Use Social CRM to Boost Inbound Marketing

Gartner defines social CRM as "a business strategy that entails the extension of marketing, sales, and customer service processes to include the active participation of customers or visitors to an Internet channel (Web or mobile) with the goal of fostering participation in the business process." With the predominance of public social media use, organizations are missing out on potential valuable data and opportunities if they're not actively listening for mentions of their brand—and/or competitors' brands—on the social Web.

Social CRM enables companies to harness activity taking place online—whether in the form of positive tweets about their brand or negative tweets about a competitor, blog posts or comments about a topic that relates to the company's products or services, or mentions or shares of information on Facebook or another social networking platform—and add it to an existing customer's record or generate new leads.

Social CRM allows a company to view information about the customer or prospect, including all mentions relevant to the brand or, possibly, a competing brand, as well as the person's online influence via tools like Klout, Kred, or Peerindex. These tools gauge online influence by measuring individuals' activity on various social platforms and analyzing social activity around their interactions.

Being able to capture all this data about individuals and tie it to their records, then tag that activity for action in the form of customer service or reaching out to a potential sales prospect, is what social CRM is all about and why it's valuable.

Target Prospects

Take, for example, this case study from the American Podiatric Medicine Association (APMA). APMA was developing a new social media strategy and wanted to grow a community of active contributors and target a relevant audience.

APMA used social CRM to monitor the social Web for conversations around topics of interest, particularly among potential new members—students—and to pull in those conversations and tag them with relevant labels to accurately categorize by topic. Within just three months, APMA was able to generate enough targeted data to reach out to specific podiatric medical students and let them know when the APMA recruiter was going to be on their campus.

"Surprise and Delight" Customers

Another example of how brands can use social CRM to identify opportunities to "surprise and delight" influential customers and gain great word-of-mouth marketing in the bargain is the New York branch of Morton's Steakhouse.

Peter Shankman, a public relations powerhouse and founder of HARO, a publicity services firm, has more than 150,000 Twitter followers. In the midst of a grueling day of meetings and travel, he tweeted "Hey @Mortons— can you meet me at Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks ;)" Note the smiley indicating that he was merely joking.

Morton's, a prestigious New York steakhouse, knowing the importance of monitoring online activity around its brand, decided to treat its loyal customer to a surprise: When Shankman landed in Newark, a man in a tuxedo approached him and handed him a Morton's bag containing a 24-ounce porterhouse steak, an order of Colossal Shrimp, a side of potatoes, Morton's famous bread, two napkins, and silverware.

Cost to Morton's to orchestrate this favor? Nominal compared to the return: an ecstatic customer who will now be a lifetime fan and advocate for the brand, but also great PR and word-of-mouth marketing.

Recognize and Reward Loyal Influentials

On the flip side, I recently experienced a missed opportunity with regard to social CRM. I had presented at the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International leadership conference on social technologies on this subject. The night before the presentation, I went back to my room to find a beautiful arrangement of chocolates. Of course, I then posted a photo on Facebook and tweeted how much I love the Peabody Hotel.

If the Peabody had a social CRM program in place, someone on the hotel staff would have immediately seen my tweet, taken a look at my profile, and assessed my Klout score. When that person saw the score was high and that I was posting a positive comment, he or she could have used it as a way to reach out to me personally and say thank you.

The point of all this? Social CRM allows organizations to leverage word-of-mouth advocacy and social reach, which helps to support brand loyalty and engagement. Use it to its full potential to give your business the best shot at success.

Andy Steggles is the president and chief social strategist for Higher Logic, a cloud-based social media and mobile software company serving associations, nonprofits, franchises, and member-based organizations worldwide.

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