Social CRM: Keep an Ear to the Ground Most Trodden

Monday, April 22, 2019
Michael Zunenshine
CRM.ORG is a knowledge hub for all things work: digital tools, customer service relationship software, and other innovative methodologies for exploring work-related relationships. In “What is a CRM?”, we break down the meaning of the three-letter monster that is CRM and explore the history, benefits, and features of the customer relationship software.  

There is a common understanding in the restaurant industry: If a first-time customer enjoys a meal and has a pleasant dining experience, they will recommend your restaurant to a handful of others.

However, if a customer hates their meal, experiences bad service or leaves hungry—count on this dissatisfied customer to tell twice, or three times, as many folks to avoid your restaurant.

There are some soft lessons here: People love to talk—that is, share their opinions—and are more likely to be vociferous regarding criticism than praise.

That criticism may not always directly reach the business in question. Today, customer interactions exist in a social sphere, far from the geographic and architectural structures of a brick n’ mortar and well beyond the virtual confines of an ecommerce website.

Wider social avenues

Social customer relationship management benefits all sectors of a traditional CRM system—from sales to service, to marketing and customer engagement.

A leg up on social engagement lends a hand in ecommerce by providing the technological tools for marketers to generate new leads.

In sales, a social CRM platform helps companies identify and connect with potential customers, plus stay in touch with existing ones.

For customer service, a social CRM translates to a quicker and more efficient method for addressing any customer feedback, whether positive or negative.

While traditional CRM already uses communication channels like phone, email, and text; Social CRM widens these channels even further to include venues like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

These social media platforms come equipped with messaging modules where customers and businesses can chat directly with each other.

But there’s even more going on here.

What social CRM adds to standard CRM is not just added venues of direct communication. They invite businesses into spaces of open conversation, colloquia of opinion, thunderdomes of debate.

Using social CRM doesn’t just allow marketers, sales staff and service reps to speak directly with people, it enables them to listen to what people are saying among each other.    

This doesn’t have to be as nefariously Orwellian as it sounds. When people complain about crummy products or lousy service through a post or a tweet, chances are they want to be heard.

Personal interactions before public audiences

Say someone is praising your business on social media. With a social CRM you can thank users directly; reward them with a special promotion and re-share their comments so that even more people get wind of your unsolicited awesomeness.

Ordinary customers turn into advocates on your behalf.      

Conversely, if someone is airing grievances, you can quickly react to the negativity and offer a personalized solution, reminding an individual complainer that their patronage is important to your business.  

The socially-public way you handle a complaint can signal to a broader range of potential customers that you are willing to go beyond a quick sale.

This kind of transparency is next level trust-building.

Another advantage of social CRM is that it provides ecommerce with a whole new treasure trove of customer demographics and other data:

  • What else do customers like and share?

  • Which of their friends and contacts have similar interests?

  • What wider purchasing and engagement patterns can you learn about?

  • Where is engagement/business booming or busting?

  • When is engagement/business spiking or dropping?

Hoovering up this kind of data helps generate new leads, guides the planning of future marketing campaigns, and gives focus to the development of new products and services.

A few stellar Social CRM options

Sprout Social

Sprout really puts the social media aspect front and center of their CRM platform, directly incorporating accounts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+.

Sprout emphasizes composing, backlogging and scheduling social media posts across multiple channels and for many accounts. Monitoring reactions, engagements, and other metrics are visually clear. Task assignment between team members makes collaboration a snap, although Sprout can be extremely useful for the solo entrepreneur as well.

There’s a 30-day free trial, and subscription ranges from $99 to $149 to $249 per user each month.  


Touted as a game-changing CRM by mogul Mark Cuban, Nimble social CRM is designed to work in tandem with the Microsoft family of programs. It integrates Twitter, Facebook, AngelList, Instagram, Foursquare and Google+.

Nimble does the standard tab-keeping of social media mentions. It has a feature that automatically finds and links the social accounts of leads and customers, and uses that data to enrich their contact details within the CRM.

Nimble also has several “smart” search functions whereby contacts can be sorted by connectivity status, or using following/followers stats.

There is a two-week free trial after that subscription is quite cheap from $12 to $25 per user/per month (with discounts for annual rates).


Zoho social CRM sticks mainly to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, but it’s basic CRM has pretty wide integration with other workplace platforms like Slack, Zapier and Zendesk.

By focusing on new lead acquisition, Zoho lets users sift through social media venues to manually pluck out potential customers and bring their contacts into the main platform.

Zoho also has an automated function to add new leads based on custom-defined triggers. This makes sure one gets high quantity and high-quality leads that exhibit specific characteristics, such as demographics, ‘likes’ or shopping habits.

There are three pricing tiers at $12, $20, and $35 per user per month (when paid annually). A fourth, “Ultimate” package is available at $100 per user per month (available only as a yearly plan).


Possibly the most massive planet in the CRM solar system, Salesforce has been a pioneer in CRM and other workplace SaaS services. These days they’re adding AI to their arsenal of customer solutions too, which will help sift through social media feeds to identify and connect ‘posters’ with reps. Salesforce’s smart “Einstein Image Classification” tool, recognizes logos, objects, food, and other scenes in social images to show where certain products are being used.

What they offer covers most of the basic social CRM features like “listening” for mentions, responding to engagement, plus organizing social media posts and analytics.

They split marketing and sales features from customer service, calling the former Social Studio, and the latter Social Customer Service, yet navigating between the two tools is relatively straightforward.

There are plenty of pricing plans depending on package and business type, even special discounts for nonprofits.


Hootsuite is first and foremost a social network management software and not primarily a CRM—imagine Sprout’s social functions minus the sales pipeline features. Hootsuite integrates with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Wordpress, Instagram, Youtube, and Pinterest.

The Hootsuite dashboard can be customized to be more CRM-ready with a range of other apps extensions, like Nimble, Salesforce, Batchbook and others. These are available right on the Hootsuite app directory.

Conclusion: ignorance is not bliss

Folks spend a lot of time on social media. It’s familiar turf. Some can’t be bothered to fill out special forms on a company website. Others don’t want to be bothered making phone calls or sending emails.

Being able to CRM within social networks means meeting the customers where they already feel comfortable.

Rather than dealing with folks in private, one of the benefits of a social CRM is its ability to help company’s acknowledge issues out in the open. Excellent social CRM strategies demonstrate a company’s transparency and cue a wider crowd into brand awareness.

Finally, getting social with CRM lets companies keep abreast of what the people are saying about them, their competitors, and overall industry trends.

These are public domain conversations containing voices that want to be heard. To ignore their presence would be, quite simply, willful ignorance—a trait that does not serve well in the social media age. Get on top of your social game and check out social CRM today.