Social Media CRM & Dashboards are NOT ready for Prime Time

The focus of many companies who have not jumped into Social Media efforts has been to work out their strategy and tactical implementation but the tool sets they have to manage them aren’t finished being built. Social CRM and Social Media dashboards are still in the development stage. No one has it right yet. Well, almost no one.  It’s not that they’re not trying, the problem stems from what their perception of the requirements of what is needed by the consumer. Each approaches it from a different ‘starting point” so the functionality, although similar, isn’t quite the same.  Let’s take a look at CRM and Social Dashbaords separately & you’ll see what I mean.

Contact Management & the Cloud

CRM software has been passed up by technology just like theseIn the past, contact management packages (Customer Relationship Management, CRM) hosted on a company server or in individual ACT! databases was sufficient to lot and categorize sales funnel information for small to medium size business (SMB’s) . However, do to many of the changes taking place in mobile computing, the sheer growth of Social Media platforms and a migration to cloud computing companies are having a difficult time aggregating all of the important facets of a customer/client relationship because most of the existing ‘software’ cannot bring together all of the disparate pieces of information available to them.

Let’s take a quick look at a scenario: A person in the Social Media department schedules a “tweet” in one of the Social Media dashboards (I’ll cover this in more detail below) to post during a trade event. Someone responds to the “tweet’ during the event and would is ready to move into the top of the sales funnel: It’s time to get them in the database and assign them to a salesperson to schedule a more ‘traditional” face-to-face meeting. In a traditional environment, if the lead was coming from a customer service department, all of the ‘notes’ and conversation could be viewed by the salesperson to get a good idea of what to talk about. However, at the present time there is no simple solution to pass along a series of @Mentions or DM’s from Twitter, that started with a Facebook Brand page wall posting

Contact Management

Just like a large company would be a prospect for an SAP product to manage their business they are also good candidates for the integration package from which acquired a company called Radian 6 in early 2011. The integration of the two products, although not perfect, is one of the very best enterprise level solutions for Social Media CRM. However, for SMB’s, the cost of entry is far too high: Again, this is similar to using SAP instead of Peachtree for accounting.

So what’s available for an SMB right now? The cake is only half baked. There is a tremendous demand for an integrated solution to CRM but the market right now is so new that different developers are approaching the problem from different sides of the problem. The people leading the charge are tending to be smaller start-ups instead of the more commonly known names in the CRM field. The attitude from many of the ‘big names’ has taken on a air of arrogance and a true lack of understanding of the changes and demands of the marketplace. Think about National Cash Register (NCR) and the development of the personal computer or Kodak and the advent of digital camera technology. They just may be too big and not nimble enough to address the new demand after leading the industry for too long.

CRM software & Social Media dashboards

So what’s a company to do? The first thing that companies need to realize is that RIGHT NOW there is no single solution to meet all of your needs so it’s probably going to take a combination of products that may or may not ‘play nice’ with each other.  CRM software packages and Social Media dashboards are two distinct categories right now.  The hot topic is Social CRM.  Basically that means a unification of Social Monitoring & engagement & traditional CRM database functions. Because companies are developing from different points of their core competency the feature & functionality  sets are different.   In time, this will blend. In this section I’m going to break this out into two FUNCTION SPECIFIC areas:

  • CRM Software – This lists what I know is available now.  Keywords in that last sentence to remember are “What I know” & “available now”.  There are others and I welcome comments about the others you know about. Keep in mind most of this is cloud based and not hosted on your server or on your desktop. Part of your decision-making is going to be impacted by the kind of mobile operating system that your field and internal sales & customer service use for your business.  Some products have “apps” for IOS5 and some for the Android OS, some for both and some for neither.  Because of the earlier discussion about mobile technology choosing any CRM package should be based upon ease of use by the people who use in in a mobile world.
  • Social Media dashboards – As you have probably already realized, managing Social Media discussions can very very quickly become a task in and of itself. Logging into Facebook to check comments, Logging into Twitter to respond to messages, thanking followers for retweets, checking LinkedIn updates, checking out your competitors new YouTube video, etc.  That’s what a Social Media dashboard allows you to do.  There are a number of dashboards on the market and, just like CRM software, they have different functions on different desktop and mobile platform

CRM Solutions

Selecting a CRM suite is really going to be dependent upon which functions and connectivity best meet your needs.  In some cases you may find the the Social Media dashboards, listed below, can meet some of them better than the CRM packages and vice versa.  At the very least, take a quick peek at their websites and take some tours.  You may like one aspect of one and another aspect of another: That is the nature of the beast right now.

  • Batchbook – Offers Social Media monitoring. Integrates with Google, MailChimp and several others. Permits custom fields.  I don’t use this one but it has been recommended by several Social Media consultants with whom I am in contact with.
  • Constant Contact/BantamLive – Constant Contact acquired Bantam back in early 2011.  In discussions with the good folks at Constant Contact the Bantam CRM component was set for release in February/March 2012. If you already use Constant Contact for email campaigns or event marketing, it may be worthwhile to see how this new stuff is going to work.
  • ContactMe – Contact management. Sync’s with Facebook, Gmail WordPress, Constant Contact, Google calendars and others.
  • JitterJam – In March 2011 they where bought by Meltwater so they seem to have two product groups. Be sure and click on the “Meltwater Buzz” for more information when you visit their site.
  • Highrise – I’ve not used this one personally but it’s on my todo list to give it a try.  I had a number of on lines discussions with people who do use it and it sounds very robust and well worth checking into yourself.
  • Nimble – Brings together all of your Social Connections into one and does it well.  If some companies started from the CRM side and others started developing from the dashboard side of the function requirements Nimble seems to have started right in the middle. It does some unique things but is not as functionally as robust a the niche CRM & niche Dashboard companeis
  • SugarCRM – Sugar is open source which means that there is alot of customization that you can do and others can do to make it unique. It’s both cloud based but has a downloadable version as well. This company is pretty strong already int he SMB market but functionality is improving and they seem to be close to an enterprise level product.  Look for more integration of functions from them very very soon.

According to an Aug 20, 2011 report “Gartner says the Market for Social CRM Is on Pace to Surpass $1 Billion in Revenue by Year-End 2012”  The CRM industry is still a toddler

Social Media Dashboards

Social Media Dashboards give you the ability to manage all of your social media streams/ feeds in one place.  You can log into one cloud based (or app based) dashboard and view and engage with the major social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and several others. Below is a short list of some of the more popular Social Media dashboards in use right now.  Most of these offer free trials or trial accounts with a limited of number of platforms you can connect or limitations on what you can get as far as analytics.

Because each of the companies who make these have different monitization strategies, developed from a different core social platform (e.g. started by making it friendly for Twitter users or started by making it friendly for Facebook users) or developed with a different core set of features on their product roadmap, similar to CRM packages functions and features will vary. Many people find that they like certain features of one dashboard and other features from a different dashboard.

One of the biggest features of most all dashboards is the ability to “schedule” the date and time of your postings.  That’s a key benefit if you customer/client base is spending time on a platform, like Twitter, on Saturday mornings when you are on vacation.  You can schedule out a new blog posting you wrote to start some conversation at 8:30am on a Saturday.  If someone reads the blog and asks a question you can respond via your mobile device in just a few minutes of your time.

  • CoTweet – This is an offering from Exact Target. Development is from the email marketing foundation so this is a bit of a different function set than many of the other dashboards. and, as a result, it lacks some of the more robust features found in other dashboards.
  • Hootsuite – growing in popularity with a simple, easy to use interface that is also available as an App
  • MarketMeSuite – Cloud based and very good. Some nice integration of CRM functions. This is a company to pay attention to as it evolves
  • Seesmic – One of the first companies to connect to over 40 social media platforms. Also available as an app and a desktop version.
  • Social Report – Development of this platform seems to have its roots in the “reporting” and analytics component of Social Media.  Indeed the report is one of the more robust offerings but the ‘management’ component isn’t as feature rich as some of the other companies.
  • TweetDeck – This was the biggest company in the Social Media dashboard category until Twitter purchased them in May 2011.It’s a very strong player and warrants looking at closely as it evolves.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more in-depth articles about social media dashboards that can be readily found on the web.  What many companies eventually find is that they use a combination of them.  Some for scheduling, others for live posting via mobile, others for analytics and reporting. It starts to come down to personal preference and what features you want to use and what features your employees and sales staff prefer.

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