I’m Social! But Am I Social Enough for a Social CRM?

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It seems with the advent of social media, the word “social” has crept its way onto all sorts of phrases. Social marketing, social engagement, social ROI… social, social, social. So, if you’ve come across the phrase “social CRM” recently, you might be curious: Is it just another one of those buzzwords that’s no different than a regular, old customer relationship management (CRM)? Or is it something I should really consider?

social enough for crm

Definitions, Please!

According to Paul Greenberg, ZDNet contributor and CRM expert extraordinaire, the definition of Social CRM is:

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

Comparatively, Capterra’s definition of Traditional CRM software is:

“Software that enables customer interaction, support and relationship management, and enables organizations to better manage their customers through the introduction of reliable systems, processes, and procedures.”

It may seem as though Social CRM is just regular, old CRM with a social component added on top, but it’s so much more than that. There are two important differences to consider:

  1. Social CRM monitors both inbound and outbound marketing channels.
    Traditional CRM is meant to monitor, track, and enable conversations with customers and prospects through traditional media (i.e. the phone, email, or your website). But what about all the new social channels available to customers today? Social CRM enables you to monitor, track, and enable conversations there, as well.
  2. Social CRM tracks ALL of the customer’s online communications, not just those with your company. Traditional CRM is all about the company’s communications with the prospect, whereas Social CRM is the opposite of that. As Greenberg points out, thanks to the advent of social media, it’s no longer the company that “owns” the conversation with their customers. It is now the customer that determines when and how they will connect with the business.

I Have the Definitions…How About an Example? Can You Paint Me a Picture?

Traditional CRM Contact Record

In a Traditional CRM, you might see some of the same customer data you would find in a Social CRM contact record. For instance, you can bet that the customer’s name, company, job title, and email address are included in both.

Traditional CRM Contact Record

In a Traditional CRM, however, you might see records that indicate what specific emails your marketing department sent to that contact, and the dates on which those emails were sent (see left). You might also see how many times a sales person reached out via the phone, and when the customer first signed their contract. Note that these items are all very focused on the company and the conversations it started with the customer. Sure, there might be a logged note of the customer’s response to an email, or a brief recap of a call, but most of the customer’s responses are connected to some campaign or promotion set forth by the company in the first place.

Social CRM Contact Record

On the other hand, a Social CRM contact record (pictured below) might include data such as:

Social CRM Contact Record

  1. Social interactions about your product/ brand/keywords — For example, if your prospect has asked their followers on Twitter whether they prefer your product or your competitor’s product, that interaction would be logged on the Social CRM contact record.
  2. Connections to your company/employees/ network — Before a sales rep picks up the phone to cold call a prospect, your Social CRM can tell you that the prospect is already connected with four people at your company. This is valuable customer data that is easily available through their LinkedIn profile, and can better arm your sales rep to respond (or better yet, facilitate a stronger, relationship-driven sale by assigning that prospect to one of the four people they’re already connected to).
  3. Sentiment tracking/complaint monitoring —If a customer sends a scathing email to their account rep about a problem with your product or service, you would probably choose to respond to that email… and quickly. But if a customer writes a nasty review of your product online, you might never know it happened and not have an opportunity to respond. That is, unless you have Social CRM, which oftentimes can track not just brand mentions and comments (as in #1), but also the sentiment of those comments and whether they are positive or negative. Negative comments can trigger an urgent notice in the social CRM so that you know to respond immediately to those issues.
  4.  Enhanced customer data thanks to social profiles — Did you know that one of your company’s biggest accounts is based in your hometown? How about the fact that a new prospect went to your alma mater? You may gather these details through conversation, but, thanks to social media, your Social CRM can greatly enhance the customer information you have access to by pulling in publicly-shared facts from their social media profiles. So, next time you send them an email, you can drop in a “Go State!” in your signature.

So, How Do I Know If I’m Ready for Social CRM?

Now that you’ve seen the difference between these two types of software, you’re probably wondering “Well…which one do I need?”

For help answering that question, take the quiz below. For each, “Yes” answer, check the corresponding box:

  • Does your company (or marketing or PR department) use social media channels daily?
  • Do you have a way of monitoring social mentions of your brand, product, or industry?
  • Does your company (or marketing or PR department) respond to those mentions or interactions through social media channels directly?
  • Do you have a social media policy or training program?
  • Are your sales people trained on social media channels or familiar with how to use them?
  • Do they connect with prospects on social media?
  • Are your customer service reps and/or account managers trained on social media and familiar with how to use these channels?
  • Do they connect with their customers on social media?
  • Do you have the staff/manpower to respond to social mentions of your company within the same time frame you respond to other customer outreach channels (phone calls, email support inbox, etc.)?
  • Does your leadership team buy into the idea of social media as a revenue-generating sales and marketing opportunity for your company?
  • Have you been asked to show the ROI behind your social media efforts?
  • Do the departments that engage with customers and prospects (namely, sales, marketing, customer service, and PR) all use the same contact management/CRM system currently? If not, would it be possible for them to all move over to a new Social CRM platform?

If you have checked “Yes” to 10 or more of the above statements, you’re definitely ready for a Social CRM solution. If you’ve only checked 5-9 items above, then you may be ready for Social CRM soon, but you have some business process issues concerning social media that you need to address first before making this investment. Finally, if you checked less than 5, then you’re probably okay with a traditional CRM solution for now.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Not all Traditional and Social CRM solutions are mutually exclusive. Some CRM software providers have built modules or additional functionality that allow you to “upgrade” from Traditional CRM to a Social CRM when you’re ready.

Looking for Customer Relationship Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Relationship Management software solutions.

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About the Author


Katie Hollar

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Katie is the Director of Marketing at Capterra - a free resource that helps businesses find the right software. Her work has been published in VentureBeat, MarketingProfs, CustomerThink, and the Demand Gen Report, and she has been featured in CIO, AdAge, and Website Magazine. Katie has a love of all things marketing, but she is particularly fond of social media and marketing automation. She is a UVA grad (Wahoowa!) and in her free time enjoys reading, running, and cooking. Follow her on Twitter @khollar.


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