Social CRM is a phrase that is getting a growing amount of buzz – despite the fact it is frustratingly difficult to pin down. Perhaps the simplest way to view it is as the intersection of the well established customer relationship management (CRM) market and the newer social media listening and monitoring market.
"The best way to manage customer relationships is with CRM software, but social networks are not well taken care of in the traditional products because they are new," explains Esteban Kolsky, founder of CRM consultancy ThinkJar and a former Gartner analyst. "Social CRM software caters for social media, but to be useful it must integrate with existing CRM products. Social CRM without CRM yields no value at all."
This helps explain why larger CRM companies have acquired a number of social CRM startups, and it's also why Gartner has dropped the concept of social CRM companies, replacing it with a notion of social for CRM companies, along with social for marketing and social for various other business functions.
Most social CRM companies - or social for CRM companies - will end up going one of two ways, says Jenny Sussin, one of Gartner's CRM experts. "They will either get acquired by a CRM company (or enter into a strategic partnership with one) or they will end up as point solutions at a lower price point, with integrations into larger CRM vendors' products."
So which are the hottest social (for) CRM companies right now, the ones whose solutions might end up as part of your existing CRM provider's product line-up? Here, in no particular order, are nine worth taking a closer look at:
Conversocial is a social customer service application which allows agents to deliver service via Facebook and Twitter. It helps them find customer social media messages that need responding to and spot emerging issues, while providing a complete conversation history for each customer - no matter which agent handled the interaction or which social media channel was used.
Agents can follow, direct message and respond publicly to customer inquiries with inline response tools, and every public reply is tracked and stored for company records.
Next Principles is a social analytics and engagement platform that provides a view of customers across social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and traditional channels.
It offers drill-down reporting to track reach, engagement and impact, with the option to export and share on social channels. It also generates social graphs to help identify key behavioral trends, influencers and relationships.
The platform is designed to be used with enterprise CRM systems and integrates with products including SugarCRM, Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Reevoo allows companies to provide customer product reviews, recommendations and comments on their own sites, influencing the buying process for potential customers. It also provides other functionality such as an "Ask an Owner" feature that can be accessed online, over text and email, and on social networking sites.
The platform also produces keyword-rich site content which can help optimize the website for search engine rankings and traffic.
The company provides APIs for integration with existing CRM systems and databases.
Netbase offers a Social Media Management System (SMMS) that can be used for market research and campaign analytics. It allows users to:
- Publish content to one or multiple social channels including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr.
- Monitor the entire social Web or just specific networks including Facebook and Twitter
- Analyze campaigns, competitors, consumers and audience in real-time
- Engage with customers across multiple digital channels with pre-defined templates, a routing and ticketing system and an audit trail
Netbase is an SAP partner, and SAP resells Netbase as SAP Social Media Analytics by Netbase.
InsideView offers automated "lead enrichment," providing extra information needed to qualify leads and route them to the right sales person for action. It finds:
- Firmographics - industry, revenue, employees, locations, company phone, website
- Connections - relationships between lead and the users' company network of relationships
- Business insights - key business and executive events that impact the likelihood of sales success
It also provides reporting on lead enrichment activities and results, highlighting the information that InsideView is able to add to leads in each campaign.
InsideView integrates with CRM systems from vendors including Microsoft, Salesforce, NetSuite, SAP, Oracle and SugarCRM.
Sprinklr is another Social Media Management System. Among its features, it can:
- Auto-detect posts that require routing or escalation based on keyword, topic or author influence
- Understand audience members based on past engagement across social channels
- Simplify inbound content workflow with queues, message assignment and alerts
- Centrally manage digital assets
- Customize and share reports on response time, inbound messages and more
- Integrate with existing enterprise CRM systems
Artesian provides the ability to carry out "social prospecting": Users specify the type of information they want to know about a particular topic, and the software sucks in relevant blog postings, news and tweets. It then filters and prioritizes the information and delivers it to a CRM system - or to a smartphone or other device.
The information is designed to be used to generate business leads.
Crowdtap enables marketers to partner with consumers using one of two suites: an insights community suite or an advocacy suite.
The advocacy suite enables marketers to seed exclusive content, share new promotions or show off new products with the help of advocates, while the insights community suite enables consumers to share how they interact with and use products
The software enables marketers to integrate their brand's existing communities from Facebook, Twitter and CRM databases and identify new fans. The aim is to activate, engage and reward fans for their participation.
Get Satisfaction is a platform that lets customers interact with each other - a kind of peer-to-peer customer support. It allows them to ask questions, share ideas, report problems and even give praise. When a customer asks a question, the system searches for existing answers from customers and "official" answers from the company and allows other customers to submit new replies.
The content is available to search engines, making it easy to find as well as providing SEO value.
Paul Rubens has been covering enterprise technology for over 20 years. In that time he has written for leading UK and international publications including The Economist, The Times, Financial Times, the BBC, Computing and ServerWatch.