Social media can assist your CRM efforts
Consumers are actively discussing brands on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Four experts provide tips on moving corporate CRM initiatives to those social media sites as well
VP of marketing, eBillme.com
People in general are going to talk about your brand, and how they experience your products and services. Those conversations will be both positive and negative. If it's a good discussion, some tips that I would suggest are to be thankful and engage and recognize the consumers, and reach out and say what you think as well. It is someone giving you a high five, in a way, by using social media. If it is someone who has had an issue with the service, the first thing is to be genuine and care. Try to reach out and use that experience as an opportunity to learn and improve what you do to make sure the customer issues are dealt with and satisfied. If you are able to do that, you can turn someone who has not had a great experience into an advocate. Engage, but be truthful and careful. Don't argue - especially if you receive negative feedback. If it is a negative comment, don't try to justify, because all you will do is aggravate and continue the negative "piling on." If you want to engage, engage genuinely and try to help, but don't try to argue and do not try to discredit the customer.
In a way, social media just shifted the conversations that were already happening to a more public forum. In the past, the same conversations would have happened privately between two people who knew each other. The conversation is the same, but now it's more available.
Some social media networks are more publicly available than others. Facebook is more of a closed network, and those who see the updates there are friends. In Facebook's case, it's sometimes harder to see someone saying something good or bad about your company. However, if you have a Facebook fan page, you can try to engage them there. Twitter is publicly available, and it is a great opportunity. LinkedIn is almost a hybrid of the two, so the interactions vary based on the very social media themselves.
Engage with consumers via social media, but be truthful and careful when doing so
Senior executive, Accenture
Two years ago, social media was all about "Wow, Facebook and Twitter - get on those!" Last year, what you would hear was, "Wow, I need to look at all this stuff, and there are tools I can use to analyze all of that material out there." A ton of vendors popped up and provided services in that space.
This year, the use of social media by companies and consumers is more widespread, and people now want to act on that data and react to that data. People need to ask questions like, "I have 10,000 call center agents, 20 Tweet agents as an experiment, and I need this channel. It's a real channel. What do I do?" And that's where the best practices come into play.
Your chat and e-mail customer service agents are the people who know how to be politically correct and say what they want to say on a public channel. Those employees have all the tools and the processes for responding on these new channels. That is one of the areas we're talking about leveraging — the additional areas like the call center — and applying them to new channels. That's one of the best practices that we are discussing with our clients.
There is also the question of what to do with structured and unstructured data. Your typical CRM data is structured. Your blog data is unstructured. We want to be able to bring those two worlds together. You want to know if people are complaining about defects on Twitter. However, you already have a case and a best practice for that from older customer service channels.
Be aware that Twitter is not secure. If you do have a problem and someone wants to respond, a company can Tweet "call me back" at this number where you can share your account number. You can't let something linger. There are all these wonderful tools out there, and this is the time when you have to do something about it quickly.
Employees should also look at reviews. A lot of people think of social CRM and they think reviews, like on Amazon.com and BestBuy.com — they're the same kind of dialogue and probably more influential. If you're going to buy a product, you might go to Amazon because of the blogs you read.
Many best practices for social media are already in place in traditional CRM areas
SVP of customer service and support applications, Salesforce.com
We look at social media as a system. From the business perspective, it is really the relationship between customers, and you can always get smarter about customer relationships. Social media creates a massive disruption in the world of customer relationships, and marketers need to pay heed.
We've spent most of the past 24 months working with customers on their social media projects, and there has been a learning curve; everyone is experimenting. There are a few big keys to success, and the first one is monitoring.
I want to make sure that there is a conversation happening about my brand and that I can be a part of that conversation with my customers. Twitter is very important, because it is a place where people are talking about your brand and using your name. Twitter is something that was disruptive about two years ago, but it became a platform and not just a Web site. That means you can make Twitter a part of your business process. For instance, if you go to a company's Web site and you go to its Twitter landing page, you can see customers talking about the brand and asking questions.
What we are saying to our customers is that there is a way to have that Twitter interaction in your CRM system that gets it to the relevant people. If there are questions, you should have sales people or customer service people answering those questions. It should not be a bother; it's completing what you already have in place as a business.
The trick is how you connect to this world. Social media has different ways to behave and different ways to answer, so you need to really keep employees on the same page. You want all of your channels to be in sync and employees to answer the same questions with the same answers. So it is very important when you connect to this new world that you keep what is in place consistent.
Companies can make Twitter a part of their business practice
VP of marketing, ExactTarget
Authenticity is a key part of social media marketing. Social media strips away a lot of the barriers that companies face due to the nature of media. The people are the new mass media; the gatekeepers are gone. If you are going to participate in conversations online, they are not going to happen on your own ground.
It's imperative that you have customers and prospects dealing with real people in your organization, not just automation, and that there are real people behind the social media that can talk to them, collaborate with them and get them excited.
Another prerequisite is passion. I've seen this across a lot of different industry verticals. You can't fake passion. The marketers who are going to excel in their fields over the next decade are those that love what they do. They are using their names or social media presences to amplify or support their companies.
The next tip is not hyperventilating, or putting too much information onto social media, because there is so much out there already. I've seen some folks freeze with all of the options. It is easier to do many quick and easy tasks, but having someone dedicated to social media who is passionate and who can hash things out with the audience, and who can turn on a dime if something is not working, is very important.
What you'll realize is that over time, your social media presence will grow, even if you're not throwing more time or bodies at it. It's also very different for a consumer packaged goods brand than a restaurant or for a b-to-b company.
Another main point is to remember that any media that connects you with customers online is social. One thing that people tend to forget is that e-mail is a part of that machine. It's easy to forget that of all the sharing happening online, 50% of the sharing is happening through e-mail.
A lot of times, people get caught up in the hype behind the trend. There's no question that there is a lot of energy around social media right now, but you need to take a step back and think about it in terms of tactics and channels, and think about it broadly and strategically.
Employees who interact with customers should show authenticity and passion