Video: Thoughts on Social CRM for Small Businesses

Social CRM is a hot topic right now. As companies’ use of social media tools begins to mature from a pure marketing focus to more of a social business focus, the various use cases of social CRM are gaining more attention from practitioners. In fact, I’m in the middle of reading a book on social CRM right now (The Social Customer, by Adam Metz).

So, when Lauren Carlson drew my attention to a video interview she conducted with Marshall Lager from Third Idea Consulting – a well-known name in the field – at the CRM Evolution conference, it caught my attention.

A few interesting notes from the interview:

  • Unlike most other business tools, social CRM is largely derived from consumer-related tools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs etc., which weren’t originally designed for business uses. People are using these tools to share experiences they have. Businesses have finally caught on to the potential benefits of being involved, and are starting to monetize their relationships.
  • You can get started with social CRM by simply signing up for a free or trial account on a service, and starting to listen. Trick number one is to find out where your customers are and what they’re saying. Once you have that, you can begin to craft a strategy (I would add that before you do that, you need to figure out what business objectives you want to accomplish).
  • Lager says small businesses especially can benefit from social media – the closer to start-up, the better – because the people there are extremely passionate, focused on where the next sale will come from and are likely to have a direct relationship with their customers.  He argues that the benefits of social media to small business can outstrip those for large businesses, who already have an established brand and established expectations, very quickly. Small businesses can touch every one of their customers, and have a significant effect in doing so.
  • Strategy is important. You can build it as you go to a certain extent (I would argue that while this may be the case for some companies, for most it would be far better to figure out your strategy first), but at a certain point you need to figure out what you’re trying to do with social media. You need to figure out your company’s voice; your rules of engagement (and several companies have published their verisons; here are 57 sets of social media guidelines and resources to get you started).
  • One of the most important things that companies can do online is tell the truth. If people trust you, they will do business with you. If they don’t trust you, they want nothing to do with you.
I found the interview interesting; while there are a few comments I would respectfully disagree with, there’s  some interesting stuff here – especially for small business owners who might be curious on how & why to get started.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
  • I stopped watching two minutes into the video when it became very clear to me that the gentleman had either no idea what CRM is (in the traditional sense), and an even worse understanding of Social CRM. I’m a little baffled that this guy is a well known name in the field yet can’t seem to define Social CRM beyond a-thing-that-extracts-business-value-from-free-social-media-platforms. 

    I also had to chuckle at his remark that the incredible thing about Social CRM is the fact that this *emerged* on free consumer-centric tools. He points to blogs as not being designed to extract business value.

    So… couldn’t you say the same thing about the whole Internet?

    • A little harsh perhaps, Eric?

      The definition certainly wasn’t the high-point of the video (although, frankly, the tools were designed as consumer platforms originally) but I did appreciate the rationale for small businesses adopting social CRM when so many find it hard to see value even in social media in general.

      • I have to agree with Eric. CRM is not the extraction of insights through listening in the social spaces, or responding to tweets and wall posts. Can we stop pretending that it actually exists just yet? It’ll get there when companies are able to merge data from multiple customer touchpoints to understand how individuals move between them and for what reasons. It’s close, but not quite there yet.

        • The real problem with Social CRM remains that CRM systems assume clean data. The signal-to-noise ratio needs to be near-perfect. Social media is far from this ideal, which creates some pretty serious challenges when trying to integrate social with existing data across other brand touchpoints. And that’s not even mentioning the potential volume problems (tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of tweets alone for popular brands can’t be thrown haphazardly into a CRM system).

          • I think that all depends on what you consider to be “social CRM.” The Altimeter report I mentioned in the post proposed 18 use cases; others have proposed additional ones too. There’s a continuum of potential activities along multiple paths when it comes to this, rather than a one-size-fits-all definition, in my mind. Is the full “do it all” set available yet? I would agree it isn’t… but I think there are plenty of use cases that are.

  • Very Interesting to see that finally smaller companies and SME can start to gain more influence and gain in the market – whilst never competing with the big guys they can offer a better experience when using these media. And I would assume it is also becoming the starting point for any start ups especially those based on the web.