional CRM solutions. What does the term mean exactly and how should you be thinking about using it as a small or large business?
What is Social CRM?
Rather than writing a new explanation, I’ll share an existing one. Paul Greenberg wrote a great definition of social customer relationship management (sCRM):
“CRM is a philosophy a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes 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.”
He also makes some points worth calling out that
- SCRM is an extension of CRM, not a replacement for CRM
- SCRM is based on a revolution of how we communicate, not how we do business
Here’s an alternative definition from Harish Kotadia:
Social CRM is the business strategy of engaging customers through Social Media with goal of building trust and brand loyalty.
Kotadia goes on to say,
Social CRM and Social Media are more about building trust and managing loyalty with customers than about managing relationships or transactions, which are focus areas of “traditional” CRM.
In essence, social CRM is about joining in on the conversations that your customers are having, where they are having them. This is more about building trust and joining the conversation.
What are examples of social CRM?
Springing from these definitions, here are a couple examples of what social CRM might look like particularly for large businesses. All of these companies are focused on joining the conversation, but they do it in very different ways:
For large businesses, it’s about brand management, reputation management, and customer support. Examples include
- Fedex monitoring social media channels and replying to a customer lost package real-time on Twitter (source)
- Dell engaging with more than 1,000 customers each week on Twitter, Facebook, forums and blogs. As well as making $3 million off their Twitter account: (source, 2)
- Linksys using Lithium to create an online customer support community which empowered users to create content and help one another with their content (source)
Large business needs vs small business needs
In contrast, small businesses are focused creating an audience of new users rather than engaging with existing users.
In addition, small businesses are extremely limited on time. Instead of having staff to manage sales, social media and content, small businesses might have one person focused part-time on accomplishing the same set of responsibilities.
Instead of a separate product or alternative business strategy, social CRM for businesses is more powerful when the story is around integrating social media into their existing toolset.
Small businesses should be able to
- find conversations about related topics, and engage with customers
- maintain these conversations across multiple channels
- identify, track and engage with influencers in their industry
- scale communication across their existing and new customer base
- measure results for their efforts
All of this needs to be easy to set up, simple to manage, and accurately tracked.
While larger businesses are engaging in conversations with customers that are already aware of them, small businesses should be focused on amplifying their products and brand name to reach new users.
Who provides social CRM?
Jeremiah Owyang has a great list of social CRM providers here.
It’s interesting to note how many categories he creates for social CRM companies.
- Traditional CRM Vendors offering Social Integration
- Community Platforms Offering Social CRM
- Brand Monitoring Offering Social CRM
- Social Media/Twitter Clients
- Social Customer Experience
- Sales 2.0/Social Graph Aggregation
- CRM Applications and Plugins
- Social Networks and Others
Social CRM spans the full breadth of categories from traditional CRM with social integration to brand monitoring to Twitter clients.
If I’m a small business, should I use social CRM?
Companies should evaluate social CRM as just another potential customer acquisition and engagement channel. Just like how advertising isn’t the most cost-effective approach for every small business, social media channels might not be as well.
You should focus on the answers to these questions.
Where are my customers spending their time?
The spirit of social CRM is to reach your customers where they are. The reality is that Facebook and Twitter might only be a subset of where the conversation is taking place, or the demographics that you’re selling to simply may not match.
Instead, you should focus on defining where your customers are, and using the right tools and strategies to reach them.
Are you marketing one-to-one or one-to-many?
Social media and other channels can be great channels for reaching a large volume of people or deepening existing relationships with existing customers.
Your business might be an e-commerce play with thousands of transactional customers out there. Or, your business might look like an 80/20 business of ongoing relationships where 80% of your revenues come from the top 20% of your customers.
This helps you choose between strategies that are focused on strengthening relationships with individuals or reaching as many people as possible.
What do you have time for?
What are your immediate goals, and where could you be spending your time for what gains? How much time do you have in your schedule to fit this in?
While the obvious answer might be that you should make time for it, the honest question to ask yourself is where your business is and what resources you can dedicate to executing a strategy. Social CRM is simply another way to market to and engage an audience. Depending on the nature and stage of your business, there might be more attractive and profitable ways for you to engage with your customer.
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