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What CRM Means In a Social Age

Using Social Data to Better Understand Your Customer

By Published on . 9

Many marketers now have more fans and followers across social media than they do e-mail or direct subscribers. Brands are forced to adopt new customer relationship management (CRM) practices quickly as legacy technologies, previous partner relationships, and organizational structures are challenged in meeting the needs of today's social consumer. There is no question that consumer behavior has changed. But how can large enterprises shift to effectively connect with their consumers while leveraging the power that good CRM provides?

While there is no silver bullet, practices and technologies are emerging that make the most of connecting with the social CRM channel. Understanding key themes and sifting through the noise is crucial to getting an organization set up. The war for dominance in this area will be brutal, with a landscape that is likely to see upsets while a handful of marketers build solid names for themselves.

Social CRM Defined
An effective Social CRM strategy must focus on better understanding, anticipating and responding to the needs of existing and potential customers by leveraging social data to create stronger, mutually beneficial relationships. Technologies, content, and data management strategies are likely to vary wildly from previous CRM practices, thus creating a new landscape for the marketer.

Why Social CRM Matters
Customer data has no value in itself. What you do with that data is imperative. Social media gives a marketer a unique lens into content, campaign, and customer insight that has not been available until now. Using this new data source to better understand your customer can drive increased marketing effectiveness across all channels. Each vertical will use this data differently and see the power and progression of social CRM unfold in different ways.

Techniques Will Vary By Vertical
Unlike the early days of social media management, one size does not fit all. Big Data management, systems integration, and real-time analytics are coming to a marketing boardroom near you. For many marketers, including consumer packaged goods, automotive, fashion, retail, and airline, social CRM should end, or greatly reduce legacy CRM practices, as relationships managed through the social channel take the lead. This phenomenon has already been experienced with companies like Ben & Jerry 's that eliminated their e-mail marketing in July of 2010 to map evolving customer communication preferences.

Other verticals like telecoms and financial service organizations are more likely to see their legacy practices continue as they seek to add a social component to their existing systems. This makes sense as their business challenges are often driven more by direct sales and customer care CRM scenarios than by pure brand-building marketing relationship management. However, even the practices of conservative organizations will continue to evolve over time as their customers shift the ways in which they expect communication.

Guide to Getting Started
The good news is that most brands have already started to build direct connections with their consumers across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Ren Ren and the like. If your brand has not yet ventured even this far, it is unlikely that this article will help you.

Start by mapping customer touch-points—understanding the data provided by each touch-point to better realize consumer expectations for contact by your vertical. This is not solely a marketing exercise and unlikely something that should be tasked to a digital communications agency. This process works best if a consultative process is used that includes PR, digital, marketing, customer care, IT/IS and marketing operations together with other areas, depending on the vertical.

Next step is designing your new "social stack" or the collection of software and services you'll require to reach your customers and achieve your objectives. There is no single-solution software on the market today so you'll likely need some integration processes. This will require yourorganization to map software and services in parallel and to define a project implementation lifecycle. Depending on company size, it may take one to two years to operationalize and realize the full potential of your new stack.

Key areas of focus in this stack should be (1) publishing and customer contact infrastructure, (2) data storage and management systems, (3) analytics and visualization software, and (4) third-party data sources (Facebook, Radian6, Twitter, paid media, web analytics, etc.). It sounds complex but significant work has already been done throughout the industry to make this all easier.

Marketers should speak with a number of vendors to understand their approaches and objectives prior to issuing an RFP. At this stage in the market, it is appropriate to venture forward with a more open RFI model. I continue to see many RFP's that are overly specific and that seek tactical solutions instead of approaches aligned to a company's long-term priorities and integrations. The danger in such a methodology is that it ends up developing solutions in search of a problem or tactical solutions that will not survive over the long-term as they are not connected to a core business challenge.

Ready or not, the world of social marketing and CRM are coming to a new place in market maturity and marketer opportunity. Over thenext few years, the social marketing landscape will shift from one of fragmented tools to a future of integrated platforms interwoven for marketing effectiveness. Marketers who embrace the change early will be best suited to serve their organizations and to meet the expectations and demands of their customers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Scissons is president-CEO of Syncapse, a full-service social-technology company that helps advertisers build, manage and measure their connections with consumers in the digital landscape. Find him online at @scissons
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