Social CRM, it's new, it's hot. Everyone is talking about it and most are jumping to implement it. But what is it really -- a strategy? ...a technology? And after all, is it really something new? Let's have a look.

It's About Relationship Building

If you want to win and retain customers, you need to build a relationship with them. So goes the modern maxim. But this is not something new -- in my book it's the way things have always been. And organizations have always had strategies and technology to support this "relationship building".

With the explosion of the Internet and social media, things have changed dramatically in terms of how we can (and need to) interact with our customers and prospects, but it doesn't change the fact that we are still building relationships.

CRM: Social and Otherwise

Traditionally we have leveraged CRM (customer relationship management) systems to support our customer relationships, tracking when and how we interact with them and what the outcomes were. This has been primarily a one way communication strategy. The business is in control.

Social CRM is a natural extension to CRM that enables us to interact with our customers across the social web. Note the key here is "interact", it's about engaging and collaborating with the customer or prospect in the places they spend their time. Now, the customer is in control.

There is so much information floating around about what Social CRM is, but for many, it's still a confusing term. Is it a strategy? Is it a technology? Is it both? Others challenge whether it's really something new. Haven't we always been social in our interactions with our customers and prospects, it's just the technology that has changed?

Paul Greenberg laid the definition of Social CRM as:

CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.

Social CRM: Defined, Yet Undefined

That definition was written over a year ago. So we would expect that there be a lot of information on strategies, best practices, tools. We would also expect that by now, that information would be somewhat the same across the board, that everyone agree on how you implement a Social CRM strategy, that the tools be somewhat aligned among vendors.

But they aren't. We still struggle to understand why we need to think this way, how we challenge our organizations to adopt these new models of relationship building (it isn't easy), what strategies, people and technology we need to put in place to be successful.

For the month of November, CMSWire has reached out to a number of experts in the community who understand what Social CRM means to an organization. We plan to bring you insights that cross the spectrum of both web engagement as a whole and Social CRM as a strategy/process. We invite you to join the conversations, because they will be both interesting and enlightening, if not maybe a bit controversial.

Here are a few articles to get you started: