Social CRM and the Great Power Shift

Social media has created an unprecedented shift in power in the marketing landscape. Marketers can no longer completely control conversations pertaining to their brand. While this may seem like a scary prospect, social media also makes troves of data available to marketers. This social data, coupled with online and offline data, allows for deeper segmentation and targeting.

Social media has raised the bar in terms of customer relationship management. According to CRM expert and author Paul Greenberg, social CRM, or sCRM, is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a system and a technology, designed to improve human interaction in a business environment. It goes beyond social listening and customer service, placing loyalty and one-to-one marketing front and center.

There is a distinct need to provide customers with a unified experience across marketing channels, including social sites. This experience must be based on consumers' behaviors and preferences, and it must be truly relevant. Consumers are in the driver's seat, and marketers need to be thoughtful with their sCRM approach.

Below are five tips to help guide your brand to sCRM success.

1. Obtain internal buy-in. Friends are important in the social world and in your corporate hierarchy. Champion the benefits of sCRM—real-time customer insights, rapid response, the ability to identify segments and increased engagement and loyalty—internally. Find experts within your organization who are passionate about CRM to help you obtain buy-in from other key players. Creating the ideal customer experience today requires a cross-team and interdepartmental approach. The more people involved in the process, the stronger your business case will be.

2. Think strategy. Social CRM is a strategy, not a technology or a process. Think beyond data and technology—though both will play an integral role. Begin by defining why sCRM is important to your brand. Then set tangible goals and avoid unrealistic ones, such as obtaining a million fans. It's also important to understand your audience and the social landscape to determine where you should invest and focus your efforts. Lastly, begin mapping out your social data and identify any gaps or opportunities.

3. One size does not fit all. Social CRM cannot be looked at in a silo and it is not a silver bullet. Understand the role social media plays within the overall customer experience and ecosystem. Social media networks are a channel to deliver a message, not a communication stream. Social behaviors will differ among customer segments and social channels.

4. Social CRM is not just social. Social media cannot support a brand on its own. Integration is key to providing customized customer experiences. Social media, search, and email are closely related and should be leveraged in a complementary fashion. Social media, for instance, can help optimize search programs by using keywords, SEO, and link building and help identify questions being asked about your brand or product. Search can bolster social media by determining what questions are top of mind for your consumers, and can help drive traffic and new customers to social media platforms. Email can drive social media metrics by increasing traffic and fan count and encouraging sharing outside of the social ecosystem. In return, social can aid email metrics by furthering customer engagement, identifying hot topics or content themes for email messaging, amplifying conversations, and boosting acquisition and retention efforts.

5. The power of segmentation. Take inventory of your data and create social profiles to help drive your communications. Social data matched with your online and offline data can help you create profiles, such as customers, prospects, most valued customers, newbies, advocates, and detractors. You can also create profiles based on demographics, behaviors, and preferred communication channels and content.

Social CRM is about customer involvement, not supervision. This means that marketers today must curate, respond to, and inspire conversations in order to thrive in the marketplace. A data-driven social CRM strategy will help marketers achieve success.

Shannon Aronson is vice president of customer experience design at Epsilon, where she focuses on digital marketing. Her experience in digital marketing and social media spans industry verticals.

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