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What is Social CRM: Top Tips and Tools

Social CRM is an extension of traditional CRM (customer relationship management), using social media to nurture customer relationships.

Stacey McLachlan August 31, 2023
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It’s long been said that success in business is about location, location, location — but the truth is, that’s not actually enough to make it big. You’ve got to have relationships, relationships, relationships, too.

Practicing good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is important for anyone working in the world of sales. Every transaction, big or small (heck, even medium-sized!) starts with making a meaningful connection with a customer. And in 2023, that meaningful connection is probably happening over social media. After all, 4.7 billion people globally (!) are regularly active on social platforms.

Four! Point! Seven! Billion!

That’s why we’re digging into the concept of “social CRM” (a.k.a. how to use social media to manage customer relationships) here today. Let’s goooo!

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What is social CRM?

Social CRM is an extension of traditional CRM (customer relationship management), specifically focused on leveraging social media platforms and online communities in order to manage and nurture customer relationships.

The benefits of social CRM are many. For example, social CRM software lets brands…

  • Provide faster customer service
  • Practice social listening
  • Integrate sales, marketing, and customer service teams
  • Monitor for mentions
  • Control and improve your brand reputation
  • Share content and engage with existing clients and prospects

Social CRM also allows businesses to gather valuable customer data and provide personalized customer service experiences. Basically, everything you need to practice social selling effectively. What’s not to love?!

Social customer relationship management software will typically help you measure the following important metrics:

  • Traffic — If your goal is to drive traffic to your website or ecommerce platform, social CRM enables real-time monitoring of traffic and click-through rates, allowing businesses to assess the success of converting visitors into sales.
  • Brand mentions — Monitoring the online buzz surrounding your brand is crucial. With social CRM, you can track brand mentions across multiple platforms.
  • Engagement metrics — Social CRM software helps break down engagement metrics such as likes, shares, reposts, comments, and incoming communications.
  • Audience demographics — Who is following you? How do they behave online?

Traditional CRM vs. social CRM

Traditional CRM primarily revolves around managing customer data and interactions through offline channels like phone calls and emails. Social CRM, on the other hand, includes social media platforms.

Social CRM allows brands to capture customer data from social media profiles, monitor conversations, and engage with customers in a more proactive manner. (How dynamic!)

Using a social CRM software makes it possible for teams to have real-time interactions with customers. It also empowers companies to deliver personalized content — a surefire way to strengthen the bond between your brand and your customers.

How to set up a social CRM process

Ready to start managing your social media relationships with more focus and intention? Once you’ve got your brand’s social media channels all setup and ready to roll, it’s not that tough to implement a social CRM process on top of your content strategy. Here’s where to start.

Define your social CRM objectives

Identify the specific goals you aim to achieve through social CRM. Do you want to improve customer engagement? Drive brand advocacy? Gather market insights?

What you want to do will help keep you focused on taking relevant actions and collecting the metrics that are most meaningful to you along the way.

Select the right social CRM tools

Choose a comprehensive social CRM platform that aligns with your business requirements (we love Hootsuite, for obvious reasons, but check out our full list of fave CRM tools later in this article).

Consider factors like social media monitoring capabilities, integration with existing systems, and scalability to find the right social CRM tool for your brand.

Integrate your social media channels

Connect your brand’s social media accounts (whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever!) with your CRM system. Once you’re logged in, the CRM software will be able to capture relevant customer data, such as a follower’s profile information, activities, and preferences.

Monitor and analyze social media conversations

Use social listening tools to track brand mentions, customer sentiment, and industry trends. Analyze this data to gain valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences: it’s the sweet, sweet intel that’s going to help you eventually close that sale.

Engage and respond in real-time

Leverage your social CRM platform to engage in meaningful conversations with customers. Respond promptly to queries, address concerns, and provide personalized recommendations — it’s the customer service people expect these days, after all. Don’t leave ‘em hanging.

Bonus: Get a free, easy-to-use Customer Service Report Template that helps you track and calculate your monthly customer service efforts all in one place.

Personalize content and campaigns

Put all your insights to work to really create targeted and personalized content. With the help of that juicy data you’ve collected with your social media CRM platform, you’ll be able to tailor your marketing campaigns to match individual preferences and interests.

Social CRM challenges

Of course, as you may have noticed by now, nothing in this world is perfect (ugh, so annoying!). Social CRM tools are incredibly helpful for building meaningful relationships with customers — past, present, and future — but implementing a social CRM platform can come with its own set of challenges. Some common obstacles include:

Data privacy and security

Social CRM tools are amazing for gathering and analyzing customer data, but with great power comes great responsibility. Organizations must adhere to data privacy regulations and ensure the security of customer information — or face potentially harsh penalties, financially or legally. (Educate yourself to stay protected against liability: here are our best tips for mitigating risk!)

Data overload

Social networking generates vast amounts of data — probably way more than you actually need. An abundance of not-super-relevant metrics can be distracting and even overwhelming.

Make sure your brand has a strategic goal and focus to help you filter out the noise. The right social CRM tool can help with interpreting and deriving actionable insights from the most meaningful bits of your big pile of data.

Playing nicely with your existing systems

Integrating social CRM with existing CRM systems, marketing automation tools, and other business applications can sometimes be a pain. Consider your other suite of tools when you’re shopping for your CRM — picking a product that plays nicely with everything else will make for a smoother implementation and synchronization.

List of Best Social CRM Tools

The best social CRM tools provide businesses with the ability to manage customer profiles, listen to online conversations, analyze sentiment, drive social selling efforts, and efficiently manage multiple social media management platforms. Here are our top social CRM platforms for 2023:

Hootsuite Inbox

Hootsuite Inbox provides a comprehensive social CRM solution, enabling businesses to monitor social media conversations, engage with customers, and analyze data with clear, efficient reporting. What more could you want? An all-in-one social media content creation and scheduling tool, complete with a new AI caption creation feature? All right then, we have that too.

While many of the other tools on this list are traditional (and well-respected!) CRM tools, Hootsuite is truly a social CRM. That is, it’s built for organizations that are invested in social media as a primary marketing and customer relationship channel — and know that social media is the future of customer service.

Zendesk

Known for its robust customer service platform, Zendesk also offers social CRM capabilities that help businesses streamline customer interactions across various channels.

Zendesk dashboard

Source: Zendesk

With a super user-friendly interface, Zendesk CRM enables businesses to centralize and organize customer data, enhancing efficiency and productivity. The multi-platform CRM tool seamlessly integrates with all sorts of channels — email, social media, and phone — which enables businesses to manage customer interactions from a single platform.

The Zendesk CRM also features robust ticketing capabilities, enabling efficient issue tracking and resolution. Its analytics and reporting features offer valuable insights into customer behavior and trends, facilitating data-driven decision-making. Plus, Zendesk CRM supports customization and automation, which is really helpful for businesses that want to tailor the platform to their specific needs and streamline workflows.

HubSpot

HubSpot’s CRM offers a suite of social CRM tools, including social media monitoring, publishing, and engagement features. It integrates seamlessly with other HubSpot products, enabling a unified view of customer interactions and personalized marketing campaigns.

HubSpot deal created for different brands
Source: Hubspot

HubSpot CRM allows businesses to easily manage and track customer interactions, centralizing all data in one place. It offers seamless integration with various communication channels, including email, social media, and live chat, enabling efficient customer engagement.

HubSpot CRM provides robust sales and marketing automation capabilities, allowing businesses to automate repetitive tasks and nurture leads effectively. Its comprehensive analytics and reporting features offer valuable insights into sales performance and marketing campaigns. (And you know we love valuable insights.)

Salesforce

The Salesforce integration for Hootsuite allows you to attribute social interactions to leads, contacts, accounts, and cases. All teams get a fuller picture.

You can trigger Salesforce workflows based on social interactions. You’ll also be able to create targeted marketing lists based on social data.

Salesforce overview with social interaction details
Source: Hootsuite Apps

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM includes social CRM functionalities that help businesses manage customer interactions across social media platforms — you’ll find social media monitoring, engagement, and reporting features, all of which (of course) foster better customer engagement and personalized marketing campaigns.

Zoho CRM individual target tracker and team performance
Source: Zoho

Zoho CRM’s automation features streamline repetitive tasks, saving time and increasing productivity. Zoho also offers multichannel support, allowing businesses to engage with customers through email, phone, social media, and live chat, too.

Like the others on this list, Zoho provides in-depth analytics and reporting capabilities, providing insights into sales performance, customer behavior, and campaign effectiveness.

Nimble

Nimble provides a unified view of customer interactions, social media engagement, and contact management, allowing for effective relationship building.

Nimble unified overview of customer interactions

Source: Nimble

The interface is pretty intuitive: use Nimble CRM to centralize and organize customer data and see a holistic view of customer interactions. Nimble conveniently integrates seamlessly with email and social media, and its robust contact management features help users stay organized and build meaningful relationships with their customers.

Nimble also offers social listening and engagement tools, making it easy for businesses to monitor and engage with customers on social.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

The Microsoft Dynamics 365 integration with Hootsuite brings social data into your Microsoft CRM. You can create lead-generation opportunities based on social posts and conversations. And you can use case management to resolve customer issues.

You’ll be able to see your CRM information within Hootsuite and connect social activities and conversations with leads and contacts.

Brand24

Brand24 is a social media listening and monitoring tool that helps businesses track brand mentions, engage with customers (or potential customers), and analyze social media conversations. It provides sentiment analysis, influencer identification, and competitive analysis features for social CRM purposes.

Brand24 social media listening and monitoring with graph of engagement
Source: Brand 24

The real-time monitoring and analysis of online conversations is the biggest feature here — you’ll access brand mentions, customer feedback, and industry trends at a glance.

Brand24’s CRM platform also offers lead management capabilities, enabling brands to capture and nurture leads effectively.

Sparkcentral

Sparkcentral is a social customer care tool that collects messages from different channels (social media and others) and distributes them to dedicated teams or support agents.

Sparkcentral social customer care active channels
Source: Sparkcentral by Hootsuite

It allows customers to access services through social messaging apps (including WhatsApp), SMS, and live chat on your website or app.

Sparkcentral also integrates with Zendesk, Salesforce, and Microsoft Dynamics 365, making it possible to sync all customer contacts.

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By Stacey McLachlan

Stacey McLachlan is an award-winning writer and editor from Vancouver with more than a decade of experience working for print and digital publications.

She is editor-at-large for Western Living and Vancouver Magazine, author of the National Magazine Award-nominated 'City Informer' column, and a regular contributor to Dwell. Her previous work covers a wide range of topics, from SEO-focused thought-leadership to profiles of mushroom foragers, but her specialties include design, people, social media strategy, and humor.

You can usually find her at the beach, or cleaning sand out of her bag.

Read more by Stacey McLachlan

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