What does Social CRM has to do with Digital Marketing?

Starting with the question in the title, my answer is ‘everything’!

Companies have been increasing their online presence, especially on social media. Cone Communications found out that 93% of social media users in the USA expect companies to have a presence in these platforms. Consequently, they became relevant communication channels for company-customer interactions. This change came along with variations in the type of services marketing agencies offer to companies, giving rise to the so-called Digital Marketing Agencies (DMAs). 

The increase in research in this field contributed to a surge of different concepts and techniques under the “new” marketing umbrella. One example is the concept of Inbound Marketing, which goes through a constant transformation, as the online interaction with brands evolves. Adobe Marketo, a CRM tool, explains Inbound Marketing as a way to earn the attention from customers, making your company easy to find, through content marketing, blogs, events, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media, etc.   

Following these inbound-oriented activities, the Noob Guide to Online Marketing from Unbounce provides the main tasks related to attracting customers to your page: 

  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Lead Generation
  • Organic (SEO/SEM)
  • Conversion Optimization
  • Analytics
  • Content Marketing
  • Pay-per-Click (PPC)

Marketers might agree that these activities cover pretty much most of the tasks within the scope of Digital Marketing in DMAs. But, how are these activities related to Social CRM? And what is Social CRM? It derives from the well-known concept of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which has been supporting companies in collecting, organizing and analyzing customer data to produce relevant insights with the help of innovative information systems (software, applications, etc.). These insights help companies to make decisions, once they support them to understand the different customer profiles, desires, actions. Salesforce, one of the largest CRM tools in the world at the moment, defines Social CRM as the integration of social media channels into these CRM platforms.  

But why should I do that?  

Research has shown that the amount of content generated daily on social media has enormous potential to support companies understanding their current and potential customers. For example, the book Social Customer Relationship Management explains how this concept is applied, as well as the available methods and technologies for companies to establish a Social CRM culture. The figure below shows the Social CRM framework and how the main tasks are connected. 

Fig. 1.  Social CRM Framework adapted from Alt & Reinhold (2020)

On one side, we have all content posted by users on social media, including their reactions and interactions with companies. When analyzed and integrated to CRM tools, this data can provide several insights on the management of CRM processes. These processes are usually: 

  • Campaign Management
  • Lead Management
  • Offers Management
  • Feedback Management
  • Service Management
  • Complaints Management
  • General Processes

When I say Digital marketing and Social CRM are strongly related, I would like you to pay attention to the digital marketing services shown above and the CRM processes presented just now. Many digital marketing activities are strongly related to CRM processes or derive from them. For example, when managing your offers on social media and assessing its success, it is necessary to investigate the conversion rate, which brings you back to customer data in the company’s system. The integration of what is done on social media and what is processed in a company’s CRM system is what grounds the Social CRM concept.  

These business intelligence tasks go beyond the creative image often associated with marketing activities. Although creativity has been a great ally of companies when approaching customers on social media to improve brand image, data integration and analytics can provide the necessary insights to also guide the creative process. Marketing agencies should understand that marketing requires now analytical, mathematical, statistical and programming skills. Convincing decision-makers to invest in marketing strategies require now more than impacting designs.  

Many companies already understood this shift. Activities related to business intelligence are in high demand as creativity alone can no longer survive the big data era. Companies already started to allocate budget to analytical skills. A study from Harvard Business Review, shows that companies started increasing their demands for operative and analytic services for over a decade ago.  

On the other hand, the offerings from agencies are not moving as fast in the same direction. One of our recent studies proposed the categorization of a catalogue of Social CRM services based on offers from DMAs. Results show that most agencies offer services related to interaction with customers on social media. The services were categorized according to the framework in Fig. 1 and the categories ‘Analysis’ and ‘Management / Integration’ were not as successful as ‘Interaction’.  

What does it mean?  

Most Marketing agencies are still not offering a wide range of services based on analytics, as well as data and process integration. Although the market demand for these services has increased, these agencies still lack the analytical and programming skills necessary to provide a satisfactory portfolio of services. In line with this demand, many IT-based companies are developing automated analytical solutions for different marketing tasks, such as managing campaigns on social media, monitoring followers and their activities, analyzing the sentiment from social media posts, detect and categorize mentions on these platforms, etc.  

Fig. 2.  Interaction of different marketing activities

Hence, DMAs should understand the market shift to react fast and continue to provide the necessary marketing solutions, aligning their services with these recently developed analytical technologies, instead of losing market share to them. Social CRM can provide this integration concept, helping companies to define the role of service providers (tools) and managers, who interact directly with the marketing department or marketing agencies.  

If on one side, companies need to build a customer-centric architecture that integrates different solutions, processes and data sources to improve insights, on the other side, providers of marketing services need to perceive the slight recent changes in demand to rethink their role, integrating new skills to their portfolio. 

Within these rapid changes, Social CRM offers companies and agencies a complete framework to establish a process architecture and improve the digital marketing and sales activities. This architecture also helps to define the necessary tools and resources to support this improvement. However, to do that, companies should take a step back and establish these new processes.   

Is your company prepared to take this step back and align creativity and business intelligence towards its goal?  


Dr. Julio Viana
Dr. Julio Viana is researcher and business development specialist at the Social CRM Research Center. He has a degree in Marketing and Communications, an MBA in SME development and a Ph.D in Innovation Economics. In his work he focuses on the integration of Social CRM tools and techniques into marketing activities, as well as the impact of such integration on business performance, especially startups. Additionally, he provides assistance to several research projects regarding the implementation of scientific methods and supervises national and international students in his areas of expertise.

Do you have any questions or comments? Please write an email to julio.viana(at)scrc-leipzig.de!