One of the biggest buzz words floating around organizations today is Social CRM. You don't have to look very hard to find an article that discusses what it is and how it differs from traditional CRM. But once you know what it is, what exactly can you do with it? 


CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a combination of processes and tools used by organizations to manage their interactions with customers and potential customers. One of the goals of CRM is to maintain and improve customer relationships. Another is to determine target customers for new marketing campaigns, which should help to develop qualified sales leads for the sales team.

There's typically a database involved that contains information about a customer, including the different interactions the organization has had with them from sales, to support, to marketing activities. It can also include interactions a customer has had with an organization's website such as filling out a form for a brochure.

There are any number of CRM systems available today including, NetSuite, SiebelCRM, Microsoft Dynamics and SugarCRM.

vs Social CRM

While CRM is not going anywhere, there's rapidly becoming a new way for organizations to keep track of, and communicate with their customers and potential prospects. It's called Social CRM and as most will tell you, it's not a replacement for traditional CRM, it simply augments it.

There are so many new channels -- ways -- to communicate with our customers, and the social web has become a primary one. But where traditional CRM is more about operationalization, Social CRM is about relationships. People no longer talk to just to an organization about their products and services, they talk to other people across social networks, read blogs, comment on articles. They share their thoughts and opinions and get other people's, sometimes long before they ever communicate with an actual vendor. 

As an organization, you need to be aware of these conversations and actively participate in them. That's where Social CRM comes in. Jeremiah Owyang and Ray Wang from the Altimeter Group have written a report called: Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management. The report states that Social CRM is "the company's response to the customer's ownership of the conversation."

In the report they outline 18 use cases in seven categories for implementing Social CRM. Now you aren't going to implement all of these use cases, and some of them are more futuristic in that they require technology that either doesn't yet exist or is on the extreme bleeding edge. But there are foundations that you must start with if you are going to be successful. Here's a glance the list:

Altimeter Group's Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management

The New Rules of Relationship Management

A few key points to keep in mind:

  • Customers connect with each other
  • The conversations are so vast and numerous that organizations cannot keep up with the channel
  • There is lack of a holistic approach to tying social in existing CRM and enterprise apps
  • Social CRM captures both official and unofficial customer conversations
  • Social CRM allows organizations to engage with customers in their preferred environment

One of the most important things to remember is that you don't implement Social CRM "just because". There needs to be some clearly defined business value. To start, you need to be actively listening.

Social Customer Insights 

Listening -- or Social Customer Insights -- is the foundation for all Social CRM initiatives. Included are the 5 M's:

  1. Monitoring: Monitoring the brand across the social web and filtering out the noise.
  2. Mapping: Mapping the relationship between the social profiles and customer records.
  3. Management: Tying the social channels into business systems and processes.
  4. Middleware: Applying the technologies required to connect enterprise systems and social data
  5. Measurement: Ensuring that social insights are actionable through the application of benchmarks and reporting dashboards.

For every "M" there are vendors listed that provide the services to meet the need. Likewise for every use case that follows the foundation of Social Customer Insights, vendors are listed that either have a solution or are working on solutions.

Use Cases For Deploying Social CRM

The report outlines each use case and then identifies the Market Demand and the Technology Maturity Index associated. Some use cases are reactive -- which is usually the first step an organization takes when engaging across the social web -- and some are proactive. The use cases are aligned across 7 categories:

  1. Social Customer Insights
  2. Marketing
  3. Sales
  4. Service & Support
  5. Innovation
  6. Collaboration
  7. Customer Experience

You aren't going to implement every one of these use cases -- certainly not at first. You will need to consider what your organization is capable of achieving and align your Social CRM activities to your business strategy. The key is to take on initiatives you can get value from and slowly grow your strategy from there.

One other important point that the report makes is that failure is not the end. In fact, be prepared to fail and adapt/learn from that failure.

In an immature market, expect and embrace rapid failure. Early pioneers quickly learn from their mistakes and then iterate. In your resource planning, allow for an agile development process as teams prepare to integrate new channels to legacy systems. Prepare the team to fail fast and rapidly apply lessons learned into future iterations."  

Is Social CRM Really New?

Not everyone agrees that Social CRM is something new and separate from traditional CRM. Says Joe McKendrick, FastForwardBlog:

These days, as forward-looking companies build social networks into their core marketing strategies, “Social CRM” has a redundant ring to it. Think of the phrases “round circle” or “free gift” or “digital computer.”  Companies with closed-off CRM systems aren’t really doing CRM at all, are they?"

On the SocialMediaToday blog, John Bell, points out that although the use cases defined in the Altimeter are useful and help identify tech vendors who support them, he says there's nothing new there:

Each of those use cases represents business solutions that we and others have been supporting for years under the titles 'social media marketing and communications' and 'social business.'"

Is Social Media More Than a Channel?

Even more interesting is the view that social is a layer across everything and not just a channel or a silo. SocialText's Eugene Lee's keynote at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston talked about the Social Layer.

Maria Ogneva agrees saying

Social is *not* just a channel, because it's not only about where the conversations happen (although it is about that, for sure). Mostly it's about the way conversations happen, the very different expectations that customers have (need for transparency, no desire to be sold to, trust in her own soc net before anything company-produced, and just the simple fact that we are listening and responding where she is - wherever that happens to be, etc).

Social should be treated as a layer and not just a channel, but that doesn't mean that Social CRM should not be considered within your business strategy. If you look at the different use cases described in the Altimeter report, there are a number of ways to bring different aspects of the social conversation into the business and use them to deliver products and services people actually want and need.

Social CRM is about the relationships, but there is an expectation that a good relationship with a customer leads to something for the company -- more sales, positive word of mouth references, etc... This report provides insights that will help you build those relationships and engage with your customers on a more meaningful level.