Guest blog post from Aleksandr Peterson.
Social CRM has been one of the buzziest business IT trends in recent history. Some of it’s been empty speculation, but some of it has led to real change. Software vendors have added social integrations to their products, businesses have added social engagement to their customer maps, and customers have started connecting with brands through their personal profiles.
In a report from January, MarketsandMarkets predicted the global market for Social CRM software could reach almost $18 billion by 2019, up from $2.2 billion last year. Whether or not this prediction comes true, it isn’t hard to see why so many businesses are now shopping for social CRM tools: they offer definite value.
The Benefits of Social CRM
First off, social CRMs aren’t just another tech innovation for the sake of innovation. They’re a response to the paradigm shift B2C companies have been experiencing for years — customers are using the web, crowdsourcing, and social media to take control of the conversation. About seventy-five percent of online adults now have at least one social media account, and as social users spend more of their lives online, they expect brands to engage them there. According to Edison Research, 42 percent of people who contact a brand on social media expect a response in under an hour.
There are also a number of explicit advantages Social CRMs bring to sales, marketing, and customer service, like the ability to “know” prospects before you talk to them, identify the biggest advocates and the biggest critics of your brand, generate more leads, track engagement with content, and resolve customer issues directly from a social feed or profile.
Telling a Diamond from Cubic Zirconium
There are a lot of products on the market that describe themselves as “social CRMs.” Some are CRM platforms with built-in social features, while others are available as add-ons that attach to your existing CRM. The differences in product packaging will appeal to you based on your current systems, such as whether you have a CRM, don’t, or have one you dislike. But what’s more important is the depth of the features themselves.
Many vendors call their product a “social CRM” when in fact it’s something less than that. Since vendors aren’t always transparent about their promises, it’s difficult to know whether you’re choosing a bona fide social CRM or a dud.
In general, a dud will promise that it has “social integrations” or “customer social data,” or may even be so bold as to categorically announce a “social CRM” feature without describing it in any detail. Meanwhile, what the platform really offers is only a basic social profile integration: your rep pulls up a contact record and sees a link to the contact’s LinkedIn profile or Twitter feed, etc. Access to a social profile is better than nothing at all, but it’s certainly a long walk from true “social CRM.”
A bona fide social CRM — built around social monitoring and engagement — will have at least a few of the following features:
- Social listening (monitor topics, conversations, and people)
- Sentiment analysis (sometimes referred to as “natural language processing”)
- Social lead generation (capture prospects directly from social stream)
- Customer service integration (find and create new cases/tickets directly from posts)
- Enhanced customer profiles (populates CRM database with demographic/firmographic info from social sites)
- Social marketing (create and track engaging content campaigns)
5 of the Top Social CRMs on the Market
This cloud-based social CRM offers enhanced customer profiles, responsive social listening, social selling, and analytics. It also integrates with Hootsuite.
Best for: Small businesses
Zoho is an online suite of business productivity apps. Their CRM app gives sales and marketing access to social listening, social lead capture, enhanced customer profiles, and social interaction history.
Best for: Small and midsize businesses
Web-based CRM and email marketing platform equipped with social listening tools, a custom news feed (called the “social media ticker”), and social profiles. Unfortunately, BigContacts does not provide an integration for Facebook.
Best for: Small business
CRM for sales marketing, and service teams available in multiple deployment models (cloud, on-premise, hybrid). Social CRM features include social listening (including news syndication), social analytics, natural language processing, social lead capture, and social case management. Some features available with core CRM, others require additional module.
Best for: Medium size business to enterprise.
World’s leading cloud CRM, built as a web application on the force.com platform. Social CRM features require purchase of Social Studio (by ExactTarget) module: social listening, social analytics, sentiment analysis, social case management, content marketing, and lead capture.
Best for: Enterprise
It’s hard to define the nuts and bolts of any software just by looking at the vendor’s website, so try to download a more detailed datasheet that breaks down features by their smaller components and sorts them by pricing tiers. Talk to colleagues and industry experts who have used the software. And of course, use it yourself: run through a free trial before you commit to make sure “social CRM” means what you think it means.