Social CRM is not about managing the customer through the data you have collected about them; it's knowing how to leverage social media as a tool -- internally and externally -- to develop customer relationships through real conversations and relationship building on the social Web, industry observers say.
Effective social CRM strategies start internally
To use social CRM to build brand awareness, organizations must first strategize the process inside the organization. What happens externally in social depends on the strategies deployed from within.
Dell is one company with strong roots in social media tools and social CRM. It first established a social presence in 2006, when the company proactively reached out to a few thousand customers posting comments daily about Dell in blogs and online forums. People commented on everything from its corporate reputation to things they didn't like on Dell.com.
Today Dell has a large social presence backing its brand. According to Richard Binhammer, the company's director of social media and community, people now contribute more than 25,000 comments about Dell every day. These social conversations help Dell build brand awareness, trust and authority with consumers.
Building brand awareness with target customers starts with building that brand loyalty in the organization, according to Binhammer. Dell's social strategy starts inside, where a small core team is responsible for training, governance and social platform testing, he said. This group provides the social tool kit to more than 3,500 Dell-certified social media and community professionals, who engage with customers and keep the Dell name flowing in social spaces.
Like Dell, Logicalis, an international technology and managed services provider with more than 30 offices in North America, also uses a core, internal team to handle its social media accounts and they, too, encourage employees to join the conversations online.
"We send our team information on our Hype or Ripe blog posts each week, so they can tweet the posts from their personal accounts," said Lisa Dreher, vice president of marketing for Logicalis. "We also share updates about our press releases to make it easy for employees to post on their personal networks if they want to do that."
Logicalis uses a number of social platforms, but one key social strategy is to combine targeted LinkedIn ads with marketing campaigns. Logicalis typically targets CIOs, CTOs and CEOs from approximately 2,000 companies with LinkedIn ads. Those programs are tied to the company's blogs to further drive customer interactions.
"The most important thing is that we don’t allow our social CRM strategies to stand alone. Every aspect is tied into our overall marketing and public relations plan," Dreher said.
For Dell, the strategy is to use the social Web as a tool across the fabric of the company as part of the complete customer lifecycle, from brand awareness and consideration through the purchase path to customer loyalty and back around to the repeat customer.
Boost brand awareness with personality
After the social CRM plan is established within the organization, many external opportunities become available for organizations to boost brand awareness with customers. These include MVP programs, trusted advocates and the big trend today of using social media platforms as strategic tools to strengthen brand awareness.
Michael Stricker, a social media strategist at WebiMax, an Internet marketing company, suggests that social brand awareness works best when an organization attaches an emotion to the conversation. For this reason, it's important for a brand to have a social "personality" that consumers will identify with.
"What is a brand but emotion anyway? You don't own your brand -- it exists in the minds and hearts of the people you are trying to address," Stricker said. "They carry this idea of who you are and what it's like to deal with you."
Businesses do a great deal on social media platforms, most notably on Facebook, where creating custom pages offering unique branded applications and coupon promotions run rampant. As a brand, organizations should give customers something to talk about, but Phil Rampulla, founder of the Material Group, a design and development studio, recommends that the best brand strategy for engaging customers in social media tools is to stay within your brand's persona.
He cites the "Angry Whopper" as one of his favorite examples of social branding that worked well. When Burger King launched its Angry Whopper in the U.S. in 2009, Facebook fans could receive a free product coupon by mail -- but only if they downloaded the Whopper Sacrifice Facebook app and "dumped" 10 of their Facebook friends first. The tone of the promotion – abandoning friends – fit the “angry” approach Burger King was encouraging. Although the stunt didn’t make Facebook very happy, as it shut much of the application’s functionality down, it got people taking about the brand and sharing it with friends on the social networking site.
Rampulla, who has recently completed Web and app design projects for a number of big brands, including the Chicago Bulls and Effen Vodka, also recommends that brands not be shy about using unique strategies to get people talking about it in social spaces.
"If something isn't working as well as you had hoped and resonating with your social customers, there's no rule preventing you from switching gears and changing the strategy until it does work well for you and your brand," Rampulla said.