Customer Relationship Management with Social Media…Dive right in!

Social Media has connected businesses and consumers in a way that presents new opportunities to engage with your customer base. Perhaps you’ve heard of Social Customer Relationship Management?  Essentially, it’s a strategy using the various tools provided by social media networks used to engage with your audience in real-time. To successfully operate a social CRM strategy you must first understand your objectives and the means in which to achieve them.

Here are some important questions to consider prior to carrying out a social CRM strategy:

  1. Do you have a presence on popular social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, and are you properly branded on them?
  2. What would your company like to accomplish through CRM? Is it better customer service? Would you like to crowd source feedback from your customer base?
  3. Do you have good communication between external social media communicators and internal management/decision makers?

The first step is to have a presence on the social networking sites — a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page as some of the more obvious choices.  It is critical that these accounts are properly branded, have relevant company and contact information, and are promoted through your current marketing channels. These social accounts will act as your platform to engage with your audience in real-time. If your online presence does not look official, you could be losing immediate interaction with your customers. They want to connect with you, and most importantly they want to know that you’re serious about connecting with them.

Customer service should always be a top priority, but as you run your campaigns you must be willing to move a little bit on your strategy in order to achieve the benefits of social CRM. It helps to get creative and find various ways in which to get your customers involved in your business. For example, a restaurant might be launching a new happy hour next week and could crowd source feedback on menu items from its customer base. This would give them instant feedback on what their customers were looking for, and by running something as simple as a Facebook questionnaire they could turn it into a contest to drive engagement impressions with their brand. Always think about how you can turn simple everyday business operations or current trending topics into engagement opportunities with your customer base.

The last and most important step to consider is your ability to deliver results to your customers. Running an unorganized social media program can actually hurt your brand and it is better to avoid rather than doing it wrong. The biggest concern for most companies with social media is their fear  of being unable to control the outcomes of these relationships. Most of this concern is because they do not completely understand social media. I myself would not jump off a small cliff until I knew for sure that there was a depth of  forty feet in the water below. If  I’d jumped before, or perhaps had people with knowledge of the water below, then I would be more eager to dive in. A company must understand social media on all levels to properly implement their campaign and accomplish the unlimited potential that it provides.

The answer to properly running a social CRM strategy is excellent internal communication and a clear and concise plan.

Your front line social communicators, account managers, and social media managers need to have the proper authority to make quick decisions in order to meet your customer’s needs. These social media representatives must have proper direction from upper management and other customer service platforms. They should have a broad understanding for the overall company culture, an acute understanding for current industry trends and the company’s strategy, and an absolute awareness of what they CANNOT do. (I’ll go over more on the do’s and don’ts of social strategy in my next blog.)

In essence, they should be able to perform most day-to-day social media activities, but refer to internal management when more comprehensive decision-making is required. Your internal management should provide consistent updates on current marketing strategy, and your front-line social media representatives should provide ongoing “field” feedback to management.

Social Media CRM is a powerful tool and it is evolving every day. If you step outside of the conversation for too long you won’t understand the stories your customers are trying to tell you. You can have better feedback in real-time, therefore allowing you to make better decisions in a timely manner. At Litehouse, we can help steer you in the right direction with your social CRM strategy.  Fear not the unknown depths of social media, the water is warm and you are in good company.

~ Andy Karuza

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