Social media and the Web have given rise to a new form of empowered consumers who can research and voice their options, solve problems and have a powerful sphere of influence well beyond their backyard fences. Social media has added yet another digital channel, similar to the email channel in the early-to-mid 90s, that needs to be included in every comprehensive CRM strategy.

It’s widely recognized that the amount of data, both structured and unstructured, has increased at a previously inconceivable rate since the advent of social media. What should you do about all this data and about the burgeoning number of social media channels? Just because social activity is taking place doesn’t mean you should get involved in all of it.

When you consider that the top 10 social media websites experienced 27 percent more visits between June 2012 and May 2013—specifically, visits increased from 2.38 billion to nearly 3 billion —the prospect of managing all your customer interactions can seem intimidating.  But it doesn’t need to be that way. By creating a focused strategy, and using CRM technology to deliver on that strategy, you can get a greater return on your investment than ever before.

Social Media is Here to Stay

Businesses like yours must recognize that social media is not a trend — it will keep growing and evolving, and it’s important that your strategy grows and evolves with it. Whatever your industry, social media can and will impact your business, whether you choose to engage in its usage or not.

Now are the days of the social consumer — consumers who might take a question to Twitter, a customer service query to a user forum, a compliment to Facebook, a photo to Instagram, a thumbs- up to a posting on Reddit or a complaint to Yelp. And, because more and more consumers are communicating with companies and each other this way, a complaint can go viral on a variety of social channels before you know it. Should you react to a complaint or ignore it? Could you have anticipated it? Can you turn a negative into a positive, and gain a louder, more positive voice? Have you thought about taking advantage of positive posts to promote your brand or company?

Change the Way You Work

You need to take advantage of social media as both a channel and a data source by integrating social, mobile, digital media and data into your direct marketing, customer engagement and overall CRM strategy. Consumers value objectivity, referrals and references are more critical than ever, and a social media relationship with one person is now a relationship with that person’s entire social network.

Take advantage of the peer influence-based consumer decision-making process by proactively executing social media-focused campaigns, segmenting campaigns by social media channel, and enriching customer records and profiles with social media attributes. By doing this, you provide your marketing department with a new way of thinking as it relates to creating customer segments and campaigns.

Consumers’ perception of your company, products and services can change rapidly as a result of the speed of social media. You need to respond quickly and effectively when potential issues or problems arise, and when consumers have concerns or questions. That means you need to know how to quickly respond with social media replies, next-best action and next-best experience recommendations across any delivery channel (including traditional ones such as direct mail and email). To drive consumer interest and build loyalty, you should recommend social media offers, customer membership promotions, and more. Additionally, by creating a bridge between Facebook and your company’s website via new social graphs, you can allow consumers to express themselves in new and creative ways.

Make it Relevant

Let’s take a look at some ways your company can use CRM and real-time marketing to leverage social media as a communications channel—and in the process bring effectiveness and finesse to the social media presence.

1. Take advantage of customer deals. You can manage your inventory by using social media and a CRM solution to educate customers about upcoming or last-minute discounts and deals. If you apply CRM principles to your strategy of educating customers about last-minute deals and discounts, you won’t send them every deal you have, because every deal won’t be relevant to every customer. You should send your deals with view and rest periods across media (for example, email, Twitter, and conventional mail), so you don’t become “white noise.” Sending irrelevant offers too frequently is deadly, regardless of the delivery medium. An integrated outbound and inbound marketing platform can make fast work of these needs and effectively coordinate the deals you offer.

2. Make the most of real-time messages. Remember, timing is one of the critical components of the CRM adage of sending the right message to the right customer at the right time via the right medium. You could send your messages as private tweets or as private Facebook posts via the use of triggered events depending on the data your CRM system has about a customer’s social media and digital marketing preferences, privacy settings and online behavior.

Maximize Your Social Media Investment

To maximize what could turn into a significant time investment in social media, you should:

1. Take inventory. Assess what you are doing today in social media. Perhaps you are sniffing for positive or negative mentions of your product. As is growing more common, you may be managing a social servicing department. Or you might have sidebar advertisements on Facebook and/or YouTube pages. Whatever your existing tactics may be, begin analyzing their effectiveness today.

2. Strategize. After you research the topic of social media, brainstorm and strategize about which new social media and digital marketing tactics you’d like to implement. Begin to include social media as  delivery points for your marketing messages and to overlay a CRM-centric approach to your messaging via social media.

3. Set a goal. Define a purpose for your social CRM project based on what it can do to assist and engage customers and on how it can improve a key business metric such as cost to serve, referrals or conversions.

4. Be careful not to overdo it. Layer your new social media strategies and tactics onto your existing cross-channel marketing roadmap or calendar. Treat them as campaigns and include cross-media rules so you don’t oversaturate your customers with “touches.” Remember that social media is an effective medium for customers to share their issues with the world. Use your touches as you would a spice — that is, easy does it.

With the right strategy and technology in place to support it, social media can be used to better understand, serve and communicate with your customers and prospects. By taking advantage of social profile data, you enhance digital marketing capabilities focused on contextual, transactional and addressable branding initiatives. But in order to unleash these benefits, you need to make social media part of your overall customer experience strategies instead of keeping it in an organizational silo.

 

 

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