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Your Questions Answered

Digital Marketing Guide: Social CRM

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What is social CRM?

You've probably been hearing this a lot lately -- it's one of the marketing world's latest favorite buzzwords. If you think about the traditional definition of customer relationship management as helping you communicate with customers throughout the sales and marketing lifecycle, then social CRM is simply managing these relationships using new social-media tools -- listening to what your customers and potential customers are saying about you online and then participating in those conversations in order to build trust and interest. "The key with social CRM," said Shane Atchison, CEO, ZAAZ, part of the WPP's Wunderman network, "is acknowledging and understanding the significant impact social networking plays in consumers' beliefs and behaviors and how that drives and changes the way your customers/prospects think about and interact with your brand."

Isn't social CRM really just about sending follow-up email offers to customers and prospects?

No. Social CRM is really about managing customer relationships wherever they happen, regardless of whether it's within a controlled experience. Right now many of our most dynamic and authentic conversations are happening on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. (And the time spent on social-networking sites is quickly outpacing other online activities, with online Americans spending nearly a quarter of their time there, according to Nielsen.) However, there is a part of social CRM that does involve cultivating existing customer lists, and obviously email plays a big role in that. But if you're limiting yourself exclusively to only email, you are missing a huge opportunity.

What are the keys to effective social CRM?

Mr. Atchison said first and foremost, it's knowing where your customers are so that you're directing your social CRM efforts in the right direction. "This is not a good place to be broad and shallow," he said. "You should find the most-impactful venues in which to participate in the conversation, and place your focus there. And, as with anything involving the social ecosystem, it's important to approach social CRM with a sense of perspective and humility; these conversations are [often] not happening on your site. Trying to control them as if they are will frustrate and alienate the people you are trying to persuade."

Even though as a marketer you may not be able to control these conversations, you can take the knowledge you gain from listening to them to fine-tune your marketing, communications and support messaging in order to better connect with your audiences.

When does social CRM come into play and is it something that should be used more often than as an offline CRM program?

In order to thrive in today's marketplace, marketers from every vertical need to understand what's being said about their brand in the social sphere. Smart marketers will look at social CRM from a marketing, product development, customer support and PR perspective in order to help maximize their connection with customers. "Marketers that ignore what is being said socially cannot be successful in this day and age," Mr. Atchison said. "CRM programs should be run, or at least monitored, continuously. There are only two states: Either you are participating in the conversation or you are ignoring it."

What are the differences between social CRM and offline CRM?

Social CRM programs must be a part of any effective CRM process. One of social CRM's biggest advantages over its offline counterpart is the sheer volume of real-time data at your disposal that can be used to personalize the experience. And the more personalized the message, the more relevant it is to consumers, and for marketers, that's where you earn authenticity and trust.

Is social CRM more important than the offline equivalent?

"One could argue that you can't have an effective CRM program without considering social CRM," Mr. Atchison said. "Both are important. But the most-important element is understanding your customers holistically and how CRM impacts your brand."

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