The Social CRM Debate: What is it? And are the Two Terms Really Compatible

I am not a CRM expert but a social media consultant, so I will treat myself kindly and say that I have an unbiased view on CRM (sounds better than saying I am ignorant). However, I do know enough to know that – using the broadest definition of the term – customer relationship management is not a bad thing. If we all managed our relationships better, everyone would be happier.

However, CRM seems to be more about data mining to better exploit customers (and I am using “exploit” non-judgmentally). The top-down approach is what – ultimately – gets in the way of developing relationships with customers based on trust. I think that being “social” with customers and potential customers is a very different thing. Through social media you have the ability to relate in ways that are similar to real life. The difference is that you can connect with hundreds of people, not just a dozen or so. Social media is obviously enabled by technology, but it is essentially about the people who converse there.

I think that companies like Oracle and the multitude of CRM vendors are not going to create products that enhance relating in the social media. For one, the solutions are not all that complex to build and there will not be enough money in it for them. Anyone who comes up with a way for people to put their many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in various buckets so that they can relate to them as a group of individuals will succeed. It is tough to have to go to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Delicious, TripIt, etc. to see what individual people are doing.

If I were a sales person, I would want to be able to more easily engage with my active prospects or my top customers as a group. I would want to be able to see what Joe Brown was doing and get engaged with him, then look in on Mary Jones, then Charles Williams. It is a simple flip from the “place” perspective (Facebook. Twitter, etc.) to the “person” perspective that will make social media easier to use and obviate the need for CRM.


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