In today’s vast and varied social web, no enterprise can afford to limit itself to a single social network. That’s why independent social relationship platforms (SRPs) have emerged to support communications across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and numerous other social networks. HootSuite’s founder and CEO Ryan Holmes has referred to neutral platforms, such as HootSuite, as “ social media Switzerlands”. They bridge digital divides for businesses and individuals alike.
However, there’s more to consider in a social relationship platform than its connectivity with social networking sites. That connectivity needs to extend to other enterprise technologies — even those made by different vendors. Here are five things to look for in a well-integrated social relationship platform.
1. Support for multiple social networks and teams
All of your efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and even regional networks like VK.com and Sina Weibo should fall under common strategies for community engagement, customer service, content distribution and more. Otherwise, customers are going to fall through the cracks between social media accounts and the isolated social media teams who operate them. Empowering multiple teams to deliver a complete social strategy is the bread and butter of an enterprise social relationship platform.
2. Integration with other communications channels
Next, your social communications need to be in harmony with other external channels, including marketing automation, email marketing, helpdesk, and customer community platforms. This is where interoperability with other technologies is critical for your SRP. Knowing that a human being behind a Twitter profile is an active subscriber to one of your email lists or a member of your customer community platform allows someone in your organization to engage that person far more effectively.
3. Connectivity with CRM
If you want to provide social media context to customer relationships, then your enterprise’s social relationship platform needs to work fluidly with CRM. Whether you use a single CRM solution or different solutions in different lines of business, your organization must be able to pull social media data into your customer records. Sales teams and account managers will enjoy fuller views of prospects and customers, allowing them to close deals quickly and build relationships that last.
4. Cross-functional workflows
Social media can’t be the responsibility of a single department or business function. That’s why more enterprises are aiming for coordinated social media communication across organizational divides that exist between Marketing and Sales, or Account Management and Product Development. This vision includes a single business process map for triaging incoming social media messages and assigning them to the right department or team. In order to get the user adoption necessary for mass collaboration, your enterprise’s social relationship platform should be accessible and user friendly to anyone in the organization. Furthermore, if your SRP is integrated with the other technologies that workers use on a daily basis, every business function will be able to fully leverage social communications (and insights from social media data).
5. Integration between external and internal social media
Finally, a complete social media communications strategy requires a safe but effective integration between external social media and your internal social network. Again, your social relationship platform has a vital role to play. With the right mix of integrated platforms and intelligent policies, your organization should be able to take social media messages from customers and partners, bring them into discussions internally, and let them positively influence the way you do business. This is innovation from without.
Conversely, your organization should be able to use an internal communications tool like HootSuite Conversations or an enterprise social network like Yammer for internal collaboration, then push out coordinated social messaging from your entire workforce through your social relationship platform. This is amplification from within.
Why vendor neutrality matters
Since your social relationship platform has to integrate with a wide variety of other technologies, your organization shouldn’t become locked into a single vendor’s portfolio of solutions. This is especially true in the realm of social media, where new business needs crop up every quarter. Organizations that want to benefit from the rapidly expanding potential of social media need to maintain flexibility through vendor compatibility.
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