Benefits of social CRMChallenges of social CRM
  • Streamlined social efforts.
  • Improved brand experience.
  • Faster customer service.
  • Increased trust and brand loyalty.
  • Social platforms are “shared” spaces.
  • Risks of “court of public opinion.”
  • Social CRM add-ons may cost extra.
  • Clear social strategy needed for best results.

Put in the most concise terms, social customer relationship management refers to one or more of the following:

  1. A customer experience strategy focused on leveraging social channels to engage, interact and respond to potential and current customers.
  2. A process or system of processes implemented to execute on a social CRM strategy.
  3. A software platform that facilitates and empowers social CRM strategies and processes by integrating with social accounts, centralizing data and streamlining the tech stack.

Just as you might use a CRM tool to better integrate your sales cycle into your e-commerce platform, you use a social CRM solution to more effectively deploy your strategies across multiple social channels.

That said, while social CRM tools can streamline social efforts for a better brand experience, the additional cost may not be worth it, especially if a clear social strategy isn’t already in place. But for businesses ready to grow their social CRM efforts, top tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho CRM and Buffer are a good place to start.

How do social CRM tools work?

Like many software-as-a-service tools, a social CRM solution is designed to force multiply your efforts by applying the faithful standbys of computer-based convenience, such as:

  • Automating simple, repetitive tasks.
  • Facilitating batch processing of tasks that are performed in bulk.
  • Consolidating interfaces and controls, bringing all of the necessary functions into a single dashboard.
  • Aggregating information into a single record and improving data integrity.

Social CRM tool features

Obviously, each provider will have different approaches and intended use cases. But in general, most will be built to provide certain core features and functions.

Single source of truth

While a standard CRM solution will do a good job of tracking contact details for leads as they travel down the sales funnel, convert into customer accounts and switch to retention mode, that’s pretty much where it ends.

With a social CRM, it’s possible to connect lead and customer profiles to their social profiles. That way, sales reps can more easily track interactions between them and the company’s brand. This allows customers to start the discussion where they like, and sales reps can migrate it to another platform if they see fit.

Consistency in brand experience

Social CRM solutions make it easier to deliver the same experience across your whole digital footprint. Brand identity and brand experience are important, and it’s easier to achieve positive interactions when they are consistent from one domain to another.

Just as customers and leads don’t want to have to repeat themselves just because they switched from one social channel to another, they also don’t want to feel like there are major shifts in how the interactions are being handled. If they can get a response in minutes on one platform, they expect it to be just as quick on others, for example.

It’s harder to do when manually monitoring and responding to discussions on social media. It’s much easier when everything can be done from a single pane of glass.

Integrated controls

A social CRM solution can function as a “master key” of sorts, allowing sales and marketing reps to create and schedule posts for multiple channels, monitor incoming messages and tags, track performance and metrics, and a lot more.

This saves a significant amount of time and overhead by putting all of the necessary interfaces and controls in a single place. It reduces the hassle of logging into and accessing multiple social accounts, sharing passwords and posting on multiple platforms or profiles.

Automated reconnaissance

Social CRM solutions can cut out the grind of managing social media accounts and engagement. You can set up alerts that monitor for mentions and tags and then notify you when something pops up. You can perform more advanced searches the same way. You can more effectively research and observe what is working and create engagement amongst your target audience.

And you can track trends in more or less real time, leading to better response times when a new opportunity presents itself.

Enhanced awareness

Social CRM tools can help alleviate the amount of effort required to keep up with the rapidly evolving conversations. By automating the monitoring and searching and putting all of the notifications in the same place, these solutions can cut down dramatically on the effort required to keep a finger on the pulse of whatever you need to. Faster response times mean you’ll be more effective at putting out fires or fanning the flames.

Analytics insights

The right social CRM tool can report on the numbers, providing insight on social media performance to help you plan for more effective strategies and identify problem areas.

The key here is that you can collect analytics data from across disparate platforms — data that’s normally siloed and difficult to extract, transform and load into some kind of cohesive database — to say nothing of turning into a report that makes any sense.

Social CRM: benefits vs. drawbacks

Setting aside any solution-specific details, the vast majority of pros and cons for social CRM are the same whether you’re talking about strategy or software. So, let’s take a look at whether the benefits of social CRMs would outweigh the challenges.

Benefits of social CRM

  • Streamlined social efforts: Consolidated controls mean fewer dashboards to juggle, less to manage and easier implementation of efforts across social channels.
  • Improved brand experience and customer service: Businesses can deliver better brand experience and customer service through increased consistency, improved response time, and minimized wasted and redundant efforts.
  • Increased trust and brand loyalty: By exposing yourself to the risk of public discourse in third-party spaces, you demonstrate a willingness to deliver on promises — even when inconvenient or costly to you.

Challenges of social CRM

  • Social platforms are “shared” spaces: Leveraging social in your CRM efforts can be effective, but you’re surrendering a fair amount of control and accepting potential risks to make it happen.
  • Social CRM add-ons may cost extra: Making the most of social CRM depends on having the right technology solution, and that may come at a cost, especially if you’re already using a CRM tool that charges extra for a social CRM add-on.
  • Clear social strategy needed for best results: Social CRM won’t magically turn a haphazard approach into a winning strategy; if you’re not carefully considering your social strategy, it will show, and internet trolls may very well criticize you for it.

Popular social CRM providers

Social media is big business, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of players in the game. From big-name CRMs with social capabilities to tools designed from the start with social media in mind, there’s an optimal solution for just about every use case. Here are some of the most popular and worthwhile options on the market:

  • HubSpot: An industry giant, known for its email automation and lead management, HubSpot is a strong pick for teams that want to implement a comprehensive and holistic revenue strategy, from sales and marketing to customer success.
  • Salesforce: Chosen by e-commerce and online payment-lovers everywhere, Salesforce integrates with just about every web host with online store capabilities, and tying your purchasing system directly into your social CRM has some very distinct benefits.
  • Zoho CRM: One of the most extensive B2B solution providers, Zoho CRM is ideal if your team is heavily decentralized or if you’re already using some of Zoho’s other products.
  • Buffer: Loved by social media marketers across every industry, Buffer can serve just as well as a tool for individuals or a whole team looking to improve their sales funnel and customer experience.

PREMIUM: Choosing the right CRM for your organization.

Should your organization use a social CRM solution?

At the end of the day, social CRM is just a method of achieving certain goals and outcomes related to social media engagement. Whether it’s worth it depends on whether you value those outcomes and whether you’re ready to pursue them.

As much as a social CRM solution can simplify, streamline and supercharge social media efforts, it’s not necessarily a magical solution that will fix everything. The internet is a big place, and spreading your attention and resources too thin is a real risk, even with CRM tools.

Depending on your current situation, team composition and established strategies, it may be better to wait until you can dedicate time, assets and talent to navigating the challenges of social CRM.

But if you’re already trying to make social work for you or if your audience and customers are trying to get your attention out there in those contested territories, implementing a social CRM may prove the difference between success and setbacks.