The Great Social Media and Social CRM debates

I spend très beaucoup time keeping up with thought leadership on social media and social CRM topics, hopefully adding to the discussion.

A big discussion topic centers on whether social media is a paradigm shift for how companies will be called to interact with their customers.

Is it?  Hmmm. Yes and no.  I’m going to give you my 2 cents worth and am interested in yours.


Online social media 101

Social media is an online form of two-way communication.

(Being a bit of a stickler, I tend to like to attach “online” to the term, as in online social media, because really, there are many types of social media.  But that’s a digression so I’ll go with the norm so I can type fewer words.  Just know the invisible online is inherent.  Back to our scheduled program now….)

In the corporate world, smart companies and business people have always listened to their customers and engaged them in two-way conversation, although often on a less formalized approach.

Another dynamic of social media is that it gives customers an easier pathway to “build pack” with each other.  That’s not new either.  Remember the student demonstrations of the 60s against The Establishment?  Consider those a political example of pack building in action.

What is different toda y, though and the source of why so many folks are ringing the paradigm shift bell is the way technology is making it easier than ever for companies to share those conversations with a wider range of customers than ever before.

What is also new is the demand by so many customers insisting on the discussions occurring on their terms.   It’s a multi-generational demand although the Millennial Generation, the first true generation of digital natives, are leading the charge for the rest of us.

Social media also gives customers freedom to look beyond corporate messaging to the latter’s benefit or detriment.  And it also means Joe Everyday Person can be heard more loudly than in the past.  For a perfect example, consider United Breaks Guitars where one of the airline’s customers refused to go quietly into the night after receiving lousy service.


Where does technology fit in?

From a corporate standpoint, effective social media requires two types of technology to support its conversations.  The first is the means to deliver the conversations…the medium…and the second is the means to capturing those conversations and turning them into actionable processes and intelligence.  Said another way, it’s technology designed to help companies manage their social media activities.


Delivering platforms for conversations

Online sites like Facebook and Twitter are examples of social media delivery channels.  Other avenues include branded corporate community sites and blogs.

Any given company committed to incorporating social media into their overall strategy will have to decide on an appropriate channel mix to meet their goals.


Social CRM = managing social media processes

Companies turn to CRM and ERP solutions to help them manage their business processes and their customer relationships.

The problem with traditional CRM solutions is they capture information about a customer on a one-by-one basis.  Social media is amorphous, though, with lots of people talking across a lot of different outlets.

The idea behind Social CRM (SCRM) then is to provide the technology tools to allow for capturing these unstructured conversations across multiple online sources and turning them into actionable processes and intelligence.

What’s most important to remember, though, is SCRM is not a corporate culture or a strategy.  It’s a technology tool set used to support a social media strategies and initiatives.

Think of it this way, just as online social media is an evolution in mass communication, SCRM is an evolution in traditional CRM solutions.

I like what Brian Vellmure has to say about the debate.

So then, as we collectively quibble over Social CRM, and how big it will ultimately be, what it is, who owns it, and the like, I’d like to bring us back to the one thing that really matters:

Can organizations increase their value (the only real measure of success in business) by serving their customers better with the rapidly evolving strategies and technologies that are now known as Social CRM?

Like Brian, I say yes.

And the correlating reality is there no single SCRM technology solution set -- just as there is no one way to automate business processes or implement a traditional CRM solution.

SCRM best practices will emerge, but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what makes the most sense for your company in terms of its business, technology and customer (user) needs.

The rest is simply semantics.  Although having said that, I’ll now also reverse myself and say the discussion is important.   The real value, though, is in helping to clarify the challenges related to participating in social media and managing the actionable intelligence a company can gain from it.


What would help you?

There are diverse aspects of social media to absorb if your company is going to do it well.  What questions do you have on the business and technology side of the it all?  What's getting in your way?

Post your questions as article comments or drop me an email (the contact form comes to me) and I'll try to find answers to make it easier for you.


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These are regular topics of discussion on Sparks (with dual posting on Intellicore Design's Community Network).  Additionally, I'm working on putting together courses focused on just those very things.

You'll want to be sure to stay in the loop.


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