In the age of social media, customers are better connected to each other and to companies than ever before. Smartphones enable them to talk about the company’s product or service whenever and wherever they want.

Whether they are criticising or praising you, you need to know what they are saying in order to provide customer support, respond to criticism, but also to reach and engage with customers. That is where social CRM comes in.

Is social CRM really necessary?

As a business owner, you know how valuable your time and money are. And yes – you will have to invest in a social CRM programme and it might take you weeks or even months to learn how to work with it. Nevertheless, if you consider the following benefits, you will find that the investment will pay off.

  • Content Creation and Placement

Adding social media to your CRM plan is a good way to make your business more flexible and efficient. Social CRM gives companies of every size vital insights into the behaviour of their customers that can shape marketing and sales strategies. Information from social media sites can tell your company what people think of your business as well as the nature of their current needs and desires.

Consider this: if one of your customers makes a fan group for your product on Facebook, it will attract a lot of like-minded people and make an excellent opportunity for you to connect with them. You will easily produce valuable content aligned with their needs. Such groups, as well as your official social media profiles, are ideal platforms for placing that content and getting inbound traffic.

  • Responding to Feedback

Social networking sites are also perfect for customers to share their experiences with your company. Positive reviews will reach a large audience of potential new customers, while negative reviews will be attended quickly and efficiently, regaining the trust of the complaining customers.

Make sure your entire team understands the need to supply a quick response to every inquiry. Even when customers have a complex issue, they need to know that someone is working hard on their behalf to find a solution.

There are many social media tools that can help you improve the response time of your team by sending you notifications every time someone mentions your brand. As your customers learn to depend on social media for customer service, you’ll need to establish rules in your CRM system that can help prioritise issues and customers, so the most important cases get speedy resolutions.

  • All in One Place

A social CRM program integrates social media into your CRM software, making it easy for you to follow all the above-mentioned activities. It unifies all company goals into one plan concentrated on the customer.

Developing a social CRM strategy

A J.D. Power and Associates report revealed that more than 40 percent of consumers in the lucrative 18 to 29-year-old demographic engage with social media for customer service. Meanwhile, less than one-quarter of social media engagement for that age group pertained to marketing.

Such statistics suggest that you should make a high priority of developing a social CRM strategy. The following steps will help you get started.

Select the Right Social Network

Your business should already have a presence on all the major social networks. Being active on all of them makes sense for sports organisations which have to communicate with all their fans to maintain their image.

However, that requires a lot of time and human resources and is not necessary for all companies. For example, a bridal dress manufacturer will think about future brides and concentrate on social media they mostly use – Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram. So, the first step is to identify which social channels your customers use. Three social networks stand out:

  • With nearly 1.8 billion active users, Facebook allows you to reach the largest audience. Its other advantage is its versatility – you can share photos, videos, news etc.  Also, it does not take up much of your time, you can post as often as you want.
  • Twitter promotes quick and to-the-point updates on products, announcements, customer requests, appraisals and complaints. You do not have to spend a lot of time and energy to make your conversation with customers efficient and successful. Retweeting and using hashtags can increase the reach of your content quickly.
  • However, the most important social network for professional contacts and B2B marketing is LinkedIn. You can target your audience by their professional status. It enables you to make connections that will yield real opportunities for your business.

Select the social media platform that already hosts the majority of your business-related social media activity and then create a customer-support account on that network. If your company mostly works with other businesses, you would benefit most from LinkedIn. Twitter and Facebook are more suited to B2C businesses.

However, if you are trying to expand your business from B2B to B2C or vice versa, choosing just one network might limit your business’s outreach, so it is worth considering a combination: choose one B2C and one B2B network. You still won’t waste too much of your precious time on social networking and you will reach a wider variety of two fairly different groups of people.

Choose Your Social CRM Software Carefully

Even if you have an outstanding social CRM strategy, having the wrong software in place will paralyse your team. The best available tools will help your company monitor online mentions of your brand and track the behaviour of your customers.

The information gathered from effective social CRM products will help your staff provide quality customer service, and it will give you a way to measure the overall performance of your business. Some of the most popular CRM solutions with integrated social media management include Salesforce, HubSpot and Zoho.

As you shop for your social CRM solution, think about reasons your company needs it – marketing, initial contact with potential clients, prioritising customers. Find a simple and intuitive program that works quickly, helps you prioritise communication, integrates with your social media of choice, is regularly updated and can be used on all devices.

Another thing you have to keep in mind is that the CRM software has robust built-in security measures to protect your customers’ data. Take additional action yourself and ensure you and your employees use strong passwords, 2-step authentication, and other safety measures.

This will minimise the risk of data breaches that can lead to your customers’ sensitive data being stolen and prevent possible identity thefts and other criminal intentions.

Your software should also have a backup mechanism, so you can have local access to your data in the event of an internet or service outage. You should also evaluate the features of possible social CRM solutions to make sure they accommodate your internal workflows.

Use It Efficiently

Make sure your social CRM strategy and your chosen software have provisions for analysing the data collected by your company. Nonetheless, before migrating the data to the CRM programme, clean and categorise it.

You should constantly monitor the time your team uses to resolve issues at every level. You also need to devise ways to determine whether your CRM system is adequately serving the needs of your customers and your company. Use surveys to identify the needs and expectations of your customers and find ways to align your operation with their requirements.

At the same time, you should pay attention to changes in the productivity and efficiency of your team. CRM tools should help employees work faster and more efficiently. However, sometimes it takes time to get used to the software. If you notice your employees are struggling to grasp it, you should consider organizing education for them. Sometimes, it is necessary to adjust the tools and procedures or even switch to a simpler CRM solution.

Save time by synchronising your CRM and e-mail client software, cutting irrelevant fields and integrating email, calendar and sales management systems. If this is the first time your employees are using a CRM programme, it would be best not to confuse them by duplicating data and prolonging usually simple tasks.

Final Thoughts

The road to a successful social CRM starts by developing a solid strategy. Carefully selecting the best CRM tools will ensure security and accessibility while streamlining your internal processes. Always quickly respond to customer inquiries and feedback and keep updated with your employees’ performance. Stay alert as you implement social CRM so you can take advantage of new technology and tactics as they emerge.