IT application leaders supporting customer relationship management (CRM) initiatives still need to fully understand the differences in functionality between various social applications to identify the technologies and applications that best support business goals, according to Gartner Inc. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

Organisations often struggle to discern the differences between the many social applications that can support CRM, and a misunderstanding of their functionalities can lead to overspending, organisational in-fighting, duplicated functionality and missed opportunities, which lead to a fragmented customer focus with no one being responsible for delivering a consistent customer experience.

Gartner has consequently identified nine types of social applications for CRM that can help decision makers identify the best range of applications for achieving their business goals:

  1. Social Publishing
    Social publishing applications are most commonly employed by organisations using social media for marketing. They enable organisations 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.
  2. Social Media Engagement
    The key phrase for understanding social media engagement is "back and forth." Social media engagement applications enable a continuous dialogue between organisations 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.
  3. Social Analytics
    Social analytics applications are rapidly being deployed in CRM organisations. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Internal Community Software
    Internal community software provides a place for the employees of an organisation 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 centres on a particular project or campaign.
  6. Content Enrichment
    Contact enrichment applications attempt to consolidate contact profiles and improve account management, which provides value across customer service, digital commerce, marketing and sales.
  7. Product Review
    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 optimisation.
  8. 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.
  9. Product Advocacy
    Product or brand advocacy applications enable personalised 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.