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Why The Term Social CRM Is Just STUPID!

There are a LOT of idiotic corporate terms out there. Just hang out within earshot of any corporate conference room and you’ll hear terms like:

  • Ping me when you have some bandwidth
  • In order to accomplish synergy, we need to facilitate a complete paradigm shift
  • If we push the limit, we can really take advantage of the low-hanging fruit
  • Let’s hit the ground running and make sure we accomplish seamless integration


Recently, another buzz-phrase has been hitting the corporate board rooms that really demonstrates how silly corporate jargon can be.

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Social CRM.

does adding Twitter to your CRM process make it more social?

Does adding Twitter to your CRM process make it more social? Photo by Andres Rueda on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

For those of you who don’t know what CRM stands for, it’s Customer Relationship Management and it’s a term often used by software vendors like to describe their products. It’s also often used to describe auto-email systems that send message after message after message based on predefined points in time or actions that a person has taken (like clicking on a link in one of the previous emails that was sent).

Most of the large-scale CRM solutions are basically overgrown Rolodexes that allow sales teams to drop your contact information into a database, track every time they have contacted you, add notes that specify where you’re a hot prospect or a cold fish, and essentially get notifications as to how often they can pester you without completely pissing you off.

SalesForce has really gone eyeballs-deep into the Social CRM space by recently purchasing Radian6, the leading social monitoring tool on the market. The theory is that the more data they can collect about you, the more they will know about you, and the better they can sell to you. Realistically, consumers have been giving away their purchasing habits for years now with coupons, grocery store rewards cards, and credit card purchases. Yes…companies have been watching everything you do and everything you buy to formulate their marketing strategies. Creepy.

Okay…so we know that companies use big databases of information to track what we buy and when, but why would these software vendors tack “social” onto the front of their products? Other than the fact that is sounds cool in this age of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, it’s because they feel like if they can add your Twitter handle and Facebook page to your CRM profile and then capture and analyze your tweets and posts, they can get a better understanding as to who you are and what makes you tick. Yes..they’re going uber-creepy, and from this they infer that they can sell to you better by digging deeper into your spending habits than you ever want a salesperson to go.

But the creepiness factor isn’t stupid part of “social CRM”. The really, really stupid part is that they apparently don’t get the fact that ALL CRM IS SOCIAL. Let me repeat that.

ALL CRM IS SOCIAL. That’s why they call it customer relationship management.

Don’t believe me? Ask your grandfather or any salesperson his age. When he did business, he didn’t need a computer, email, or a mobile phone. He’d hop in his car, head over to his client’s office, chat for a while, ask how his client’s family was doing, share a cup of coffee, and then start his sales pitch. Yes, he’d engage in a social conversation and relationship business before ever trying to sell. Why? Because customer relationship management, automated or not, is social.

Still don’t believe me? Ask yourself, why consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than they trust marketing materials from companies? Hmmm…might it be because they have social relationships with their friends and family and have shared experiences with them that form a bond stronger than television commercials or slick magazine ads? Intriguing!

Yet, software vendors insist that by tacking on “social” to their software offering, they can impress their prospects with the theory that by gathering even more data about their prospects, they can somehow sell better. And the sad part is that their clients are buying it. The phrase “social CRM” has started to infiltrate budgeting conversations, where clients ask their vendors to provide the latest, greatest “social CRM solution”. In my opinion, it’s almost as bad as asking your social media strategist to make a video “go viral”.

So, if you’re looking for a good social CRM solution, here’s are my suggestions:

  • Look into your CRM database and pick a client that you haven’t talked to in a while.
  • Meet with them face-to-face.
  • Buy them a cup of coffee.
  • If you can’t meet them face-to-face, send them a $5 gift card to Starbucks and share a virtual coffee over video chat or a phone call.
  • Listen to their wants and needs. Learn about the business problems they are facing.
  • Meet some of their employees. Ask what they do and what you can do to make their job easier.
  • Do some research.  Ask your social media strategist to conduct an audit on how the online community feels about their products and their competitors.
  • Be a real human being. Before you call, email, or send them a message via social media ask yourself whether you are being an overbearing jerk.
  • Write some notes in your CRM solution and set a reminder to follow up that isn’t too soon and isn’t to pestery. It’s a good thing to use technology to capture information and make better decisions.

but most importantly…

  • Don’t leave the “social” element of your customer relationship management up to your software.

That’s your job.

The Sugar Refinery

Sunday 13th of April 2014

Ok, selling has always been, and will always be, about establishing a relationship. But if a big chunk of your customer base wants or even prefers to use social tools to engage then companies have to adapt to that. Using tools so that the company can engage efficiently allows them to be part of the conversation rather than just the subject of it.

This is no different to any other format. You can use email to just shout your message or you can use it to engage. You can use the phone to annoy your prospects with cold calls at dinner time or use it to engage. Similarly, you can use social media as a way of building rapport and trust with your clients.

If your product has a low price point or is free, face to face meetings with each client will not be a cost effective way of doing business.

Used appropriately, social media is a very powerful tool to help companies engage with their customers. From that perspective 'Social CRM' is an acceptable label?

Michael Dodd

Monday 13th of May 2013

I think you're missing a few points about what Social CRM really means in a digital context. Obviously if you want to sell anything to anyone you need to get in front of the customer. However, CRM is more than just Sales. Customer Service Reps don't typically have a face-to-face, out-in-the-field job (though, in some cases they do). They sit behind a desk, on the phone, or interact through social media channels. This is where Social CRM comes into play. Using these social feeds to better understand their customers. Why these and not market research, focus groups, etc.? Mainly because they come straight from personal experience with the company and its products and/or services. Being able to channel that data and respond to it (in person, on the phone, web chat, twitter post, blog comment or otherwise) is the goal. Being able to aggregate it, examine it, establish baselines and trends, etc. is the how Social CRM can help to achieve that goal.

Like anything else in tech and business, it can't do your job for you, but it can save a lot of time and frame big data in a digestible format so that people can make informed decisions instead of just guessing or relying on the often spurious "focus group" data.

Shane Locker

Monday 8th of April 2013

In after sales support, customers can choose any medium they want to communicate their experience and satisfaction level, it comes as no surprise then that many use social channels. So as communications convergence is real, it carries over to CRM making this article a little hard to swallow from that perspective in all honesty.

Angus Whitton (@LuckytheLurcher)

Sunday 7th of April 2013

You make some very valid points in this article.

I use software to remind me when it's time for 'me' to ring someone.

If I receive messages that are bordering on spammy I block the email address and sometimes the e-mail domain...

Being based in the UK most telephone calls involve an enquiry about weather as a preamble and after that the scene is set - as they say.


Monday 11th of March 2013

You have anonymous person, multiple aliases that say things on line they would never say in front of real people. Should be called “Social Noise”. I’m not saying companies should not have a Facebook and Twitter presence. I believe this is a channel that someone can opt into your marketing material. Not drastically different than opting into a e-mail newsletter. I saw a good example recently of social network failed. The city I live in tried to start a social site to allow people to discuss building going on in the city. They had to take in down after a very short time because the conversation was dominated by a few people and the post became rude and unproductive.

Your point is spot on - Go visit your customer, build a social relationship.