The importance of social media to businesses has long been recognised. According to a recent survey, time spent on social platforms represents 28 per cent of all online activity, so if it’s important to customers, it naturally becomes important for companies too. While some firms are content to carry out intermittent checks on Facebook and Twitter, many businesses are now demanding more nuanced ways of monitoring social media content. Social Relationship Management, or SRM, is a software solution that promises to strategically analyse social network interactions to give your business a competitive edge. With organisations from a broad spectrum of industries all realising the importance of social media, gaining greater insights in this field could make the difference between success and failure.
Building on CRM
In many ways Social Relationship Management is an extension of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Just as CRM uses software to better understand and manage a company’s customer interaction, SRM solutions specifically focus on social media content. Part of the reason for this is the way in which social network interaction can differ when compared with other communication channels. Although not necessarily the case, social networks can be informal, containing linguistic subtleties that may not be found in, say, an email conversation. Moreover, social media platforms enable brands to reciprocate this informality, allowing them to build a closer relationship with their customers. After being a business staple for some years, a common complaint against Customer Relationship Management was that it turned sales people into number crunchers, more concerned by data than the relationships they were supposed to underpin. Social Relationship Management looks to overcome this trend.
Common SRM features
One of the primary aims of SRM is to bring clarity to social media analysis. With a huge number of posts, tweets and updates being shared every second, it is impossible for a business to manually manage all their relevant social network interactions. As a result, SRM solutions come with a number of handy features to help businesses make sense of all the noise.
- Social media management – Social networks now come in many shapes and sizes and the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are not the only main players. Increasingly, there are a number of more niche social media platforms, which although possessing fewer users, may be just as relevant to your business, if not more so. As a result, SRM is needed to monitor a wide range of sites and give businesses a unified, but nuanced overview of the predominant trends. In addition, businesses can also become more efficient by automating some of their social network posts. SRM software often provides organisations with a single tool to help them monitor and engage with social media, publishing their content quickly through the relevant channels.
- Analytics – Going a step further than simply monitoring social networks, detailed analysis can be used to generate helpful insights. Analytics tools can track trends and delve deep into consumer behaviour, generating reports and insights that have genuine business applications. Within social networks, data is often unstructured making it a challenge to come up with clear patterns of behaviour. What’s more, the use of slang and abbreviations often makes the task even more difficult for SRM software. However, some of the most effective tools are able to analyse posts before categorising them as positive, negative or neutral, or even assigning them specific emotions like anger.
- Getting your priorities right – Although every customer is important to your business, some of their social media posts will be more important than others. SRM solutions can identify which issues require immediate attention and which are a lower priority. The SRM dashboard can also automatically alert the relevant individual within the company when such a high priority problem occurs and provide confirmation when the issue has been resolved. Social media can be a double-edged sword for businesses in that all their problems and successes are laid bare for the world to see. Leave a customer problem unsolved for too long and reputational damage will surely be incurred, but issue a speedy resolution and long term customer relationships can be strengthened. Considering that 42 per cent of customers expect social media complaints to be resolved within 60 minutes, SRM can be very important in this regard.
- A personal service – As opposed to sending out bulk emails or generic marketing spiel, social networks let businesses create a much more personal relationship with their customers. With SRM, consumers can be connected immediately with the employee most likely to be able to help. This enable firms to build engaging, one-on-one connections that customers are likely to appreciate. In addition, with comprehensive tracking of all previous engagements, employees can get instantly up to speed on any prior social media interactions, ensuring that your customers feel valued.
- Brand association – Social Relationship Management is also a great tool for assessing how your brand is viewed by your customers. Analysis of key words and trends allows organisations to gain an overview of what their brand is associated with, positive or negative. Wider market research across multiple social media channels can also help brands better understand their competitors and what they need to do to take their business to the next level.
SRM as a Service
In addition, some businesses are now turning to cloud based SRM to help them turn social media interactions into meaningful relationships. SRM as a service may include all of the above features and more and will usually be paid for on a subscription basis, meaning that businesses can scale up and down easily while avoiding prohibitive one-off costs. Perhaps more importantly, cloud-based SRM is often accompanied by a dedicated account manager supplying expert advice to your business. This additional consultation service can be hugely valuable to businesses, particularly those that may not have the internal resources to make the most out of the social media data that they collect.
Although social networks may have previously been dismissed as consumer entertainment platforms – good for sharing images of your dinner but not much else – they are now rightly viewed as important business tools. The sheer volume of information available to companies makes them hugely valuable, but also challenging to decipher. With Social Relationship Management, businesses can overcome these challenges to build stronger, longer-lasting relationships with their customers.