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Social media customer service integrates social media platforms with customer service, allowing you to answer customer requests for help and product information without ever picking up the phone. While not all customers prefer social media services to phone support, it's cost-effective for businesses and allows you to integrate additional functions into your existing platforms. Options including the Salesforce Service Cloud, Nimble and Sprout Social allow you to manage your social media for adding customer relations management (CRM) into the platform.

Social Media Customer Service: What to Look For

While social media CRM services include a variety of options, choosing the right management tool for your business means deciding on which services and functions you need. Social media customer service platforms offer a variety of features, including direct social integration and management. With ticket requests, FAQs and searchable databases, social media customer support services allow you to provide a range of offerings for your customers. Considering the following features can help you with choosing the right platform for your business.

Ticket Management
Ticket management allows you or your customers to create help-desk tickets from your social media via an extension or an integrated box. This allows you to track the progress of tickets in order to improve your social media CRM. Because you need a ticket for any problem that cannot be handled immediately, ticketing and ticket management is extremely important for any social media system.

Live Chat
Whether directly on your social platform, integrated from your social platform to your management app or as part of your social media customer service app, you need live chat. While you probably have live chat if you are on Facebook, some management apps allow you to integrate it so that you get notifications and can respond from one platform. This makes social media management simpler and allows you to respond more quickly, no matter where your social media customers are messaging you from.

Integration
Social media integration allows you to get notifications, respond and see alerts as soon as they happen. This is important if you want to manage all of your social media customer service from one app, even across multiple platforms. You also want to check which social platforms are compatible with the app based on your specific needs.

Analytics & Insights
Analytics and insights allow you to track who is using your social media, what happens after contact, how quickly questions are responded to and what happens afterward. Analytics tools allow you valuable insights into your CRM, which allows you to improve the service. It also lets you track and improve your existing social platforms.

While social media customer service can include a lot of features, choosing the right ones for your business is essential for selecting the right customer service platform. Social media CRM improves your relationship with customers, allows you to provide cost-effective customer support and spreads your brand values faster than traditional marketing tools.

Conversocial Review

Conversocial is cloud-based social customer service software for enterprise customers. Its social media services not only include analytics tools but also fully integrate into traditional CRM platforms.

Conversocial advocates a social-first culture and argues that social media has permanently changed the relationships between companies and their customers. With its platform, your company can relate to its customers in real time and on social networks where your customers can always reach you. Conversocial offers three plans, and the one you should choose depends on your company's current implementation of social media CRM. These plans are Engage, Evolve and Extend.

At the core of Conversocial are its three key features: a priority response engine, a collaborative platform, and social media analytics and reporting. The priority response engine uses a self-learning algorithm to prioritize messages and conversations flowing through the central interface for all your social accounts. It uses natural language processing and historic data to determine which social events to push to the top of the pile.

Conversocial's collaborative platform is a team management tool that shares your customers' social communication with your social media, marketing and customer care teams. The platform can also quantify your social media customer support activities by measuring customer satisfaction and the response time of your social customer service team.

Besides real-time tracking and reporting of social events, collaboration and intelligent prioritization, Conversocial also provides a single conversation thread for each customer so that your customer service officers can gain immediate access to all past interactions. In addition to a unified social CRM approach, Conversocial helps your company build knowledgebase communities for your social customers and customer service agents with its CROWDS app. Such communities lower the cost of providing customer support and encourages participation from your brand's customers.

Conversocial CROWDS is a mobile-friendly web app. However, its reach is restricted to Twitter. Therefore, your customer service agents cannot answer questions raised on other social media networks with this app. As a certified Twitter partner and a Facebook Strategic Marketing Developer, Conversocial integrates better with these two social media networks than with others. This is fine as long as Twitter and Facebook remain the leading social channels for your customers.

While Conversocial feeds social data to third-party CRM platforms, it remains separate from the rest of your customer service platform. Like most social media CRM tools, it charges its clients per user. Furthermore, it takes a minimum of two weeks for businesses to fully implement Conversocial, and it can take up to six weeks if you want to integrate it into your CRM platform.

Conversocial is a multi-feature social media customer support platform. Its social-first philosophy is especially appropriate for big customer-focused enterprises. However, without interface integration, implementing Conversocial into a traditional CRM platform takes time, staff retraining and lots of support.

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Nimble Review

Nimble is a cloud-based social media CRM platform targeted at small and midsize businesses. It comes with a no-frills CRM system and intuitive social media tools.

Nimble is built to be simple and familiar to business owners. To avoid confusion about its billing, Nimble has only one pricing plan for businesses and comes with a 14-day free trial period. It provides unlimited social network connections and communications history, as well as a multi-user account and full integration with third-party platforms.

However, the Business Plan subscription only comes with 5GB of storage, and you have to pay an additional monthly fee to get blocks of 25GB storage. Nimble has the Personal Plan for individuals. While this plan shares most of the features of the Business Plan, it lacks multi-user support.

Nimble has a smart contact list manager that pulls information about your customers from multiple social networks without requiring you to enter any data. It can find where your customers live, work and go to school from social networks and social CRM platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Instagram, Foursquare, Swarm, Hootsuite, AngelList, CrunchBase and Salesforce. This is a pretty broad coverage of social channels even for a social media CRM tool.

Nimble also aggregates all your email and social media accounts in one unified inbox. You can send emails and social media messages from this inbox. The inbox also houses Nimble's smart contact manager. The rich contact list generated by this manager shows you all past and present communication with each client, as well as what everyone in your contact list is talking about on social networks. Therefore, when you pull a contact's record, you get a bird's-eye view of everything you need to know to do business with the contact.

The Smart Contacts app is at the core of this social media CRM platform, and that is why Nimble made it ubiquitous. It is available as a Chrome plugin, a Safari extension and a Firefox add-on. In addition, you can access it from Nimble's Android and iOS apps. However, these apps have limited functions.

Furthermore, importing and tagging your contacts in the unified inbox can be time-consuming, especially if you have a lot of them. While Nimble has social listening and insight capabilities, it is only trawling social networks for people already in your contact list, and it does not offer broad social analytics for trends related to your industry or brand.

Nimble is a simple social media CRM platform with lots of third-party support from leading CRM services and social media networks. Its standout feature is its unified inbox with its Smart Contacts app. However, is not an industry-facing social CRM tool, because it focuses on individual influencers rather than serving as a way to meet and respond to your many social customers.

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Service Cloud by Salesforce Review

Service Cloud is a cloud-based CRM platform from Salesforce. This social media CRM is available in two editions: Enterprise and Unlimited.

While Salesforce offers Desk.com as the customer support platform for small businesses, midsize and large businesses need the scale and advanced features of Service Cloud. Therefore, both plans of Service Cloud are priced higher than those of Desk.com. However, you can try the service for free for a limited period before signing the annual contract required to use the platform.

Service Cloud provides the tools to run cost-effective customer support on social media. To meet this goal, Service Cloud provides your customer care staff a central console that aggregates all of your customers' information in one place. The cloud-based console also hosts a central knowledgebase that your staff and customers can contribute to. This creates an ever-expanding pool of information that you can access anywhere and from any device.

With Service Cloud, you can also take your social media customer service strategy further by solving customers' issues in real time with on-screen guided assistance, screen sharing, and embedded video and audio communications with customer care agents. All of these customer support features can also be provisioned on your company's and Salesforce's mobile apps.

The social aspect of Service Cloud extends beyond its knowledge pool and the communities it helps build. It can also deliver service to customers on multiple social media channels. Therefore, you can hear from and respond to customers on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. If your company has a dedicated social service team, integrating Service Cloud with Salesforce Social Studio directs all communications started on social networks to that team.

Thanks to the central console, your social media customer service team has all the information it needs about customers seeking help via social networks even before they respond. In addition, Service Cloud's smart social engine combs your company's social accounts with keywords, classifiers and language detection algorithms to direct social cases to the right customer care officer.

This is a scalable CRM platform with a wealth of features. However, it is not primarily a social CRM service. Social CRM is just one of its many features. Its social customer service platform is a separate downloadable application that is not included with the platform by default. Also, you have to pay additional fees for features that are essential to social CRM, like web chat, a knowledgebase and communities.

Service Cloud is a full-featured and scalable CRM platform. However, to use it for social media customer support, you have to pay extra and download the right apps from Salesforce's AppExchange store.

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Shoutlet Review

Shoutlet is an enterprise social marketing platform that enables brands to discover, create, publish and measure their social activities. Therefore, it is a social media CRM tool that combines social media analytics and marketing.

Shoutlet's main focus is on quantifying the social accounts of big businesses by helping them measure the effectiveness of their social media spends, scaling their social media customer support and applying social data to business decisions. In addition to using it as a social CRM platform, you can use Shoutlet for social listening and analytics, workflow management, and for designing and executing contests on your social channels.

The major services Shoutlet offers include social maturity assessment, data integration, web publishing and promotion, and social insight reporting and implementation. With social maturity assessment, Shoutlet benchmarks your company's social pull among current and potential customers against your competitors. It then integrates the data gathered from this assessment with your regular CRM to form a robust social media marketing plan.

Content publishing is another important tool that Shoutlet has. This tool allows you to create and publish promotions and microsites to gather social data. All of this is done with Shoutlet Canvas, a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to quickly build and run contests on your social media pages. However, while the Canvas tool is intuitive and simple to use, it is rudimentary for a content management system.

Although Shoutlet provides a central interface for all of your social media accounts, its use and integration of social data are largely at the mercy of the social media networks. For example, while Shoutlet pulls data quickly from Facebook and Twitter, its integration with Google Plus and Instagram is limited by those social channels. Therefore, Shoutlet can be the cornerstone of your company's social media customer service strategy as long as most of your social engagement with customers come from Twitter and Facebook.

In addition to using Shoutlet to monitor your brand's social media channels and identify trends and influencers in your industry, you can use this social CRM tool to directly deliver customer services. Shoutlet is not a complete CRM platform to bet all your customer engagements on, but it can serve as the link between your social media marketing and customer support teams. With your teams sharing and pulling social data from the service, you can know your customers better and respond to their needs faster.

Shoutlet is a social CRM tool tailor-made for the hyperconnected social world. It provides the social data you need to get a complete picture of your brand, customers and industry. However, it is just one piece of the social media CRM platform a company needs.

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Sparkcentral Review

Sparkcentral is a cloud-based customer engagement platform with an integrated social CRM. This service allows large businesses to create the kind of intimate social media customer support that smaller companies are noted for.

Unlike some of its competitors, Sparkcentral was created with social CRM in mind. Therefore, it has social tools built into its core features, and its primary aim is to deliver real-time social customer service. Sparkcentral has a robust CRM framework that includes standard offerings like call center management, a knowledgebase, a central customer support portal and analytics tools. You can also generate customizable and scheduled reports, get alerts for certain CRM events, and manage the platform via intuitive dashboards.

In addition to being channel-neutral, Sparkcentral provides mobile access so that you can run your social media CRM platform from anywhere and at any time. Sparkcentral generates and keeps a profile for every social customer. This unified channel tracks every conversation between your brand and the customer. It logs every chat, tweet and Facebook post, and it keeps this conversation history so that each customer gets a comprehensive reply to inquiries, regardless of the customer care agent responding at the time.

Another standout feature of Sparkcentral is conversation prioritization. It involves prioritizing customers engaging your company's customer care team from multiple social channels either by using time stamps or customer segmentation. With this tool, you can respond to customers by the time they engage the brand on a first-come, first-served basis, or you can have conversations from your biggest clients pushed to the top of the pile. The latter is an especially important tool for big companies with millions of customers actively engaging their social media channels.

Sparkcentral mostly targets big companies and has global airlines such as Delta and Emirates as its clients. Other notable clients include Netflix, Lyft and Uber. With such big clients, Sparkcentral is packed full of industry-specific social media CRM features. This means that while it is ideal for companies in certain sectors, it is not as well suited for other sectors. Just as Sparkcentral develops social CRM tools for certain industries and companies, its pricing is customized for each customer.

Sparkcentral is a robust customer engagement platform built to unify social, mobile and cloud customer support channels. However, as a startup still actively seeking funding, this social media CRM platform is currently concentrating its limited resources on big companies and specific industries.

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Sprout Social Review

Sprout Social is an enterprise social media management and engagement platform. As a social media CRM tool, it integrates well with Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, UserVoice and Zendesk.

In addition to providing social media customer support, this software offers social media marketing and analytics. Social Sprout has three plans for businesses seeking to improve their social engagements with customers: Deluxe, Premium and Team. All three plans come with a free 30-day trial of the platform.

The Deluxe plan includes Sprout's all-in-one Smart Inbox, real-time social channel monitoring and publishing tools, and it allows up to 10 social network profiles. The Premium plan adds UserVoice Helpdesk integration, more publishing features and the ability to set up 20 profiles. The Team plan includes the Premium plan and 24/5 support, advanced publishing tools, up to 30 profiles, and logins for three team members.

As a social media management platform, Sprout Social allows you to manage communications from multiple social networks from one interface. It aggregates social events from Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn into a single thread of messages in your Smart Inbox. This unified stream of social events lets you monitor and measure your brand's social cloud as well as provide social media customer support.

Following the quantification of the effectiveness of your social campaign, you can mount a more effective social media marketing campaign with Sprout Social. In order to deliver a cohesive social media customer service strategy with Sprout Social, you have to integrate it with a robust CRM platform like Salesforce as well as a web analytics platform like Google Analytics. The social CRM tool logs all conversations between customers and your brand and assigns incoming social messages to the right customer support team member.

For a social CRM service, Sprout Social's plans are pretty pricey. However, it does have features that most of its competitors lack. One of these is its robust social media management apps, available for Android and iOS devices. These apps allow you to publish social messages and access your Smart Inbox on the go.

The social media reach of this software is limited to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. This leaves out other heavyweights like YouTube and rapidly growing social networks like Instagram. Therefore, if a sizable portion of your customer base uses video- and photo-sharing social networks like YouTube and Instagram, the social media services of Sprout Social can miss trends in your industry.

Sprout Social is a mobile-friendly, cloud-based social media CRM tool for businesses. It streamlines communication between teams in your company as well as conversations with your customers. However, it is not a full-fledged CRM platform, and its social reach is limited.

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Sysomos Review

Sysomos is a social media analytics company that trawls blogs, forums and social media networks for real-time trends regarding products, brands and people. The two arms of its social media CRM platforms are MAP (Media Analysis Platform) and Heartbeat.

This platform does not actually offer customer relationship management, but it provides the social media intelligence to deliver social customer service and help your organization make business decisions. Basically, Sysomos makes sense of big data and goes a step further than just listening for social signals and gathering information on social channels. It makes sense of the information gathered by analyzing and presenting it in a format that your organization can use to formulate its social media customer service strategy.

MAP is Sysomos' search engine for social media. It covers most of the major social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and YouTube, as well as blogs and forums. This is the core of Sysomos' social media services, and it is also a social research tool. You can simply type your search keywords into the engine to find real-time and historical data pulled from multiple social media channels. For example, searching for a past tweet can show you when it hit its tipping point and went viral, and who and what caused that.

While Sysomos keeps updated and extensive data and has its finger on the pulse of multiple social media networks, its reach varies from one social channel to another. For example, it focuses on Twitter more than other social networks. Furthermore, although it promises historical data to help you research past trends, its data does not go back far into the past. Sysomos does not cover less popular and emerging social networks such as Vine and Tumblr as well as it does the major ones.

Sysomos Heartbeat is a centralized social media management tool. You can use it to provide social media customer support by managing all your social accounts with the app. However, it is more than just a centralized publishing tool for social networks. Heartbeat also alerts you to critical social media events that affect your brand and automatically directs such conversations to your social media support team. Therefore, while MAP is a listening tool, Heartbeat is an early warning and rapid response tool.

Sysomos is both a social media analytics platform and a complementary tool for your social media CRM software. Without the core features of traditional CRM software, it cannot serve as your sole social media solution. Even as a social analytics tool, its capabilities are limited by how much data social media networks are willing to share with third-party analytics platforms.

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Zendesk Review

Zendesk is a social media customer support platform with multiple features, including integrated chat, embeddable apps, voice calling and a self-help platform for directing customers where they have to go without help. However, the marketing platform offers no social management and limited integration tools, which restricts its functionality on social media.

As a customer service function, Zendesk has most of the tools you need for responding to consumer questions, offering links to forums and creating self-help forums to replace social media. With built-in chat options and integrated apps that you can attach to your social media platforms, it offers fully scalable customer support.

The social media integration tool allows you to quickly see social conversations and messages, allowing you to stay on top of tweets, direct messages and conversations on popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. With fast alerts from a single command center, you can reply more quickly to improve your social media CRM.

Zendesk allows you to respond directly to social media customers on their preferred platforms, without directing them to make a call or visit your website. Because you can use standard social media services, the integration function allows fast turnover for customers who just have a question, so you can integrate standard social media services directly into your customer support and then respond to those messages without ever leaving Zendesk.

For customers with problems that cannot be solved immediately, you can set up tickets or allow them to submit one via a social media app or your website. You can also set up help forums, allowing your customers to directly respond to each other. The forum allows customers to sign up, create usernames and interact with each other, which makes it a self-service help desk.

The built-in analytics and insights make it simple to see who is interacting with you, how quickly they get an answer and where they are coming from. This allows you to prioritize attention to areas where the most customers are asking questions or requesting help.

With limited integration features and no management options, Zendesk is not a comprehensive social media customer service app. However, with the ability to create a forum and add chat and ticketing to your website, it still adds to your customer support.

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