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How CRM and Social Media Evolved to Social CRM

Posted by on August 2, 2010

I just arrived at the CRM Evolution conference and last night I attended a pre-show meetup where I had a great conversation with Brian Vellmure.  Among one of the interesting things we talked about is how he and I (and others) got involved with Social CRM.  We are both very involved with and interested in Social CRM yet we came about it from very different sides even though we arrived a the same point.  Brian started off as a CRM guy and I started off as a social guy, here’s what we both saw in our respective fields and how we arrived in the Social CRM space we now exist in.

Before I get started, thanks to Brian for participating.  For those of you who don’t know Brian, he has over a decade experience in CRM and developing customer facing strategies for various organizations.

The CRM Side- Brian Vellmure (on twitter, Brian’s blog)

A couple of years ago I saw the coming collision between Social Media and the world of traditional CRM.  CRM has helped companies over the past 15 years to become more efficient in the three pillars of the Front Office: Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service. The problem is that, ironically, CRM often hasn’t done much for the customer. Or, maybe better said, it hasn’t typically helped organizations create better customer experiences. The focus has almost exclusively been on making more money for the company.

Social Media has enabled the voices of society to be heard. And every member of society is a customer. The voice of customers across the social landscape is forcing organizations to take steps to deliver on the original promises of CRM. It’s a great opportunity. Organizations now have the capability (and the mandate) to listen, interact, and respond to their customers and prospects. They also have the capability to create, facilitate, and enable customers and other stakeholders to interact with each other. Social has opened up new infinite opportunities for innovation, co-creation, and customer responsiveness.

The incorporation of social conversations and feedback into the flow of actual business: Selling, Making, Shipping, and Servicing is imperative and a virtual bridge is now being built by leading Social Media and CRM practitioners. Customer participation on the social web has to be transitioned into actionable insight if organizations are going to really respond. Whether in the board room or the social web, conversations without action are a hollow waste of time.

For those with a CRM background, there is much to learn about how to listen, participate, analyze and respond in person on the social web. For those who have knowledge about the social web, there is much to learn about leveraging the core fundamental building blocks of CRM to respond to conversations that are happening.

Social meet CRM. Let’s go get it done.

The Social Side (Jacob Morgan)

Social media has always been about community building and relationships…interactions and engagement.  However, as Esteban Kolsky always says, “social business is not about kumbaya and everyone hugging each other around the campfire (side note, check out Esteban’s post from yesterday on Where are we Heading With SCRM)”  Yet that’s how social media has always been approached.  In fact, social media can usually be broken down to a “strategy” that uses: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Blogs, and perhaps a geo-location service such as four-square.  We are now seeing organizations that have amassed large networks on social sites say to themselves “now what?”  The challenge with focusing on social media alone is that it is a short term non-scalable approach.  Look at most organizations today and ask, how many of these organizations are actually going to be giving out discount offers on facebook in 2 years, what about solving customer issues on twitter?  We’ve reached a point where it has become very apparent that focusing on social media alone is not going to work in the long run.

As someone who has been active in the social space for years, one of the things that I kept running into is how do we make sense of the customer relationship and the data that we are analyzing from social channels and how do we build something that goes beyond simple interactions via social channels?  Sure, it’s great to read a few customer tweets and respond to them but what about really understanding their customer history and preferences?  What about building some sort of long term scalable strategy that actually involves the company working together with the customer?  That really wasn’t possible with social media alone.  Furthermore, there is a lot of valuable customer information that exists in systems that are not tied to social channels.  When most organizations use social channels to interact with customers how is the information getting stored, or recorded?  It’s not.  Most organizations utilize social media as a one-off approach, meaning they receive feedback and respond to feedback on the same social channel.  That’s great but there is a lot more that can be done and much deeper integration that can be built upon CRM tools and processes that most organizations already have in place.  The only logical evolution of social media is Social CRM; the same is true for CRM.  Here are a few things that social media and CRM need from one another.

Social Media needs CRM to:

  • understand customer data (new and existing)
  • leverage existing processes and workflow
  • maintain a customer record
  • record interactions
  • segment customers

CRM needs social media to:

  • build advocacy
  • improve the user experience
  • reach customers in their chosen channels
  • collaborate with customers

A practice that builds upon CRM and is focused around a strategy to help improve the customer experience and build advocacy.  Social CRM is oftentimes supported but a technology toolset but again it is first and foremost a strategy.

Hopefully this makes sense and shows how two people from very different backgrounds arrived at Social CRM.  Brian with a CRM background saw a need to focus on the customer interactions (as opposed to transactions) and I with a social background saw a need to move beyond customer interactions into something that focused on a long term integrated approach that makes sense of all customer data and existing processes and workflow.  This is how we arrived at Social CRM.

Did you start off on the social media or CRM side (or other)?  How did you see this evolution?

  • Dominique

    Thanks for this very interesting article. There are still major unknown on the notion of social CRM.

    Traditionaly, CRM is linked to resolving customer problem as fast as possible, handling massive number of interactions with a very large number of people and optimizing the time and the cost it takes to put the customer back in operation. This drove people to outsource and automate. The rationale is volume, question/answer type of interaction and the time spent with the customer is a cost.

    Social media on the other end, is more related to building relationship and trust while getting a deep understanding of the customer/prospect. For building communities or increasing its influence, a brand has to focus on “who matters” and invest on the 100's to 10 000's of people who matter. For one it will be mommy bloggers, for others high tech expert. Automation and Outsourcing don't work and are very risky tactics. Here the rationale is quality of the interaction, of the knowledge capture and of the relation that is built; people look for repetitive interactions and the goal is to grab the attention of the 1000's of people who matters. The time spent is an investment.

    Both are required and both have value. Now as for Social CRM,today it is most of the case CRM on the Social channel (again, volume, short interaction and no relation building) although sometimes. But there is clearly more to it.

    There are diverse initiatives/programs under the marketing umbrella of social CRM and it's criticial from to establish objectives and metrics from the get go.


    • Thanks for the great comment! There are a lot of interesting things happening around the SCRM space. What we are realizing more and more is that people interested in customer engagement don't refer to it as social crm. That's just our own little term that “we” use for ourselves. Which is a bit ironic since every vendor that offers social media solutions is now re-branding to “social crm.”

      Yes CRM and Social are required for customer engagement 🙂

  • Marketing consultant

    You are told about social media with very interesting tips .it’s great.