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Social CRM Best Practices How-To Guide


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Executive Summary

Social media are now part of every business and consumer activity, joining telephone, Web, broadcast, and face-to-face interactions as primary communication channels. This means that all marketing, sales, and service organizations should include social media as part of their basic activities. Yet social media are still new enough that many organizations are still struggling to learn how to use them, while others are learning how to use them most effectively.

This How-to-Guide provides an overview of social media applications and emerging best practices for deploying social media at your company.

Read this 9-page guide to learn:

The definition of social customer relationship management (CRM)
The main functions needed for social CRM
The vendor landscape for social CRM
Social CRM best practices

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Social CRM Best Practices How-To Guide

  1. 1. How-­‐To  Guide   ©  2013  Demand  Metric  Research  Corporation.    All  Rights  Reserved.         Social  CRM  Best  Practices     By  David  Raab,  CEO  at  Raab  Associates   October  31,  2013           EXECUTIVE  SUMMARY   Social media are now part of every business and consumer activity, joining telephone, Web, broadcast, and face-­to-­face interactions as primary communication channels. This means that all marketing, sales, and service organizations should include social media as part of their basic activities. Yet social media are still new enough that many organizations are still struggling to learn how to use them, while others are learning how to use them most effectively. This paper provides an overview of social media applications and emerging best practices for deploying social media at your company.   WHAT  IS  SOCIAL  CRM?   Social media includes every type of content that is generated by or shared with individual consumers in a public or group setting. This includes social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, where people connect each other directly and have at least some control over what information is shared with the public. It also includes more open forms such as blogs, forums, and user-­written reviews, even though many of these are hosted on corporate Web sites. Content sharing sites such as Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest are yet another version. Social media tracking systems now often extend to traditional media, such as the online versions of newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, less because those are truly social than because the technologies to monitor both types of content are so similar. But even though social media are now as common as other communication channels, they play a different role. Specifically, they
  2. 2. How-­‐To  Guide   ©  2013  Demand  Metric  Research  Corporation.    All  Rights  Reserved.   allow companies to initiate relationships with people who are otherwise inaccessible, because they are not paying attention to conventional mass media and are not responsive to untargeted direct messages such as bulk emails. Social media can also provide an opportunity to deepen those relationships through one-­on-­one interactions, while at the same time letting observers see how a company treats its customers. Finally, and perhaps most important, social media allow consumers to share their own experiences with a company, providing a more credible source of information than the company itself. These benefits are accompanied by risks. Poorly executed communications can annoy potential customers, driving them away from relationships instead of towards them. Public visibility of formerly private transactions can illustrate problems with products and poor treatment of existing customers. Consumer reviews can be negative as well as positive, and even enthusiastic advocates can provide incorrect information about products or pricing. This combination of threats and opportunities means that no company today can afford a hands-­off attitude towards social media management. Prospects and customers will be discussing you in social media at every stage in the marketing, sales and service process, so the only choice you will ignore it and let it be shaped by others. And that is really no choice at all.   SOCIAL  CRM  FUNCTIONS   Every customer-­facing department within your organization can make some use of social media. Here is a look at the main functions needed for social customer relationship management:   Monitoring: Finding relevant conversations is the first step in working with social media. Monitoring systems listen in social channels for company or product names, product categories, or buyer needs. This listening is usually done through parsing for simple keywords, but may also be further refined through rules that filter out irrelevant posts and classify the relevant ones based on topic, urgency, sentiment, author, and other attributes. Some monitoring systems specialize in a single source, such as Twitter, or single type of activity, such as comments on review sites. Others scan social networks, blogs, Web sites, discussion groups, or traditional media. Coverage may be limited to text, video, images, or sound, or may cover several of those. There are often limits based on language or geographic region. Coverage may
  3. 3. How-­‐To  Guide   ©  2013  Demand  Metric  Research  Corporation.    All  Rights  Reserved.   include previous conversations or be limited to current streams. Systems that go beyond keywords and rules may apply natural language processing to extract concepts, sentiments, intentions, or problems; the natural language systems themselves vary in their techniques, accuracy, and ability to learn from past mistakes. Analytics may be limited to simple mention counts or show results and trends for individual terms and broad topics; break these down by sources, customer segments, geography, or time of day; nt terms or brands. Responding: Some monitoring systems are simply designed to find and tabulate mentions. This is especially true for systems that specialize in monitoring media outlets. But customer service departments also want to respond to at least some items, and marketing and sales often do as well. Response-­related functions include presenting messages from different sources in a unified stream; classifying, prioritizing and routing messages based on their nature; issuing alerts for urgent situations; converting messages to cases that can be managed over time; maintaining a library of pre-­approved responses; and recommending responses based on rules or language interpretation. Some systems provide auto-­response and auto-­follow features, although these must be treated mechanically. Posting: Beyond responding to individual consumer messages, many social media groups want to post their own original content to attract new customers or deepen existing relationships. Posting features nearly always include an ability to create new content and to post to multiple accounts from the same system. Systems differ in the formats they support text, HTML, video, etc. and the specific systems they can feed. Posting also often includes workflow for managers to review and approve contents, libraries of preapproved comments, and scheduling of future posts. Some systems can help to optimize posts for search engines by checking whether they include targeted search terms and providing other SEO-­related ratings. Some support curation of externally-­generated content, including discovery of relevant items, classification, tagging, and queuing for republication. Most systems can do at least some tracking of content consumption and sharing, although they differ considerably in the amount of information provided, ranging from simple view
  4. 4. How-­‐To  Guide   ©  2013  Demand  Metric  Research  Corporation.    All  Rights  Reserved.   counts to reports on traffic sources to detailed profiles of individuals. Audience Management: Many social management systems can read the public profiles of individuals and present them alongside profiles of individuals, storing and classifying their messages based on tone and content, and loading whatever profile data the social networks permit. Systems also may look at external databases that provide richer profiles with location, itself may be measured on different dimensions including reach, authority, frequency, engagement, or behavior and influence. Profiles created in the social management system may be shared with marketing automation or CRM, or those systems might be about to read the profiles within the social management database. Integration with marketing automation or CRM may also extend to creating new customer records in those systems, adding alerts or tasks in response to social actions, and opening customer service tickets. Some systems can manage and send messages to lists of social contacts based on geography, interests, behaviors, or other attributes. Other: In addition to the common features described above, some systems support specialized functions. These include: Sharing buttons embedded in content such as emails, blog posts, and Web pages. These may repost, recommend or rate content to social networks. Most include tracking features so users can see how often the content is shared, who does the sharing, where they send it, and how often the shared version is read. Promotions such as coupons, surveys, contests, sweepstakes, and referrals. These are designed to attract new followers or encourage activity among existing followers. They often require technical features beyond standard social media posting and are often tied to a particular social network. Nearly all are tied to a customer database. Advocate relations such as registration, activity tracking, badges, rewards, and special access. These are designed to build special relationships with advocates and influencers,
  5. 5. How-­‐To  Guide   ©  2013  Demand  Metric  Research  Corporation.    All  Rights  Reserved.   which encourages them to promote the company and its products. Community management such as maintaining forums, rating contributions, building and searching knowledge-­ bases, moderating discussions, maintaining profiles, supporting interest groups, and providing workspaces. There communities may be public or private. Social advertising. As social networks accept more types of advertising, marketers increasingly need systems to coordinate their placements, manage their budgets, and monitor results. These features may be available in stand-­ alone systems or built into other advertising or marketing automation platforms. Some will be limited to a single social network but marketers will eventually want systems that can manage programs across multiple networks.   VENDOR  LANDSCAPE  FOR  SOCIAL  CRM   The vast scope of social media has resulted in hundreds of applications to help use it. Applications may be targeted at different functions, social networks, or types of users. Making sense of this landscape to find systems that meet your particular needs is a major project. One way to begin is to divide the vendor universe into the following broad categories. You can then dig more deeply into whichever category makes the most sense for your organization: Suite components: Many enterprise software vendors have built or purchased social media components to add to their suites. Examples include Oracle, which purchased Vitrue and Collective Intellect, and, which purchased Radian6 and BuddyMedia. Other vendors with prominent social components include Marketo, Infusionsoft, Adobe, SAS, and SDL. Suite components make the most sense when your company is already using the suite for other purposes. If nothing else, this simplifies your purchasing process. In some cases, the social components are also more easily integrated with other suite elements than external software. But this is not always the case, especially when the social components were purchased by the suite vendor. So be sure to check on the actual degree of integration before making a purchase. Best of breed generalists: These are systems that provide most or all of the main social CRM functions listed above: monitoring,
  6. 6. How-­‐To  Guide   ©  2013  Demand  Metric  Research  Corporation.    All  Rights  Reserved.   responding, posting, and audience management. They aim to be the primary social management tool for the company, or at least for a single department. There is great variation among members of this group, which includes Hootsuite, Spredfast, Sprout Social, Lithium, and Argyle Social. The variation includes the specific functions provided, the targeted user group, and which social media networks and sources are managed. Specialists: These are systems that focus on a niche social management function, such as sharing, promotions, advocate relations, community management, or social advertising. Such systems will usually supplement a general-­purpose product, although direct integration may not always be necessary. Buyers need to identify their specific operational requirements and compare these directly to system capabilities. This is best done by crafting scenarios based on expected programs and working through these scenarios with system staff before making a purchase.   SOCIAL  CRM  BEST  PRACTICES   Simply purchasing a social management system is no guarantee of success: in fact, if purchasing a system is all you do, it pretty much guarantees a failure. Social CRM requires careful planning, organizational arrangements, deployment, execution, and analytics. Here are some best practices for each area:   Planning: Your social CRM program needs to start with specific goals that support a larger business strategy, such as customer intimacy, superior quality, or low cost. These goals should be expressed in reportable metrics such as customer satisfaction ratings or brand awareness. Narrower goals, such as number of followers or audience reach, can also be included but should be related to something larger rather than independent objectives. you intend to apply to reach your goals, again with measurable objectives that tell whether the programs are working. These programs and tactics should target specific audiences, such as prospects, customers, social influencers, or traditional media, and should be deployed in the social channels that your research has shown are most effective for reaching those audiences. Organization: Responsibilities for each social media task (monitoring, responding, posting, audience management) must be clearly assigned to departments and to specific individuals within
  7. 7. How-­‐To  Guide   ©  2013  Demand  Metric  Research  Corporation.    All  Rights  Reserved.   each department. Processes must be defined to pass cases from one group to the next, such as from monitoring to customer service. A governance board including representatives from legal, marketing, sales, and service organizations should define social policies covering topics, opinions, escalations, and any legal constraints. These policies must be disseminated through the organization and someone must be responsible for ensuring they are observed. The governance group should meet regularly to review social activities and make policy adjustments. Each department should ensure that the people assigned to social tasks have the right skills, attitudes, and judgment for their job. Technology: Vendor selection should be based on a careful evaluation of current and future requirements. Beyond this, you should look for systems that can integrate all social media channels, so users have a comprehensive view of social activity and to minimize the number of products they must work with. Similarly, the technology should provide a shared view to all departments within the company, so everyone is working with same information and can see what everyone else has been doing. Deployment: Adequate training is critical. Ensure that all staff understand their responsibilities, company policies, and hand-­off processes. Provide training in how the mechanics of system use and in creating and reacting to content. Plan the deployment itself to run in stages, ensuring that high-­priority activities are deployed first. Design tests to find out which activities and types of content are most effective, and work to make testing a regular part of the on-­going social management operations. Marketing and Sales: These groups will be responsible for most posting and audience management. Ensure there is a solid plan for creating the right mix of content, including a schedule for specific items and well-­understood workflows for approvals and deployment. Encourage contributions from experts throughout the company, by soliciting and rewarding their participation even if only with public thanks and recognition. Track responses so you can learn which types of content are most successful, keeping in mind that a mix appealing to different audiences is ultimately more effective than repeating the most popular single type. Reuse and reformat successful content to gain the highest return on your investment. Build social profiles of your contacts, including histories of their interactions with you, their sharing of your content, and the size and profiles of their own contacts.
  8. 8. How-­‐To  Guide   ©  2013  Demand  Metric  Research  Corporation.    All  Rights  Reserved.   Identify and engage the most important influencers, taking time to understand their own needs as well as yours. Service and Support: These groups will be responsible for most social responses and certain monitoring. Ensure agents are trained properly in company policies and have a library of preapproved messages they can send, or, better still, can modify to be more personal and appropriate. Be sure to respond promptly and publicly to social complaints, even if the actual resolution occurs in private channels. Set expectations for response time respond within 24 hours will yield much happier customers if the actual response comes more quickly than that. Be sure that any problems are resolved before you switch to selling, and sometimes just respond without selling at all. Measurement: Track a mix of measures that cover activity (number of posts), results (audience reach), and effectiveness (awareness, retention, new leads). Set goals for each measure and compare actuals to goal. Develop metrics that illustrate the incremental impact of social efforts, such as retention rates of social followers vs. non-­followers, while recognizing that other factors may influence results: for example, people who become followers may be more loyal customers to begin with. Report on trends as well as absolute numbers, and be aware of seasonal and external factors (weather, competitive activity, news events, etc.) that may also influence results. Work with your finance group to develop a credible value measurement such as Return on Investment and then use it in your reports.   BOTTOM  LINE   Social media must be integrated into every type of customer interaction, from advertising to prospects to support for previous buyers. Companies may use multiple social management tools in different departments and for different purposes, but all tools should enable the organization to work effectively and present consistent treatments that support long-­term business goals. Careful tool selection and best-­ practice-­driven deployment will ensure that companies gain the most value possible from their social CRM investments.      
  9. 9. How-­‐To  Guide   ©  2013  Demand  Metric  Research  Corporation.    All  Rights  Reserved.   ABOUT  THE  RESEARCH  ANALYST With an MBA from Harvard, David is an expert in both B2B & B2C marketing strategy & technology. He has advised The Gap, JC Penney, Lowe's, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Williams-­ Sonoma, Scholastic, Unisys, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. He also publishes the Raab Guide to Demand Generation Systems and the Marketing Performance Measurement Tool-­ Kit.