According to Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang, social CRM will give businesses a way to really focus on listening to what their customers want and still have time to do business. In it’s most basic form the concept is to allow you to cross reference what your customers are saying in social media circles as individuals and as a group with what you know about them from a business standpoint.

Then you can use that information to engage customers and create deeper relationships.

“Jeremiah Owyang’s vision of Social CRM where products that we want will find us, will be realized. I think the space is just too young, and the basics of social insight integration has not begun to materialize. I see a lot of new tools saying they are “Social CRM,” but so far it is more misused buzzword than tangible implementation.”
Steve Farnsworth, Jolt Social Media

I have to agree with Steve that these tools are not nearly as developed as we’d like, but they’re getting there.
There are actually quite a few social CRM services allowing you to tap into what people are saying about your company and reach out to them. They may not be at the level we all dream of yet, but progress is being made to dim down the noise and increase real interaction. Some are really a contact management system that allows you to use social media listening strategies to keep tabs on your customer database, while others offer a way to create communities around your products and then your sales and support team can interact with them.

lithium works with social listening tools to integrate mentions of issues or questions about your product into forums where you can communicate directly with your customers. Here’s a good demo overview of how it works. For a larger company with a lot of products to cover this is a pretty cool way to offer customer support, but for a small business or individual it might be overkill.

I’ve written about the Gist social CRM tool before, and they were just purchased by RIMM, the makers of Blackberry. For me this gets interesting because it takes it to the individual or small business level. You can import your customer database and then see what they’re talking about online, cross reference people you need to connect or talk to and prioritize conversations.

Constant Contact just acquired Bantam Live to add social CRM to their services. Bantam Live integrates contact management with your social and business contacts with collaboration tools, project and task management so you can see what your customers are saying and guide your team to engagement. It’s going to be very interesting to see what they do with this.

Nimble is in beta at the moment, and is founded by Jon Ferrara, the founder of Goldmine CRM. For me, Nimble is the perfect combination of contact management, listening tools and team collaboration. I can monitor conversations from social media sites, import my contacts from Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, email and then tag, sort and monitor what’s going on at the individual or corporate level across my social networks through their dashboard.

As a social media coach I work with a lot of companies. I have to stay on top of the buzz about them, what they’re saying out there and at the same time look for new opportunities to connect people, engage them and offer the services of my company. The way I do this is through social CRMs. I use both Gist and Nimble personally because I like certain features of both. I recently added my company, Tatu Digital Media as a Nimble solution partner, and I’m excited about how we’ll be able to use these tools to help companies keep their ear to the ground and learn more about their customers without spending all day on Twitter! Click here to join the private beta.

Are you using a social CRM? How do you use it and where do you think this is going?