The term “Social CRM” means many things to many people, and often not the same thing twice. One thing we can all agree on, is the acronym element – CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. So what about it? How can social media support the professional relationships you maintain with your valued customers?

Here’s my own interpretation – one which is shared by many, and which, whatever your own view, covers an important part of customer service and reputation management … listening. For me, social CRM comes down to one simple factor. When someone searched for your name, or that of your company, products and services, what greets them content-wise is pleasant, informative, and supports the concept that you are someone with whom anyone would want to do business. There are a couple of aspects to consider – firstly, the ability to tap into social conversations, to fully understand what has already been said, both from a reputation management, and from a customer insights perspective. Secondly, the need to create, and encourage the creation of, content that supports your overall vision, ethos and values, and which speaks to the market you’ve identified. Thankfully, when you take care of the first, the second becomes a hell of a lot easier. When we know what people are saying publicly, we can arm ourselves with the information required, to create the content those customers and prospects crave.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 4 tools that can help you get the customer insights you’ll need, to manage your professionals relationships in one place:

Nimble CRM
http://www.nimble.com/

Nimble resembles a more traditional CRM system, being a database of your contacts, but also provides social integration to bring the person’s updates to the fore. It also offers a social inbox, allowing you to read incoming messages from your Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter accounts, including DM’s and mentions.

Rapportive
http://rapportive.com

Rapportive cleverly integrates with your Gmail account, to show social updates and profile data about the sender, within your Gmail client, while you have their incoming email in focus. You can invite the sender to connect via Linkedin or Facebook, or follow them on Twitter, from within your inbox. Great for extending your network, as well as providing up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening in your contact’s world, right now.

Batchbook
http://batchbook.com/

Again, with a range of “old school” CRM features, such as tracking interactions, and presenting a wide array of information about your contacts, Batchbook also features a number of integrations with social and email platforms, such as Mailchimp. This allows for better-targeted and coherent communication across multiple channels.

Google Alerts
http://www.google.com/alerts

A regular fixture on the IA blog, if you want to stay on top of conversations as they happen, for free, and in a busy business environment, you can do a lot worse than setting up a few alerts using this service. Choosing to receive new mentions in your email inbox is hugely convenient, and if you prefer the dashboard or RSS reader option, you can spit results out to a feed, too.

How are you using CRM, or even social CRM in your business? Will you be investing in a social CRM approach in 2013?