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Social CRM: Curb Your Enthusiasm

October 7, 2010 

If you’re a marketer in a medium-to large-sized B2B company, you’re almost certainly using customer relationship management (CRM) software to track your customers and prospects. And if you’re a CRM user, you’re almost certainly hearing about Social CRM, the hottest new craze in that 20-year-old field. I encourage you to restrain your enthusiasm.

CRM is a well-established discipline that presumes that the more information we can capture about a customer’s interactions with our company, the better we can deliver products and services that the person wants to buy. It seems only natural that online social interactions should be part of this profile. Vendors of CRM services, who are always looking for differentiation points in that crowded market, have lately been talking up this social dimension as a kind of CRM 2.0.

The problem is that most of their customers are still struggling to get CRM 1.0 right. CRM is hard to do well because A) everyone who interacts with the customer must be committed to documenting every touch point; and B) the company must have the analytical chops to know what to do with the data it collects. Strategy changes, turnover, layoffs and the like make the first step difficult enough, and we all know how analytically challenged sales managers can be.

Social CRM introduces potentially enormous new complexity to the process. Social maps – or diagrams of relationships across social platforms – sound good in theory, but are nearly impossible to create on a broad scale. What’s more, I question how much social interactions have to do with decision-making in many cases.

For example, I have 725 friends on Facebook, nearly 1,000 connections on LinkedIn, and almost 7,500 Twitter followers. I know most of these people little or not at all, a result of my admittedly promiscuous approach to accepting friend requests. Trying to map these relationships in any meaningful way would be nearly impossible. What’s more, it would be pointless. The fact that I’m connected to people has little to do with their influence over my decisions. Like most people, I keep my network of truly trusted advisers small and communicate with them largely outside of the public eye. There is no way that social profiling would reveal which relationships really matter.

I also often seek advice from people who aren’t part of my social network. For example, when I consult TripAdvisor to make a hotel reservation or Google Maps to find a restaurant, I put faith in the advice of total strangers. No social map is going to unearth these relationships. When my iPod went on the fritz this week, I became briefly involved in communities that provide diagnosis and repair advice, but it’s unlikely I’ll ever visit those places again. In fact, I routinely seek the advice of experts outside of my social circle when I have important decisions to make.

Even if you were able to identify the relationships that matter, I’m not sure customers are entirely comfortable with that idea. A few years ago, the marketing industry became enamored with the concept of “one-to-one marketing,” which was about building customer profiles that were so detailed that marketers could literally respond to individual needs.

I don’t know about you, but I find that whole idea a little unsettling. If someone were to cold-call me to follow up on a stray comment I made on Twitter, I would be as likely to hang up as to ask for a proposal. Many of us now live in public to a degree that was unimaginable a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean that we want our activities to be used as a basis for commerce. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that this “creepiness factor” is an important reason why Google doesn’t do more with the behavioral data it collects.

I do believe that some of the core concepts of social CRM are useful. For example, an automotive dealer should be able to generate sales by tracking public comments from nearby consumers who are looking to buy a car. A contact within a person’s social circle may be valuable in reaching that person (that’s just good prospecting). A customer’s Twitter handle and tweet stream should also be monitored to look for opportunities or signs of dissatisfaction.

It’s incumbent on all companies these days to track comments from customers that might indicate an opportunity or a problem. Conversation monitoring is good business practice. But it’s not 2.0 anything.

Upcoming Presentations

I’ll be present – whether virtually or in-person – at these upcoming events. Click for more and I hope to see you there!

The Bride on the Bench

I was recently on a shuttle bus to the airport. We passed by a park where a woman dressed in a full bridal gown was sitting alone on a bench with a suitcase beside her. That sparked some thoughts about the way we share remarkable experiences today.

A week earlier, I attended a ballgame in Cleveland and celebrated the power of the individual to make a difference. Do you empower your ticket-takers to delight customers?

Tip of the Week: TagScanner

Computers don’t know the contents of music files, so they rely upon a labeling scheme called ID3 tags for guidance. ID3 tags state things like track name, artist, and album name, and they are what music players read to create playlists.

It’s not unusual for people to have thousands of music files on their computers and several hundred files that don’t fit cleanly with the others. That’s because the ID3 tags have been mistyped, erased or otherwise corrupted. So you end up with a file called “Track1.mp3″ and you know, nothing more about it.

Enter TagScanner, a free utility that brings order from music chaos. Using TagScanner, you can select large groups of files and convert their tags to a common syntax. For example, the artist tag “The Beatles” can be easily changed to “Beatles” with a simple select and click. There’s a lot more you can do, too. You can rename music files from the title tags associated with them. You can also identify the contents of those mysterious files that have no clear identity using a filter that matches their digital signatures against a database of published works. In most cases, the utility can find and enter all the information to identify the files.

TagScanner’s user interface could use some work, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy to figure out. And at the price, how can you complain? Free download here.

Just For Fun: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Photoshopped!

Adobe Photoshop has made us all into skeptics. We no longer quite believe what we see in a photograph because reality can so easily be twisted when pixels are involved. That’s what makes this collection of Images You Won’t Believe Aren’t Photoshopped so incredible. To the best of their ability, the people at Cracked magazine have verified that none of these remarkable pictures was retouched. The series is so popular that the original collection of 15 images has been expanded to more than 100. See the sixth installment in the series to get links to the other five.

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