Businesses that master the art of a successful social media strategy enjoy a number of benefits. Social media networks provide the opportunity to get to know your customer, start a conversation and elevate your brand in an influential sphere driven by consumers who know what they want.For digital agencies, and indeed even marketing departments, determining the actual return on investment for the time and effort spent on a successful social media strategy, finding tangible results can be quite challenging.Social media, however, can be used for more than just brand awareness. The emerging trend of social CRM has forward-thinking marketers using the likes of Twitter and Facebook as a sales lead generation tool.The wealth of information available in the social media space allows these marketers to identify and engage with potential customers, develop them into warm leads and integrate them into the organisation’s CRM system where they can be added to relevant campaigns and ultimately converted into a sale. Klout and Peer Index can be used to great effect in determining a prospect’s interests and influence. Peer Index, for example, provides detailed analytics on user profiles in terms of location, influencers, content shared, interests and followers, in order to segment and target prospects on these important variables.While social media campaigns often are treated much like directly marketing opportunities, success lies in engagement and adding value to the online interaction. As a result, an effective social CRM strategy is long term and requires the resources to carry it out. This may sound daunting, but with the right digital toolset or social media marketing platform, identifying and engaging with potential customers can quickly become an integrated part of operations.Some platforms enable users to keep track of the entire engagement with the prospect or conversation history. This provides a wealth of information to go back to and use going forward. In addition, these platforms also allow users to categorise contacts, save profiles and create notes after every interaction making the relationship management aspect of the initial process more streamlined so when that contact is incorporated into the organisation’s actual CRM system, sales staff are already well informed.The advantage of using social CRM is that depending on the platform being used, there are a number of ways in which to generate measurable results – either to clients as an agency, or in-house. One of the challenges that digital marketers face is reaching the right customers in the right way.A further benefit is that due to the detailed information available, businesses can gain true insight into the prospect and determine if he or she is a bona fide lead. Social CRM has a tremendous advantage of the tradition cold calling approach. Even if a database of prospective customers features some information – for example, geographic data or purchasing preferences, it is often more a hit and miss. With targeted information, prospects can be identified and the engagement process can begin by starting a conversation based on relevant and appropriate information.Of course the functionality of social marketing management platforms differs from vendor to vendor, but in addition to CRM features, they also offer other tools, such as scheduling tools, automated messaging, detailed analytics, reporting and other features common to these types of software.For social CRM to be truly effective, it should be fully integrated with a platform that offers additional functionality. As with any successful strategy, social CRM does not operate in isolation. Therefore, for it to reach its full potential, it will need to work in collaboration with other social media tools, ideally as part of an integrated platform.