Understanding And Implementing Social CRM

by Jason Falls |
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There’s lots of buzz around “social CRM” software, strategies and programs these days. It’s getting the kind of play “social business” did about this time last year when the analysts at Forrester jumped ship for Altimeter and Dachis. They had to invent new phrases to sell their services to the C-Suite. If you don’t have an innovative-sounding name for what you do, then I guess you don’t attract as much attention.

Social CRM is being hawked by monitoring services, market research firms, traditional sales software and — if you can believe it — Twitter applications. Brand managers, marketing managers and agencies everywhere are anxious to get them some of that social CRM, by golly. Sadly, most of them don’t even know what CRM stands for.

Before you go and plop down money for software that does nothing if you don’t understand the purpose for it, let’s look at what social CRM really is. (It’s customer relationship management, in case you were wondering.)

Fanscape has a nice report out called The Value of a Social Relationship in which they put some mathematics around the value of a customer. It’s worth the download, even if the math is more complicated than ObamaCare. In it, they say:

“The aim of CRM is not only to maximize the revenue from a single transaction, but to build a lasting relationship with the customer, thus increasing the customer lifetime value.”

I would generally agree that is the goal of a CRM program: to increase the lifetime value of a given customer to a company. By building stronger relationships with your customers, you can foster and encourage more purchases over time that the one-and-done method of straight sales. The part that makes it work, though, is the relationship building. Good CRM has to be customer focused, not company focused.

CRM software was (ironically) created to try and automate some of that relationship building. Instead of the labor- and time-intensive act of one-to-one communications, technology allowed marketers to build in automatic direct mail pieces, emails and even telemarketing calls to prospects, customers and advocates around campaigns, calendar dates or issues to keep those audiences invested in the brand at opportune times.

But a lot of CRM software is really just sales management software that tracks how many times you ask someone to buy stuff. That’s not really CRM. CRM is about tracking all communications, gathering information and informing your decisions around a particular customer. It’s not always about the sale.

When most companies say they sell “social CRM” software, what they’re really selling is a contact database that includes fields for a customer’s Twitter handle, Facebook account and other social media profiles. They don’t actually do much to allow you to build relationships in manual or automatic fashion. They just have the links.

True “Social CRM” systems not only help you know where your contacts are, but allow you or, even more importantly, those contacts, to manage how you communicate with them, how often and for what messages. Think of a good Social CRM system as email opt-in on crack.

Then the system allows you to leverage your contact’s public social data and even private communications with you to better inform your timing and decisions to communicate with them. Many thinkers in this space also think of Social CRM as allowing you to pull collective intelligence from your customers to improve products, etc. I don’t discount that possibility, but a forum will do that, too. Besides, that thinking is company-centric, not customer relationship-centric, so I tend to not focus on it as a primary function.

There are a lot of companies out there who claim they have a good Social CRM tool. I’m sure several of them will jump in the comments and lay it on thick. But one that I’ve been experimenting with I really like is JitterJam.

JitterJam allows your company to import your email lists, Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers and more into a database. You can tag each individual or groups of individuals anyway you like, making filtering and custom outreach by group easy. As you have contact with each person, those conversations are captured into each person’s profile. The system allows you to track and gauge when someone moves closer to your funnel, going from contact to prospect to customer to advocate.

The above graph shows the progression of contacts, prospects, customers and advocates for World’s Best Cat Litter, which is using JitterJam with and through its agency partner, MicroArts. (The big jump midway through represents awareness brought about by a DirecTV campaign … yes, traditional advertising! Oh my!) Anytime someone interacts with WBCL on Twitter or Facebook, joins its email list or otherwise has a connection to the brand online, they’re brought into the JitterJam platform. From there, the brand can reach out to the person in the medium in which they connected and give them what JitterJam calls a “Make Me Happy” ask where people can opt in to company communications and specify which mediums are acceptable. (See JitterJam’s Make Me Happy page here.)

Seeing the rise of the customers thanks to their efforts, you can visualize how effective your outreach has been.

“We needed something that was going to be more than a reporting solution,” explained Drew Schulthess of MicroArts. “We needed a better context to the relationships we’re building with our customers. We need to know who our customers were, who our evangelists were and how we were connecting to them.”

But JitterJam has much more to it than managing contacts. You can create and post social messages, emails, text messages and more, distribute those to everyone or filtered lists of your contacts, monitor the social web for conversations around your brand or your chosen keywords then funnel the individuals in those conversations into your system as new contacts, too.

When I think of a good Social CRM platform, I see one that has a little bit of everything … social media monitoring, influencer identification, email marketing, SMS capabilities, social outpost management, list management, segmentation ability, contact assessment and measurement and so on. JitterJam has almost everything in one package.

The challenge for using a platform like JitterJam is similar to the challenge of using any robust platform: You have to really master the software to get the most out of it. Yes, it’s one of the most powerful platforms out there, but you’re going to need to learn the ins and outs before you can really milk this thing for all it’s worth.

Still, all its worth could be golden for your company. Imagine communicating with 50,000 people at once. Now imagine communicating with all 50,000 in the medium or mechanism they choose to receive messages from you in and powered by intelligence that allows you to cater the message to customer groups in more relevant ways. JitterJam accomplishes this.

Yes, there are competitors out there that have nice platforms (I’m diving into Shoutlet next, which has some cool DIY tool creation with it) and do a lot of the same work. No, this review is not meant to say that JitterJam is the end-all and be-all to Social CRM. But it’s awfully powerful and worth a look-see.

And with tiered pricing starting at $290 per month, small businesses can afford the tool, too. Sure, the more sizable your lists or volume of your keyword searches, the more you’ll pay, but the pricing seems awfully fair for the functionality to me.

What does Social CRM mean to you? What software have you used to accomplish that and how did it fit your needs? If you use JitterJam, tell us about your experiences. The comments are yours.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).