Social CRM Offers Big Rewards If You're Persistent

Putting the 'social' in your social CRM strategy means aggregating more information about your customers and prospects. A new generation of tools is being developed to make this happen.

By David Taber
Tue, November 13, 2012

CIO — Marketers have been having so much fun with the term social CRM that it's hard to know exactly what it means. Social CRM already offers obvious advantages for both revenue generation and customer support functions, but the definition sure seems to be changing as vendors build out feature sets and integrate acquired companies.

Sure, you can get a plugin that looks into Facebook or LinkedIn, but these will help you see only your personal social network in an easier way. Likewise, you can hook up a lexical analysis tool to your customer community engine, but that really only gives you trailing indicators of sentiment or reputation. These things alone won't help you understand the dynamics of your commercial and personal relationships, let alone provide timely responses. That's the Holy Grail.

7 Social CRM Innovations to Watch

Despite all the hype, there's a lot of innovation going on here, so let's take a look some social CRM basics.

Lead enrichment has been a real beneficiary of social networking, allowing Salesforce.com's Jigsaw and others to use crowd-sourcing and other techniques to keep volatile contact information up to date.

Other approaches to lead enrichment focus on Web scraping and lexical inference. ZoomInfo and other systems, for example, may synthesize several avatars from an individual's publicly available information. However, this can lead to some ambiguous information value—I was recently represented in ZoomInfo as five separate profile. (To be fair, there is another living, breathing Dave Taber within 50 miles of me with a similar background. Guess there are just too many Dave Tabers around.)

Tips: Social CRM for the Enterprise: How Analytics Can Move You to Greater Success

Consequently, social network graphers and scorers are an area of important innovation, as they help disambiguate "Which Dave Taber is this, anyway?" and help you understand who follows whom.

As you'll remember from The Tipping Point, all social networks are not created equal. Certain individuals have enormous social network reach and act like Internet exchange hubs. It is therefore critical to identify and leverage these "connectors" to get the maximum social network effect. If you follow the idea that commerce is a conversation, then finding the mavens in your community and working them to best effect for PR, marketing and customer service is going to be one of the highest ROI areas for social CRM.

Unfortunately, there is an area where we haven't seen much yet: Identifying who in your organization has the best connection to someone you need to get to. It would be nice to know who has the best social path, for both speed and credibility of connection. Due to privacy policies, security issues and API limitations, however, it looks like we're going to be waiting a while for this one.

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