A Guide To Evaluate Social CRM Tools & Vendors

While you are evaluating social CRM tools that suits your requirements, there are a few points to keep in mind – which I call as Key Elements that a decent Social CRM tool must have. There are hundreds of social media tools out there vying for your attention, but few do a great job of defining what they actually do.

Evaluate Social CRM Tools & Vendors
Evaluate Social CRM Tools & Vendors

Some are similar to one another and compete with each other, while others have zero overlap and can supplement each other. Of course determining which tools are right for you requires a clear definition of your objectives, but without knowing which tools do what it is impossible to know which tools will meet those objectives.

This post shall not remain valid forever, as tools evolve with time and may add more functionality to them; and Social CRM as a definition may also change and become wider than what is! While CRMs and technology evolve over time, a Marketer must try to understand the need of Social CRM in marketing domain more than anything else.

Also, while writing this blogpost I’ve mentioned a few Social CRM tools & vendors names, which are used just as fair examples and I do not intend to advertise or promote them. They can be good or not-so-good for your organization depending on what you are trying to achieve.

Key Elements for Social CRM Tools

Checkout this simple definition of Social CRM by Social Media Examiner. Before we go ahead, here is video that shows how Radian6 works as a Social CRM

Social CRM describes the next level of the single customer view, listening to the conversations via social web and becoming active in them.

1. Social Media Listening and Monitoring

Tracking mentions of your brand, products, competitors and industry issues is one basic functionality; however what matters is ease of setting it up, customizing date ranges & platforms on the fly and user interface. Radian6 gets you mentions from 400 million sources, Meltwater Buzz covers over 200 Million sources, others may have less or more covered – ensure platforms of your interests are included; esp those companies which operate in non-English speaking countries.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is whether a social CRM tool is – 1. Partner with a Big Data company OR 2. Buys data directly from the media channels OR 3. Crawls over social media sites – to gather posts. This determines whether the posts you are analyzing are gathered real-time; deleted or live. Example Radian6 gets tweets from Twitter database rather than crawling over twitter feeds in order to gather posts. This gets you faster and real-time results – including those tweets which are deleted by the users later.  A few basic functionalities (not exhaustive) under listening are as follows.

Difference between Social Media Listening and Social Media Monitoring

Listening is a generic word when you gather mentions of your brands, products, services, competitor counterparts or industry. However when you are listening to that specific campaign you launched – is termed as Monitoring. Ensure that your preferred Social CRM tool can manage to measure only that something you need to measure for a campaign.

Sentiment Analysis

What is the overall sentiment of social conversations about your brand/product? Today? This month? Over time? Can your social CRM  tool identify sarcasm? Can you segment and categorize similar stories and sentiments to work upon. Though all Social CRM tools will have a sentiment analysis functionality – but hardly any of them are effective or accurate. Simply because algorithms are far from understanding human emotions. It is preferred not to arrive at results or make any decisions looking at automated sentiment analysis of social CRM tools. The least you can do is make sure that its sentiment algorithm is not a black-box; which means it should be open for your engineers to code and make appropriate changes. OR If this analysis is on your priority list you should be able to integrate your tool with a 3rd party NLP program or Text Analytics software, Example Clarabridge, Attensity

Influencer Analysis

It should enable you to see who the top 10, 25 or 50 influencers are within your brand or market. See the influencers segregated by blogs or microblogs etc. And view their social summaries. There are modules you can run over your influencers, detractors, advocates to help manage your future campaigns and promotions.

Workflow Model

A model that enables multiple social media managers in a team to assign follow-up for specific conversations to other personnel. Individuals should be notified of assigned tasks and other should be prevented from re-responding to the same customer query. This is an important aspect of a social CRM tool yet not found in many of  them. If you have a big Social CRM team, a tool without this is a waste.

2. Social Media Engagement

Evaluate Social CRM Tools & Vendors
Evaluating Social CRM Tools & Vendors

 Just as your email inbox, a CRM tool should allow you to respond to messages from various channels from a single dashboard. Unite your Social Media Channels. You should be able to segregate posts that requires an auto response trigger (not recommended though) and the rest to be automatically assigned to someone in your Team – via a simple workflow model.

360 degree view of a customer

A representative who is responsible for responding should be able to view all social profiles of a customer & his/hers personal sentiment towards the brand (or a defined keyword), engagement level, influence level etc to gauge and respond appropriately.

Compose & Schedule posts

This is a basic feature where you can post updates to different social media channels via CRM dashboard and measure engagement activity via generating reports for different platforms. You should also be able to schedule future posts, and that must not affect the posts visibility. Example, an update scheduled via Hootsuite on facebook is visible to far less fans than when done manually. This is because facebook algorithm considers such scheduled posts as automated/bots & less-useful for its users. 

You should also be able to target your posts (age, gender, location, profession etc) to specific audience of your choice.

Engagement Analytics

Analytics measures your marketing efforts; to find out what content is working for you, which individuals are most engaged with your brand. Discover your top retweeters. Track your brand impressions and more.

3. Understanding

Listening is one way to understand someone; Conversations & dialog take it further. If the above two functions work at their best, your team should be able to understand what your customers want, offer them awesome customer service and more. Responding immediately and over the same channel that solves customers problems (or at least assuring them you will solve it) gets them satisfied, to start with.

Workflow & Automation

Workflow models not only play a major role in responding to customers but it is also important who with in the organization responds. Before investing in a social CRM tool, contemplate over its work flow model and make sure alerts can be sent while your social CRM team is mobile/Out of Office.

4. Integration Capabilities

Some specialized tools focus on analyzing and optimizing one aspect of your social media efforts.  The intent is to use these tools to supplement, not replace other tools. Your social CRM tool should be able to leverage the competencies of such tools whenever required. Do not invest in tools that prevent you from integrating with 3rd party software.

Most of the CRM tools consider this as make-or-break deal, they come with out-of-box integration with any of those analytics platforms, sentiment analysis NLP algo, traditional CRMs, Big Data tools and also offer APIs that keep it open to integration. Example Radian6 (Now Marketing Cloud) offers  good integration  capabilities with Analytics tool (Clarabridge) & CRM (Sales & Service Cloud)

5. Social Ads

A tool that allows you to develop and optimize ads on social platforms for best results is, what I consider, a good tool. This is going beyond Social CRM’s basic functionality. This will help you launch more effective social ad campaigns by focusing your ads around particular countries, cities, demographics or interests. Leverage Facebook Insights data to distribute local, relevant and effective social ads using many demographic, psycho-graphic and behavioral targeting options.

This should also let you plan and adjust your ad spending appropriately allocated to campaigns.

6. Measuring the ROI & Tracking

Reporting & BI is another important aspect. Set benchmarks and track the performance of all your social media marketing efforts via reports. There should be options for automatic daily/weekly email reports, or an option to export data to CSV any time you wish so that your finger is always on the pulse of your brand’s social marketing activity.

A tool can offer you reports and graphs; however its your team that can decide the X and Y axis to draw relevant insights and decisions.

7. Support

Social CRM Market is growing at rate like crazy! All companies, I have come across, offer good and immediate support. If you have an IT partner or directly implementing via vendor, you should have clear understanding of level of support & time. Since Social CRM deals with customers directly and in open – any delay in fixing your social CRM problem can land you in trouble.

There is more

I hope the above list gives you a fair idea of where to start evaluating Social CRM tools and vendors. Consult your IT partner or a consultant to review various tools available in the market.

Satyam is a Consultant with Infosys Ltd. and editor / founder of marketinomics.com. When he is not talking about Digital Marketing or dreaming of CRM strategies, he can be found on a treadmill. He enjoys travelling, reading and listening to music! Catch up with him on twitter at @xatyam