IT application leaders supporting customer relationship management (CRM) initiatives must understand the differences in functionality between various social applications to identify the technologies and applications that best support business goals, according to Gartner, Inc.
"Organizations often struggle to discern the differences between the many social applications that can support CRM," said Jenny Sussin, research director at Gartner. "Misunderstanding of their functionalities can lead to overspending, organizational in-fighting, duplicated functionality and missed opportunities, all of which lead to a fragmented customer focus with no one responsible for delivering a consistent customer experience."
Gartner has identified nine types of social applications for CRM to help decision makers identify the best range of applications for achieving their business goals.
Social publishing applications are most commonly employed by organizations using social media for marketing. They enable organizations to coordinate messaging, campaigns and alerts and allow content to be pushed to social networks with a unified brand voice. IT leaders often confuse social publishing and social media engagement. Pushing content out is the key characteristic of social publishing.
Social Media Engagement
The key phrase for understanding social media engagement is "back and forth." Social media engagement applications enable a continuous dialogue between organizations and their customers. The applications go beyond just monitoring social media for brand mentions; they're capable of responding to constituents on popular social networks. They can be used across sales, marketing and customer service to attract new customers, help retain old ones and solve customer problems.
Social analytics applications are rapidly being deployed in CRM organizations. In marketing, they are used to identify market characteristics such as competitive insight or for general market research, to identify influencers, and to determine the success of marketing campaigns. In customer service, they are used to identify engagement opportunities, collect feedback on customer service, and measure the efficiency and effectiveness of customer service processes. In sales, they are used to identify prospective customers, based on their profile information or the content included in their social media posts.
External Community Software
External community software is one of the more established spaces in the social for CRM sphere. It is used primarily for customer service and marketing, and occasionally for digital commerce and sales. It is typically used to build customer loyalty while gathering market research data, as well as to enable peer-to-peer support functions for a product or service.
Internal Community Software
Internal community software provides a place for the employees of an organization to share their insights, interests and contributions about a shared practice. Although the technology has existed for years, its application to CRM is still being refined. Typically, the application enables a form of internal collaboration. In customer services or sales, this collaboration revolves around a client or account; in marketing, collaboration centers on a particular project or campaign.
Contact enrichment applications attempt to consolidate contact profiles and improve account management, which provides value across customer service, digital commerce, marketing and sales.
Product review applications are among the more mature social commerce applications, in both tenure and ability to generate positive ROI. They enable the presentation, capture and sharing of perspectives among customers and partners. Aside from valuable insight into products, the exposure of review content to search engines is a great source of search engine optimization.
Social Network Selling
Social network selling applications are used for promoting products and influencing purchases via social networks. They may enable transactions directly on social networks, or they may direct prospective customers to landing pages or product pages. They also help customers share their opinions, purchase decisions and transactions on social networks.
Product or brand advocacy applications enable personalized communication between a brand and current or prospective customers. This commonly takes place via email, live chat or on social networks. The communication often facilitates product purchase decisions for complex products or products with unique use cases, where the views of current product owners are valuable to prospective customers.
Analysts will explore the latest thinking in CRM and customer engagement at the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit 2015 in London, U.K. on June 10-11 and the Gartner Customer 360 Summit in San Diego, September 9-11. You can find more content and updates on these events on Twitter using the hashtag #GartnerCRM.