Tuesday 8 February 2011

The Social CRM Oxymoron

The temptation was great of course, a few years back, to invent Social CRM. There was a lot of buzz about Social, social people, social companies, social employees and social customers. It wasn't a great step from that last one to Social Customer Relationship Management.
Last year I piled all that up on the Social Sh*tpile, urging for an architectural overview over all these different movements bound to end up in yet another few dozen disconnected silos

I firmly believe in a Social movement. I also think we're getting pretty social, with three quarters of a billion people on Facebook, Twitter and Orkut - even if only half of those are active, and only a a quarter of that engaging in daily conversations - that is a nice marketplace to consider.
But business-wise, Social isn't much of a market - it's more of a channel

There is a great difference between people you know, and people you don't. With regards to trust, intimacy, openness, etcetera. To a company, this is even different: customers are people they have done business with. Possible customers are all others out there: consumers of something at best.
Some businesses know their customers in detail, because they have to. Telco's, insurance companies, banks, governments - they all need to know an awful lot of detail about you, sometimes even including your birth certificate. All that goes on record, into databases and applications, and is used as a basis for dealing with you in the widest sense of the word.
Other businesses don't know their customer at all. Candy stores, MacDonalds, shoe sellers - they don't need to know who you are, as long as you pay. They don't even (want or need to) know your first name

The first type of business can engage in (the old-fashioned) CRM - Customer Relationship Management. The primary goal there is doing more or better business with you, cross-selling a few extra products or upgrading you in the current one, so they can make more profit off of you; usually you benefit from the situation as well - I certainly hope so.
They can do that because they have so much data on their customers, have established a relationship that is trust-based, and "know where you live".
The second type can't engage in CRM with their customers. They have customers, but don't know them, so there's not much of a relationship to take care of

Enters Social: millions of people accessible via social media of some kind. No recognisable customers there for anyone, although Facebook does try hard to get all their data and enforce that it is valid - but even if you have a person on Facebook with the exact same details as in your CRM record, you can't know for sure it is valid

As Thierry de Baillon states, there is no Social Customer. You can approach all those people as consumers and possible future customers, but you don't know any of them, so can't tell whether you're doing business with them - hence, they are not customers

You can abuse the channel and throw Marketing at them, much like Klout does with Mack Collier, giving him a free PSP 3000 trying to promote a product he doesn't know about nor cares for.
You can continue the old-fashioned 1.0 broadcast and throw ads at them, discounts, hoping they will take the bait and do business with you. And if they do, and provide you with all the necessary details depending on your business and product, then you can give your new customers the full treatment of your CRM - but you'd never do that via a social channel

But Social and CRM just don't mix - they are two opposing worlds. One of unknowns who might be considered consumers at best, the other one of known customers. If you do manage to do Social CRM, in some mysterious way, you'll only prove that your current channels, methods and departments are underperforming

So give it a twist if you like and call it Social Marketing or Social Sales, but CRM is about Customers and Relationships. If you can find neither in social networks, what's there to Manage?

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