According to Edison Research (n.d.), estimates of global social media users are 1.96 billion users with expected growth to reach 2.5 billion by 2018. In the USA, 81% of the population has a personal profile on at least one social media site in 2017 with nearly a third of the population signing into their social media accounts multiple times daily.

“As of 2014, more than 1.79 billion users were accessing social networks at least once per month, positioning social networking as one of the most popular online activities worldwide” (We Are Social, n.d.).

The ability of companies to not only market to customers, but actively engage with them in real time is provided by social media. With so many people so active on social media, it only makes sense for a company to consider using this tool as an extension of their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies.

Over the past few years, social media has grown at alarming rates.  According to Stewart, Atilano and Arnold (2017), the interactions in the online environment increased 70% between the years of 2013 and 2014, with a great deal of these interactions occurring between consumers and businesses.  Social media is providing a tremendous opportunity to build relationships with customers far beyond the walls of their brick-and-mortar locations.  The factors involved in the virtual world is no different than face-to-face encounters with customers.  For customer relationships to be effective and successful, regardless of platform, firms must focus on two primary factors: listening and communication.

social1Harrigan and Miles (2014) provided two roles for social media in a CRM program: engagement and data collection.  Social media is used to play multiple roles in a CRM program that is unique to the communication tactic.  In today’s rapidly evolving world of customer engagement, more and more platforms are being used by customers to not just share ratings and reviews of businesses as well as positive and negative comments.  In addition to textual comments, customers can also share information in other formats such as audio, photos and video.  Through customer engagement social sites such as Amazon and Yelp, photo and video sharing sites, blogs, wikis and podcasts, businesses are afforded a variety of tools with which they can further engage with customers instead of just communicating to them.

As a result of proper engagement on social media, Harrington et al. (2015) posits that “data are created and relational information processes become more effective… [providing] access to real, live customer data” (p. 34). Customers’ individual profiles on social media in addition to conversations specific to industries and businesses in an open forum provides great possibility for collecting rich, authentic data from customers. Malthouse et al. (2013) recommended that companies use data from social media as exploratory research to identify problems and opportunities for investigation. “By reading customer reviews and blogs, brand managers gain insights into how customers are using their products and how they think about them” (Malthouse et al., 2013, p. 275).

cold-stone-creamery-logo

Cold Stone Creamery is just one example of effective utilization of social media to connect with customers. As reported by Baird and Parasnis (2011) in this case, Cold Stone Creamery used the social commerce feature of Facebook to allow customers to send a tangible gift to a family member or friend.  Cold Stone Creamery is an ice cream franchise that spans 16 countries with over 1,500 stores.  Their strategy to combine social commerce with customer engagement on Facebook not only benefited the customers and the brand’s Facebook page, but also proved advantageous for the brick-and-mortar shops.  With the process being conducted entirely through Facebook, customers could conveniently select the recipient(s), choose the product, include a private message and pay through a secure checkout process.  cold-stone-creameryThe end result was the friend receiving the personalized Facebook message or e-mail with a redemption code for the eGift. By utilizing their Facebook page to create a fun and easy way for followers to treat family/friends, they “linked social media interaction with concrete consumer behavior patterns to increase profitability… within weeks, eGift added thousands of dollars in incremental sales to franchisees” (Baird & Parasnis, 2011, p. 10).

Social media has added a new dimension to the CRM platform that should not be ignored by businesses of every size.  The primary focus of traditional and e-CRM strategies included managing customer relationships.

However, social media allows for two-way communication, interaction and engagement with customers. Social CRM includes “an environment in which control of the relationship has shifted to the customer, who has the power to influence other in his or her social network” where “Social CRM strategy is emerging as an approach for managing the dialogue, not the customer” (Baird & Parasnis, From social media to social CRM: Reinventing the customer relationship, 2011).

For companies to effectively use social media as an extension of their CRM strategies, they must listen and effectively communicate. By developing strategies and keeping employees current of new social media trends, social media can enhance CRM and provide opportunities of improved relationships, new ideas, and maintaining a credible reputation as well as financial rewards.

Class dismissed… pc

For more information on Social Media and CRM, check out my sources....

Baird, C. H., & Parasnis, B. (2011, June). From social media to social CRM: Reinventing the customer relationship. Retrieved from IBM Institute for Business Value: http://www.ibm.com

Baird, C. H., & Parasnis, G. (2011, February). From social media to Social CRM: What customers want. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from IBM Institute for Business Value: http://www.ibm.com

Edison Research. (n.d.). Percentage of U.S. population with a social media profile from 2008 to 2017. Retrieved March 26, 2017, from Statista: https://0-www.statista.com.library.acaweb.org/statistics/273476/percentage-of-us-population-with-a-social-network-profile

Harrigan, P., Soutar, G., Choudhury, M. M., & Lowe, M. (2015). Modelling CRM in a social media age. Australasian Marketing Journal, 23, 27-37. doi:10.2016/j.ausmj.2014.11.001

Malthouse, E. C., Haenlein, M., Skiera, B., Wege, E., & Zhang, M. (2013). Managing customer relationships in the social media era: Introducing the social CRM House. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 27, 270-280. doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2013.09.008

Stewart, M. C., Atilano, M., & Arnold, C. L. (2017). Improving customer relations with social listening: A case study of an American academic library. International Journal of Customer relationship Marketing and Management, 8, 49-63. doi:10.4018/IJCRMM.2017010104

We Are Social. (n.d.). Average numbers of hours per day spent by social media users on all social media channels as of 4th quarter 2015, by country. Retrieved March 26, 2017, from Statista: https://0-www.statista.com.library.acaweb.org/statistics/270229/usage-duration-of-social-networks-by-country/