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Integrate customer data for a solid social media business strategy

Businesses that follow a detailed social media strategy will reap the rewards of CEM, according to consultant Brent Leary.

Once a company's culture has undergone profound changes, it's time for executives and employees to start thinking about the state of technology to implement a social media business strategy.

Many legacy business processes were designed years ago in more stable, predictable environments. But we are operating in a more dynamic business-technology climate, and organizations that use dated systems and approaches won't properly adapt to customer demands.

To be effective today, sales reps need up-to-date tactics and processes more closely aligned with customer buying patterns. And these processes should be flexible enough to address the sudden impact technological developments have on customer behavior. For example, salespeople now monitor social media to keep track of what customers talk about online, giving them an opportunity to grab consumers' attention with relevant information about a product.

Another sales tactic is trading contacts in a crowdsource community, such as, so salespeople can reach customers outside their direct networks. They also leverage content on sites such as SlideShare and Docstoc to build relationships with prospective customers. 

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And they use sales intelligence tools to make the most of data from social and traditional sources to improve the chance of a sale. For example, language-learning software company Rosetta Stone's corporate sales team recently reported it had increased its lead-to-opportunity conversion rates by 22%, win rates by 12% and average deal size by 33%. The team did it by combining social and traditional business information to focus on the customers that were ready to buy.

To move ahead with social CRM, companies need to integrate consumer data and support seamless interactions with colleagues and managers who can build solid customer relationships.

This strategic approach to social CRM calls for combining sales force automation, supply chain management, financial management, human resource management and more. At the heart of such an approach is a centralized data repository that streamlines the salesperson's access to production data, invoicing history, service records, account information and opportunity records, including making a customer's interaction history accessible to everyone. On top of that, social media tools need to be connected to all internal processes. That way, they will be optimized to anticipate customer needs, giving companies the best chance for success.

Social media business strategy pays off

Companies that approached social CRM with a formal strategy found a higher level of success than those that had no formal vision, according to a survey my company conducted last year of more than 600 small and medium-sized business executives.

In 2011, 11% of business users whose company was following a social CRM strategy said they were satisfied with the impact their social activities had on website traffic, while 9% were satisfied with the impact on lead and sales generation. In 2012, those numbers were 26% and 22%, respectively, marking year-over-year increases of 137% and 144%. While users following a strategy reported impressive annual growth in important business areas, only 5% of users without one were "very satisfied" with lead and sales generation in 2012, the same figure as in 2011.

The dramatic increase in satisfaction by users following an approach may explain the value of social tools. Thirty-eight percent of such users said they were "very satisfied" with customer engagement on Twitter, compared with 11% of users who didn't follow a strategy. On Facebook, 51% of users with a strategy said they were "very satisfied," compared with 23% without one. And on LinkedIn, 42% of users following a strategy said they were "very satisfied," compared with 17% who weren't.

Perhaps more important, especially in the age of the empowered customer, social CRM users with a strategy are four times more likely to feel they are capturing the voice of their customers and two times more likely to have better or more meaningful interactions with them.

About the author
Brent Leary is co-founder and partner of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. He is also an author, public speaker and blogger. In 2009, he co-authored
Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business.

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