Digital Marketing, Guest Posts, Social Media Strategy, Integrated Marketing and Media, Social CRM

Why Social CRM Needs to Be Less About the Social and More About the Customers

Today’s guest post is by Kevin Troy Darling, Social Media Program Manager at iLinc Web Conferencing, who has been writing all his life, but only marketing pays.

To paraphrase Tina Turner, we don’t need another acronym. The debate on Social CRM (sCRM) could easily become a distraction. We have many good tools at our disposal right now we could be putting to use. As marketers, we need to reach our customers where they are and social media’s potential in that regard is unquestionable.

In his post, Social CRM is Just the Beginning, Brian Solis writes:

I believe that among the chief attributes of social media, the ability to identify active communities of relevance, trace channels and voices of influence, and also discern and dissect the various stages of decision making, all in real-time, is nothing short of profound and transformational.

But marketers have always reached out to communities in many forms, and each new medium has taken its turn as Holy Grail for customer influence. With social media, we can join conversations previously hidden, but what we need is the same as ever:  a way to reach you – the places you metaphorically live, the clubs you frequent, the places you hang out, the company you keep.

Leaving the etiquette alone for now, our focus is how marketers need to approach our targets. Adding a Twitter field to your contact records is only a start. The sales or support representative should speak directly through whatever medium the contact prefers.

Social CRMHowever, for marketers, a social media address is insufficient to manage that channel. We need to relate that contact to the networks where they participate, which requires we build programs tailored to each of those channels. Foremost, we need a way to convert with whom we interact in social media into real prospects. To do so efficiently requires a good database solution and marketing automation and filtration tools that incorporate social media intrinsically.

Who We Are Depends on Where You Reach Us

Software vendors are realizing that the social media is more than just a networking fad – CB radio for the Millennials – but rather represents a society living in multiple locations at once. Just as e-mail marketers learned to adapt as people evolved from sharing one e-mail address to having multiple e-mail addresses, today’s marketers need to address the many different social spheres individuals may inhabit.

If we can reliably identify a person across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Yelp and elswhere, we can then segment not only for the demographics of the consumer in question; we can tailor content for the mode they are in where we reach them. The B2B prospect hanging out on Facebook Sunday night behaves differently and has different information needs than the same person reading e-mail on Monday morning.

Be a Hunter, Not a Gatherer

Now, more than ever you have to know the psychographic and demographic profile of your potential customers. You’re in hunting mode, looking for tracks and setting lures. If you’re not clear about what data is important to you, you’ll waste significant effort.

If you were going to run an ad in a magazine, you would ask about both the psychographics and demographics of the reader so you could target the call to action and message appropriately. With social media, the audience is in multiple modes – participating in many threads. You need to know if your audience reads both Architectural Digest and Four Wheeler. That means developing a messaging matrix.

The way to do this practically is to borrow a technique from social media and use tagging. Pick a set of psychographic properties that are predictive of future customer value. Group them into personas related to the tagged characteristics. Write your messaging to the personas and build your lists based on the tags.

With this planning, it is easier to define your automation requirements. Tagging contacts in your CRM system requires nothing more sophisticated than one or two multi-select lists on your contact record. Ideally, you also want a way to import the tags already available on user profiles.

At this point, we should give up the navel-gazing debates on which are the most appropriate acronyms, and focus on solutions that allow us to start conversations in social media. We don’t need sCRM for social media anymore than we needed pCRM for phones, or eCRM for e-mail.

(photo collage by Dan Taylor)

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    Drop the megaphone and start listening! Do you think everyone is just waiting for your automated email to drop into their inbox? Where do you fit in going about understanding the customer wants, needs and desired outcomes, and adapting your offer accordingly? Is it good enough to just say “here is our product, go buy it?” and hope for a .02 conversion rate – I don’t think so! Look here for some clues

    Do your homework – start here – social CRM is not Advertising 1.0 through a new channel. The blogpost’s title states that it “Needs to be More About The Customers” – so take your own advice and focus on understanding and meeting their needs and not only meeting your own as a marketer.

    You can contribute more to your organisation than just leads – such as product improvement ideas that you gather through interaction with your customers – and thus help keep your company competitive and increase the value you bring to the table.

  2. says

    I think perhaps a more careful reading of the post would show that you and Kevin are actually on the same page. He is advocating a messaging matrix that in fact changes the communication method and modality based on customer behavior across the social spectrum.

    Are you suggesting that any use of software or databases to help organize and scale your social outreach is invalid? That seems short-sighted and workable only for very small companies with a minimum of online chatter about them.

    And of course product improvement ideas are important. But unless it’s a very enlightened company, the “generation of product improvement ideas” alone is not a very compelling “give me budget dollars to work on this program” argument – at least not over the long term. You can’t sell ideas, and unless companies of all sizes can figure out how to assign real or at least believable revenue or cost reductions to social media, this entire movement is going to flame out in 18 months.

  3. says

    Not at all Jay – I fully support the use of CRM platforms & datamining and analysis. “Social” CRM is but an extension of CRM and does not equate to “social media” + CRM – rather it is a programme to help customers achieve their goals which in turn helps you achieve your goals. It thus aims to understand what these goals are thru engagement.

    My qualm is that you limit yourself by stopping at Outbound Marketing as described above by Kevin. What value are you delivering to customers? A message to arouse their curiosity at just the right time and place? Does this give you a better insight into what they need to achieve their goals and what you could be doing to improve your marketing mix or their customer experience? Marketing is not only about messaging.

    If you’re looking for justifying budget dollars, there are many sources that are more effective than CTR. There are various statistics on the failure rate of new product launches ranging from 50% to 75%. The primary reasons for product launch failure is poorly defined customer needs ( Another factor is the impact of time-to-market on the bottom-line. Collaboration with customers, suppliers, and other value chain partners is viewed as having the most significant impact on time-to-market performance.

    Other areas are improved Customer Service thru improved FCR and higher customer satisfaction, reducing costs anywhere between 15 to 40% through call deflection and predictive issue resolution management.

    The mouvement that is likely to flame out is the ‘entire movement’ is continuing to do things the old way with the new toys imo.

  4. says

    I would argue you can (and should) be both a hunter AND a gatherer :)

    What I’ve found to date is that for whatever odd reason there is a lot of dissention when it comes to the term SCRM, which I’m sure over time you’ll find within the comments here. I agree that the term can lead to confusion and have debated that point, not just about whether the word ‘social’ should even be a part but even at the simplest level of ‘what’ the word social means within that context.

    There are a large number of vendors jumping on the SCRM bandwagon, which is fine, but when many of their products look nothing alike and are used for completely different purposes it leads one to ask….is *that* SCRM or is *that other one* SCRM? At the end of the day however, does it matter? Our job is to educate a marketplace to be objective driven..’What do you want to accomplish’…and then put the most appropriate toolset in place to accomplish that objective. You can call it ButterCRM Frosting for all I care.

    • says

      True, there are times for both hunting and gathering. And in thinking of CRM and social media, it made sense to think of hunting as an approach. But the latter point you were making is really what I feel: the debate around the ‘s’ creates a false need that distracts us from using the tools we have at disposal right now to do marketing. If anything, social media are pushing companies to go back to marketing rather than focusing on advertising alone.

  5. says

    Great post, Kevin. Have you tried out Flowtown? In my experience, it’s the most effective way to, as you put it, “reliably identify a person across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Yelp and elswhere.”

    • says

      I have used social media lookup tools and it’s really eye-opening to see the kind of data available. I don’t know why every salesperson isn’t going to these utilities before picking up the phone. However — and this came up frequently at the recent Social Media AZ event — in B2B applications, they haven’t been as useful because people still often use a different e-mail address for personal and business use. So, in your experience, are there products making those cross-references?

  6. says

    Yes it may not be able the tools, but it sure is about the team getting the information, but more importantly getting it out! Trust me when it comes to tools if your team is not co-creating and collaborating good luck getting at what you put into it. It gets even worse if you have two different organizational structures that reward and align goals differently. I have seen this part kill a. trying to get at information, oops scratch that b. agreeing on what you are putting in there, c. then who owns it, d. then who is responsible for innovationsupport of info and tool, e. then getting the information out. If you teams don’t watch this side of the equation while utilizing whatever tool, believe me you will get bit!

    I like the mentality of being a hunter go find it and bring back! Your customers will appreciate you for it!

  7. says

    I didn’t see any real deep behavior analysis discussed here. “Tagging” and projecting your expectations on groups is very inside out thinking. What behaviors are we talking about? Actual transactions whether purchases or social transactions? How about something a bit deeper like the old school relationship marketers know how to do? Does anyone learn RFM and lifecycle analysis with their marketing degrees anymore? Is a “tag” predictive of a result if you send the right message at the right time thru the right medium?

    Is anyone looking disengagement as an opportunity or is it all about simple projected segmentation? I think doing some “gathering” before you go hunting is in order, in the marketing world – social or traditional.

    • says

      I wanted to focus on the sCRM debate, but I think you’re pointing to the hard word that I roll up (neatly) into, “Pick a set of psychographic properties that are predictive of future customer value.” That’s the old-school marketing to which I think you refer — and another article we need to write.

  8. says

    Kevin (and Jay),

    I absolutely agree that the inclusion of psychographic and socialgraphic data is key to further understanding your customers better. Furthermore, the point about understanding customers within the context of their lives is absolutely apropos.

    Like some other readers have commented, what a marketer (or more importantly an organization) does with that data is key.

    Once you have a deeper understanding of your narrower and more clearly defined customer segments, how will you interact with them? How will you understand the jobs they are trying to do and provide solutions at the right place at the right time?

    The data and segmentation potential is just one half of the equation. The power of social is that it takes the traditional methods of unidirectional marketing and transforms that into a conversation where instant sharing and bidirectional communication can take place, in addition to the network effects that can happen because the recipients are compelled to share your message/hook/content with their networks.

    Customers don’t need more messages. In fact, they are increasingly resistant to them. If these are just new channels for the same old marketing tactics, I believe that marketers are missing most of the new opportunities to truly engage and dyamically respond to customer needs and wants (which translates into more conversion/more revenues/more profits).

    In addition to simply hunting, create value, distribute value, share value, and enable the networks to share your remarkable content. Listen, respond, and adjust not just your marketing message, but your entire value delivery chain.

    • says

      Great point!

      Today thousands of companies around the world are jumping into the bandwagon of social media for exploiting this ‘sea of cost effective marketing opportunities’, and they are spending billions of dollars to make sure that you are always at the receiving end of their marketing communication which no longer interests you, but bore you down! This is what I call Spam 2.0!

      But they don’t understand that, this free tool is not free at all..! Because you risk your reputation (brand image) while spamming people. Thanks!

      -Anshul Gupta, India
      Social-Traditional Marketer

  9. says

    Great post. Companies definitely need to start realizing that social media should be used to attract good leads, not just unrelated followers or fans.

    For a Facebook Page, I’d say the first step is designing a nice landing tab that directly addresses who you are targeting.

    Here are four tips for a landing tab that can make companies successful “hunters” like you say:

  10. Miller Nicole72 says

    I am amazed how many folks still don’t realize that you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars anymore for a <> solution that can help you do more with less. We all have been using online solutions such as hotmail and gmail for ages now – do you know that you can do the same with an affordable online solution for your business – track your contact, sales, marketing and customer service issues all in one place and all online – no software, no hardware, no IT person – just log in from any internet connection and you have access to your information. You can also try it for free. You can learn more at

  11. Miller Nicole72 says

    I am amazed how many folks still don’t realize that you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars anymore for a <> solution that can help you do more with less. We all have been using online solutions such as hotmail and gmail for ages now – do you know that you can do the same with an affordable online solution for your business – track your contact, sales, marketing and customer service issues all in one place and all online – no software, no hardware, no IT person – just log in from any internet connection and you have access to your information. You can also try it for free. You can learn more at

  12. says

    A traditional CRM system with social IDs included is not a Social CRM. Social marketing is evolving. As more marketers get on the bandwagon, the consumer is going to be pelted with “messaging” from these marketers and it’s only a matter of time when the consumer’s tolerance for this messaging reaches a point of saturation. Tools should evolve from best practices, and a Social CRM should enable the brand/marketer to not just collect data and blast out messages, but walk them through the process of listening, engaging, developing trust, gaining permission to communicate (channels, frequency, topics/content), communicating/marketing (while adhering to individual permissions/prefs) and measuring the value of that social engagement.

    I absolutely agree that we need to build deep consumer social profiles that enable us, as marketers, to determine how to approach, target and engage individuals and walk them through the customer life cycle and trust cycle. Just knowing an address/ID and a few demographics isn’t enough. Knowing the level of engagement with the brand or business, understanding and adhering to their unique preferences, understanding a contact’s potential influence and reach, enabling the brand to build the relationship with the consumer from an initial light touch to deep advocacy, segmenting or tagging based upon the brand’s UNIQUE criteria and descriptives…these “features” are critical to helping a business not only collect data and interact but to truly see value out of this “new frontier” of marketing.

    Of course, *I* have an app for all that. :-)

  13. Andy Holeman says

    Piece serves as a great reminder of what we as marketers should be doing. I do question one point though – the identity of the consumer who reads both Architectural Digest and Four Wheeler. Ha!

    Thanks for the insightful blog post.

  14. says

    I’ll be transparent here. iLinc is a vendor and partner of my company’s.

    If Kevin Troy Darling can find a better way to evaluate whether business outcomes are being achieved in corporate systems of record besides using sCRM as a middle layer between the social web and CRM/ERP/SCM, I’d love to hear it. This post does not contain such a solution, only a critique of acronyms.

    Everybody loves to stir the pot, but coming up with a programmatic solution or strategy is much harder.

  15. Intelestream says

    Companies are focusing more on retaining existing customers and increasing their loyalty. Therefore focusing on customer needs and reaching them by their demographic and psychographic characteristics would be the appropriate direction of approach. Social CRM still has a long way to go however the variety of options are already proving to be successful communication tools. At Intelestream, we integrated a social ability to our CRM intelecrm, get to know more by visiting

  16. letstalkandchat says

    I just found a great company that builds websites for info products. To keep your costs low, they’ll mentor you on how to create your site, design a marketing funnel (one of the guys works in Hollywood and makes really slick videos), and the other guy programmed Myspace. If you’re looking to have professional web design for your small business and not waste any time or money then check their site out. Check them out:

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