CRM and Social Media – is that Social CRM?

Social CRM is an emerging concept that springs from an attempt to integrate the management capability of CRM systems with the wealth of customer information available in Social Media channels. There is still some confusion, however, about where the boundaries lie and a lack of clarity on how small and business can start to take advantage of this idea.

Steve Orriss, Director at The National B2B Centre, has taken a look at what’s happening in the marketplace to provide some clear thinking on Social CRM and what it means for you.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions are about building a database of everything you know about all your customers and using that data to drive your business, putting the customer at the centre. CRM systems help businesses to manage Sales, Marketing and Customer Service activities and business processes. The concept is to analyse the data collected to understand what products and services your customers want and to market those directly to them. So CRM is about you deciding what your customer needs and pushing your solution to them, a task and process oriented approach managed by you.

Social Media on the other hand provides tools to allow people to interact with each other and the businesses and brands they are interested in. What is said about them becomes a conversation between customers (and non-customers) and is in effect a communication and interaction between people to which you can listen and respond, but largely not necessarily control. This can deliver a 2 way interaction to provide insights into what your customers think of you and your products. There can also be discussions going on about your brand on Social Media sites which you don’t own or control, which can be both positive and damaging, so you need to be listening and reacting to keep control.

Businesses can learn a lot from their customers by using and listening to Social Media and should be using it to support and inform business decisions about new product developments and new marketing initiatives. So clearly Social Media is a tool which supports Sales, Marketing and Customer Service and so should ideally be managed through your CRM system along with conventional sales and marketing activities.

So, if you already have a CRM system, or you are in the process of getting one, can it be used to manage Social Media as well? …and is that Social CRM?

Increasingly CRM vendors are adding functionality to their solutions which integrates them with some of the major Social Media platforms. It is now for instance possible in several solutions to record the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn URLs of a customer business or contact and directly access their pages without leaving the CRM environment. This can include the capability to respond to Tweets and comments directly. Several solutions also offer the capability to visit websites and read blogs from within the CRM.

So it is possible to understand from within a CRM system what one customer may think of your brand and to manually enter that data into your CRM but the ability to ‘listen’ to whole conversations going on is not yet there except in some of the bigger solutions. Neither is the ability to log that data automatically.

According to Gartner:

“Social CRM is 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.” (

Social CRM is still about the Sales, Marketing and Customer Service business processes but extends conventional CRM to include internet channels. On that basis then yes, CRM vendors are starting to provide Social CRM solutions but they are not solutions which permit management of full Social CRM. Perhaps that can only be said to have happened when CRM tools can monitor and listen to Social Media and record that data for you to analyse.

So what can the smaller business do now as a first step into Social CRM?
There are listening tools on the market which would allow businesses, including smaller businesses, to start to put in place processes to gather data from Social Media and the internet. A good starting point is the simple and free Google Alerts which can scour the internet for mentions of search strings you are interested in and send an email to you when it finds something. Start with searches for your own business name or brand names and build up to those of your key customers and competitors. Any interesting data or leads can be logged in your CRM solution if you have one.

Hootsuite is also free and allows users to manage several Social Media sites and to see what’s going on. It has the capability to set up searches, to look for sets of up to 3 keywords and to create lists of Social Media sites for e.g. your key customers or competitors and show all relevant activity.

Radian6 and Hubspot are other popular tools and a search for Social Media management tools or Social CRM tools will identify more.

If you are looking for a CRM tool for your business and you want it to help you manage your Social Media interactions then, as ever, it is essential that you document what you want and use it to find the solution which meets your business needs. My earlier article – How to get what you really need from new IT – explains how to use the People, Process and Technology approach to achieve this.

This is a new subject for all of us. If you are using Social CRM or would like to know how it might fit in your business then feel free to get in contact.  I would be delighted to discuss the issues with you and see whether we can find some solutions.

Steve Orriss
Director, The National B2B Centre Ltd.