Social CRM is a term used today to address a change in how businesses engage with their customers.  A tweetable definition according to Paul Greenberg: “The company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”  (Read more about what this means in his blog post.)

Many people think that Social CRM is Twitter, or Facebook, or a Comcast-ish model of customer service.  It’s not one of these but all of them.  To confuse things, many vendors are calling themselves Social CRM when they actually don’t have the traditional CRM parts in place.  What does this mean for CRM Online?  Will the product change?  Are we going to go out to the marketplace and acquire a bunch of companies to fill the gaps like some of our competitors?  To be perfectly honest, I don’t know.  (And be sure that even if I did know, there’s no way I could tell you here… sorry.)

What I do know is that right now the capabilities exist within the product to build out a social CRM strategy for your business.  The key first step is going to be to step away from the technology and define your goals first.  What do you want to do?

Here are some core areas in which social media is becoming incorporated with CRM, and some questions you might want to ask to start to hone in on your specific SCRM goal(s):

1. Brand awareness.  What do you need to measure?  Is it related to a specific product or service?  Are you timing brand awareness with the launch of a new product or service?  Once you know what people are saying, what are you going to do about it?  Always ask, “So what?”

2. Focus group management.  Are you using your customers to drive new products or enhance existing products and/or services?  Are you driving collaboration?  Once you start collaborating, what’s your plan for next steps?

3. Lead generation.  What sources are important to you?  How is your sales staff networking and capitalizing on social media relationships?  Once you have identified leads, how are you nurturing them?  If you are B2B rather than B2C, do you already have advocates within your prospects?  How can you find them and help them to influence the sale?  (B2B becomes B2C2B in this model.)

4. Customer care.  This is perhaps one of the more mature SCRM areas to date.  How are you expanding your current channels for customer care to include social media?  Think about working in lockstep with your brand awareness folks to transition negative sentiment to service case management.  What do you envision for operational infrastructure to effectively manage customers via social channels?

5. Loyalty management.  Are you rewarding your customer advocates?  I tweeted recently that CRM should be renamed ARM – Advocate Relationship Management.  As direct advertisement campaigns are phasing out and customer reviews hold more water when it comes to purchasing, ensuring customer advocacy is going to drive both repeat and new business.  How are you going to nurture your existing customers?

These are questions to get the ball rolling.  Microsoft Dynamics CRM On-Premise and Online are tools that can help you achieve your goals.  We’ve embraced Social CRM internally for our own goals.  Take the xRM Showcase Challenge for example – this is a contest built to achieve the goal of strengthening our community bonds and award our creative community members.  And it was built 100% in CRM Online and Windows Azure in less than 5 weeks.

So, before you get overwhelmed with all the social media hype, take a step back and 1) acknowledge that social channels are here to stay and they’re as old as time, and 2) articulate your goals clearly for how you want to address social channels.  CRM will be an important technology to help you achieve your goals.